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NEWS | State of the Toolset and Forum

General news and announcements for ME3Explorer.

NEWS | State of the Toolset and Forum

Postby giftfish » 07 Jan 2016, 05:02

STATE OF THE TOOLSET, WIKI, & FORUM



Hey folks--

Hope everyone has had a great holiday :)

It's time for a long overdue discussion about the state of the toolset and forum. This is going to be a lengthy post, as there's a lot of information we need to communicate. Feel free to digest in multiple sittings, as needed. Major topics are divided by horizontal rules to ease navigation.


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TOOLSET
Active members of this community are aware that out of WarrantyVoider, Saltisgood, Amarok86, and Kfreon, K has been the only remaining core developer for the toolset since mid 2014 -- the last a year and a half. WarrantyVoider started stepping back around then, and has officially left the project -- K is now the forum "founder." SirCyxrtyx has contributed a significant amount of code (and seriously awesome tools) during this time, but his community presence is sporadic (life, and all). In addition, just Heff was becoming established as a core developer last fall, personal issues unexpectedly pulled him away. He's recently returned, but is not yet ready to step back into active development.

Like all core toolset devs before him, Kfreon's life situation has changed and he simply no longer has time to work on ME3Explorer. This is part of the reason it's taken over a year and a half to push a new stable. Such a delay between stable releases is unacceptable, as well as unsustainable for the long term. Also unsustainable is the fact that there are no longer any devs to push bugfixes for tools outside K's purview (everything but ModMaker, Texplorer, and TPF Tools).

Therefore, the next stable, ME3Explorer v110, will represent a probable end to toolset development. Probable, since you never know what can happen, but for all intents and purposes active development is ended.

Here's what that means for accessibility of the toolset and source code:

  • The new stable and the previous 10 stables will be uploaded to and hosted on Nexusmods, for perpetuity.
  • The Sourceforge page will be taken down in the near future. This was intended with the move to Github and is preferable, as SF has gotten mighty sketchy with malware/spyware in their downloads of late. We don't want SF dickering with the hosted files, and we don't want folks accidentally downloading crapware and then blaming us. Better to remove it.
  • Kfreon will remain the primary owner of the GitHub repository. SirCxyrtyx will also remain an owner for redundancy. All other existing owners will be removed. Heff will be re-added as an owner if and when he wants to step back into development. Beyond this, the toolset code is open source and other folks can fork and do as they will, but official development by the ME3Explorer Development Team is ended. There is no longer anyone to helm the ship and ensure quality of content and appropriateness of contributions. We're not going to allow random contributions from just anyone; that's what forking is for.
  • That said, Sir, Heff, and K may occasionally still decide to commit new code, which will be available in dev releases. This will not be on any schedule and may or may not happen at all. Folks may continue to post suggestions and bugs on Git, and we'll try to get them into the new stable, but all bets are off after that.

A personal note from Giftfish: There's one thing I want to be very clear about as both a modder and... toolset support staff (which I've sort of grown into over the past couple of years): cessation of toolset development does NOT mean a cessation of mod creation. There are still active members of the modding community on these forums, and mods will likely continue to be made. In addition, Andromeda is around the corner. Most folks are aware that I won't be playing or modding it, but when new installments of a series are released, old installments always see an uptick in activity. So, all is not lost. We're just entering a different phase :]

Finally, with the halt in development, the project and associated websites that are a part of ME3Explorer will start to enter a more mature, "archival" state. Lots of changes incoming. Read on, when ready!

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FACEBOOK
The toolset has an associated FB page that grew out of its birth with the Retake/MEHEM/ME3 Ending debacle. WV is no longer interested in this page, activity's steadily declined for almost 2 years, and at this point it's basically sitting unused. It was recently renamed to "Mass Effect Modding", but this is a poor choice due to there being a popular and unrelated Tumblr of the same name. Since there is no way to archive/lock a FB page, Kfreon will take it down. We're aware some folks are a bit emotionally attached to the memories stored in this page, but there's really no reason to keep it around anymore. FB is at its core a communication medium, so if the page is not being used to communicate relevant information on a regular basis, then it should be removed.


NEXUSMODS
At the time of this writing, the toolset page for Nexusmods isn't yet up; it will be soon. As said previously, it will host revs 100-110. There's a good chance nobody will ever need access to any version prior to 100. That covers all stables since April 2013.


WIKI
The wiki will continue to be updated and contents will continue to be transferred from the forum. More help on this is needed, especially from modders and folks with a certain amount of technical knowledge about game files and toolset usage. More on this below, as it relates to the forums.


FREEFORUMS
These forums were created back in 2012 as a development area for the creation of an advanced modding tool for ME3. Not simply a coalesced editor or texture overlayer, but a UDK-substitute called ME3Explorer. A tool capable of modding the ME3 ending and other files. Toolset development is this forum's core purpose.

The creation of the toolset required reverse engineering which meant ample research on game file structure, and, logically, led to discussions with the first modders of what game content they wanted to edit, and what tools could be created to help them do so. This meant having mod development threads on the toolset forums was a significant advantage, as it enabled communication between modders and developers. Quickly, though, the forum morphed into a support area for toolset users (since there was no official documentation), a mod hosting site, and as the community grew, it snowballed into an "everymans" modding site for ME3, where we'd get random questions from users on how to troubleshoot mod "X", or how to mod "Y" in the game. Often those questions didn't involve the toolset at all.

We're taking the time to point these things out, because the needs of every project changes as it evolves. The toolset has evolved quite a lot recently: a move to Github, a new wiki, and hosting on Nexusmods that has been in the planning stages for several months. All of these things -- along with the toolset now entering a very stable, mature phase, means it's time for a forum overhaul. It's actually way past time. This forum has long suffered from, well... a total lack of maintenance is an understatement. It's just never something that's been a priority. This has led to some serious forum feature-creep as its lost some of its focus, becoming a disorganized and confusing mess. For example, when mods are developed here, linked for download here, and supported here, users get very, very confused as to where the line is between the toolset and mods created with the toolset. Indeed, many don't see a line, at all.

So, over the month of January, Giftfish will be overhauling the forum. Expect it to periodically be in maintenance mode and unavailable. Also, expect a lot of changes.

Here's a preview of what's in the pipe:

  • The forum theme will be changed to something that always has an edit button. Yay. Broken themes will be removed entirely. We'll try to implement two new themes: light and dark. Dark will likely be the default.
  • New "branding" will be rolled out to match the impending Nexusmods page and the new wiki.
  • Forum groups/ranks will be overhauled. Everyone will be placed in a new group that accurately reflects their current role in the community. These groups will be used to control access/abilities to certain forums, which is, you know, is what groups are supposed to do.
  • God willing, the 50 PM limit will be lifted.
  • Ability to upload attachments will be entirely removed. We don't have the bandwidth to support it, so it will be turned *off*. Out of sight, out of mind.
  • Several boards will be locked and relocated to a new "Archives" board on the forum. To be very clear, nothing will be deleted, but boards that are no longer relevant or are outside of the forum's redefined scope will be locked. This is sure to upset some folks. Sorry, but it's time.
  • The remaining boards and threads will be restructured to more clearly organize information, ease navigation, and enable communication. There will be clear lines drawn between: Users, Modders, and Coders. The main board will be more clearly defined as for the ME3Explorer Toolset, to try to cut down on help requests (and bug reports) that are out of scope.
  • Some new boards will be erected. New chat & help areas for Modders and Coders. A couple new sections for Coders, in case toolset development actually starts up again sometime in the future. Amazingly enough, there are no boards dedicated to development of specific toolset tools. How is that possible? It makes promoting discussion and collaboration about a tool, uh, difficult.

We think a majority of you will see most changes as extremely positive, but there are bound to be some changes folks won't agree with. That's okay. It's impossible to satisfy everyone, and some folks won't appreciate the redefined scope of the forum. Part of that is our responsibility due to neglecting the board for so long, and about that, we apologize.

As the overhaul gets underway, Giftfish will post updates of what changes have been made and why they've been implemented. The archiving of certain boards will be preceded by a warning and "grace period". Closure of other boards will not. FYI, "shadow topics" will not be created when threads are relocated; existing shadow topics will be deleted as part of the cleanup. If you log on and find something missing/moved, just check this thread for an update on its location.

That's about it on that topic. Let us know if you have any questions.

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A NEW FORUM?
And, here's where things get interesting. We want to toss out the idea of relocating. Either way, this forum will be overhauled, however, we want to see what folks think about a move to Proboards. It's the most reliable, full-featured, free host out there, so it's the one we're considering.

With the halt of development, it probably seems like a silly time to move, and that might be the case. However, we're also thinking ahead, with two things in mind:


1. Freeforums is a less than ideal host.
There are actually a lot of negatives about this forum. To name a few, there's no decent username tagging system, no notification system, the PM system is horrid, and the admin panel is worse. Support is sketchy. The forum itself is very, very dated. Most importantly, longevity is seriously in question. If Freeforums is still around 5 years from now, we'd be surprised; they lack many features found in the competition. Having all the research and tutorials on this forum -- along with any future research and tutorials -- vanish in a few years time is disconcerting. (Hint: Help with the new wiki! Longevity is good!)

Personal note from Giftfish: I looked into every free forum host out there before actually building ThaneMOD's forum on both Freeforums and Proboards back in 2013. Proboards is better in every way, which is why I chose it. Decent tagging, bubble notifications, PMs as fully threaded group conversations, a great admin panel, and totally customizable CSS as a bonus. And, customer support is very responsive, since they host so many forums. No host is perfect, but they are about as good as it gets for free forum hosting.


2. Andromeda.
Despite ME:A being built on the same engine used by DA:I, there's still a good chance that the Andromeda modding community will grow out of this community. And, we really, really don't want to have the community for Andromeda built on this forum. A move now means we could immediately erect a new ME:Andromeda board for discussions and then have any future ME3Exp and MEAExp(?) development take place on the same forum. This could be very cool. It would mean all ME1/2/3/A-Explorer development would be on the same forum. It might also encourage further ME1/2/3Exp development when ME:A is released, which would be very positive.

These positive aspects aside, there are also a few key drawbacks:

  • If ME:A tools are made, there's a 99.9% chance it won't be from the ME3Exp Team. We won't magically have more time than we do now once Andromeda is released -- someone else will have to come along. So, do we relocate now and hope coders show up, since there will be modders here ready and waiting for new tools? Or, do we let whomever creates those tools start their own forum?
  • A move would mean a relocation and not a migration. This needs to be very clear. There is no way to migrate the content of this forum to a new host. Giftfish would create a new Proboards forum similar to the overhaul that she'll undertake here, and all toolset discussion would continue over there.
  • In relation to the move, there are two other important details. More boards would get locked on this forum (obviously) to ensure the discussion occurs on the new forum. However, it's very important that this forum still gets posts. Freeforums has a 90-day policy. No posts for 90 days and the forum is marked as "inactive". After 7 more days, it's deleted. We can't allow that to happen until all important content has been archived on the new wiki. So, perhaps we'd need to keep a general chat board going or something to that effect; we're open to suggestions.

We'd like to hear from folks on this. What do you think about a move? We'll probably put up a poll soon, but want to have some discussion first, before folks can just start pressing buttons >.>

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That about covers it. Thanks for your time, everyone.

--Kfreon, Giftfish, and Heff
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Re: IMPORTANT | State of the Toolset and Forum

Postby FemShep » 07 Jan 2016, 05:49

Since K and I talked, I've started developing a forum for mods - not toolset or development, but discussion of mods, stuff for feedback on mods, etc, essentially what's going to be cut from here. I've put a very nice mobile friendly theme on it and am working on making it a nice, easy place for mod discussion. Essentially what you describe as removing from here.

I also am working on a complementary wiki to this one, where its more about guides, tips and tutorials, rather than toolset features. (Things you won't allow on this wiki) It won't focus as much on the in depth (pcc page got a huge update I noticed, so many numbers!) but more on the use of tools, and I will be moving my stuff there. Once I get it up and running more I'll need you to at least leave a notice on my section of this board that it's gone (I imagine Google and other things will lead my users here). It'll be open for all modding tools related to the games, and I've already built some content pages for Andromeda once it comes out.

Do themes affect the mobile version of this forum? Mobile is just horrible on this forum. Mobile is pretty hard to get right though... Is there theme support on freeforums?

Also aren't there already frostbite modding tools? I posted about a toolkit already released for BF4 on general chat some time ago IIRC.
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Re: IMPORTANT | State of the Toolset and Forum

Postby CreeperLava » 07 Jan 2016, 11:49

It was inevitable that development would stop one way or the other after all this time, but it's really sad to actually hear it. At least it will end on a good note with the new stable :).

I'm not against a move, I'm more concerned about the visibility of the new forum. Closing this forum means dead links pretty much everywhere me3explorer is mentioned, and I don't think freeforums will provide a redirection to the new forum.
Either way, yay to forum overhaul ! Except for one thing : I'm not sure setting a dark theme by default would be the best idea, given that we're accustomed to the current (very beautiful indeed) theme. Maybe that's just my conservative side that refuses change though^^.

Question on Nexus : do you plan to add source and binary releases ? Also, who will be administrating the page ? Just to be sure it doesn't get abandoned if the original author of the mod page quits.
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Re: IMPORTANT | State of the Toolset and Forum

Postby giftfish » 07 Jan 2016, 13:46

CreeperLava wrote:It was inevitable that development would stop one way or the other after all this time, but it's really sad to actually hear it. At least it will end on a good note with the new stable :).

I'm not against a move, I'm more concerned about the visibility of the new forum. Closing this forum means dead links pretty much everywhere me3explorer is mentioned, and I don't think freeforums will provide a redirection to the new forum.
Either way, yay to forum overhaul ! Except for one thing : I'm not sure setting a dark theme by default would be the best idea, given that we're accustomed to the current (very beautiful indeed) theme. Maybe that's just my conservative side that refuses change though^^.

Question on Nexus : do you plan to add source and binary releases ? Also, who will be administrating the page ? Just to be sure it doesn't get abandoned if the original author of the mod page quits.

Hey, Creep :)

Opinion noted on the default dark theme, lol. Dark is superior to minimize eye strain, as well as for mobile visitors who have AMOLED screens, since rendering the dark requires less battery power. Either way, there will still be options... all with an actual edit button ;)

You're misunderstanding one small bit about the relocation. This forum likely wouldn't be closed for a very long time -- well, unless Freeforums does indeed shutter, which is always a possibility. If that happens, then broken links are unavoidable.

However, the only other case in which we'd actually close this forum is once all necessary content has been transferred to the new wiki. If/when that happens, folks will certainly know that's the new place to go for broken links. With the TOC on the home page, the content they're looking for should be very easy to find.

At this point a lot of forum content is inaccurate, outdated information, anyway, so users can't be sure what their reading via links right now is still correct.

We'll talk more about the Nexus page once I get it up, which should be tomorrow. No worries about folks exiting the project -- we'll put redundancy in place just like for Git. I'll post an announcement in this thread once it's up tomorrow with additional details :)
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Re: IMPORTANT | State of the Toolset and Forum

Postby dybuk » 07 Jan 2016, 15:40

I'm not sure I quite see the clean distinction like you do between modders, coders and users.

I started as a user who just wanted to play mass effect on his sofa. I googled and found Moonshines mass effect 2 mod and started watching the forums for his mass effect 3 work. As I was waiting I started reading other parts of the forums and picked up an interest. Moonshine put out a request for help and I took up the challenge, again using info I found from this forum. This lead to me doing fixes for the ME2/ME3 controller mods and writing my own ME1 controller mod.

The majority of the work I've done on the controller mods has been coding, either action script, unreal script, C# automation or C# tooling. Sure some mods don't involve any coding but that isn't always the case. I think in most cases modding drives the toolset and the toolset drives the mods. Typically I think users become modders who then become toolset developers.

I think by separating all three you just create more barriers for users to become modders and modders to become tool developers. If the goal is to get more tool developers I think isolating yourself is not the best choice. The mods bring in the users, and hopefully a percentage of them will look through the forums and get interested in the modding and tooling.

I have certainly benefited from people like Heff taking an interest in the mod work offering crucial help and advice. Would he have spotted my efforts if they were on a different board? maybe? maybe he would have stuck to the tooling board.

With that said could this forum be made better. Absolutely. Freeforums is terrible.

From a personal perspective I do feel I should contribute more back to the tooling/tutorial side of things from what I've learned. Hopefully I can still rectify that.

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Re: IMPORTANT | State of the Toolset and Forum

Postby FemShep » 07 Jan 2016, 15:46

A unified modding forum (for mods, toolkits, tools, mod threads, users, help etc etc) is what this modding community really needs. Going forward (with an unknown Andromeda status) its hard to predict what the best course for this community would be, but I don't feel like having toolset only forums is very useful to most users. There are way more users than coders or mod devs. Some people just want to use mods, they don't care how to use the toolset which means you send away users from the people who develop them who are on the forum. The same thing with the wiki, though the current ones domain name kind of locks in its topic.

So pretty much what dybuk said.
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Re: IMPORTANT | State of the Toolset and Forum

Postby giftfish » 07 Jan 2016, 16:13

@dybuk -- Yep, you're correct, there isn't always a clear distinction. I understand; I was just user not that long ago myself, with no intention of becoming a modder.

A person's group/rank assignment will correspond to their *predominant* role in the community. More than anything, this will be to help new folks/infrequent visitors to easily see "who" the existing members are. In some cases it will also be to help minimize issues we're having with threads being posted in the wrong areas.

The distinction is also being made to ease navigation and create organization, like we've already stated. We realize this is a change, but it's a necessary one. We understand your perspective; it's the reason the forum was laid out like this in the first place. But, such a "blended" layout has led to the "hodgepodge" that the forum has become, which is one of the things that's confusing to users and makes navigation for everyone difficult. Whether or not a member visits any board is totally up to them; currently we pretty much have Dev and Modder areas, they just aren't very clearly marked, and b/c of that, things have gotten a bit murky. Users can visit both areas now, and they still will be able to after the revamp.

To be clear, all forum members will still be able to view all areas and post in (pretty much) all areas. Nobody is losing access to anything, short of threads/boards that are locked and moved into Archives. Thread creation will be slightly restricted (which doesn't take much since right now there's basically no restrictions) in the interest of omitting OT and misplaced threads, which is a huge issue on this forum.

So, we hear you. This is what we meant when we stated not everyone will agree. It's just not going to happen. But, hopefully, by the time it's done, there will be some converts :)
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Re: IMPORTANT | State of the Toolset and Forum

Postby giftfish » 07 Jan 2016, 16:15

FYI, the revamp has started and Groups and Ranks are greatly in flux.

Assume that if yours has changed, it will probably change again, lol.
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Re: IMPORTANT | State of the Toolset and Forum

Postby CreeperLava » 07 Jan 2016, 17:24

giftfish wrote:Hey, Creep :)

Opinion noted on the default dark theme, lol. Dark is superior to minimize eye strain, as well as for mobile visitors who have AMOLED screens, since rendering the dark requires less battery power. Either way, there will still be options... all with an actual edit button ;)

You're misunderstanding one small bit about the relocation. This forum likely wouldn't be closed for a very long time -- well, unless Freeforums does indeed shutter, which is always a possibility. If that happens, then broken links are unavoidable.

However, the only other case in which we'd actually close this forum is once all necessary content has been transferred to the new wiki. If/when that happens, folks will certainly know that's the new place to go for broken links. With the TOC on the home page, the content they're looking for should be very easy to find.

I think you misunderstood me (sounds like déjà-vu, right ?), I was talking about the case where the freeforums forum would be closed to switch to a proboards forum. I wasn't talking about the forum rebirth you're doing.

dybuk wrote:I'm not sure I quite see the clean distinction like you do between modders, coders and users.

I started as a user who just wanted to play mass effect on his sofa. I googled and found Moonshines mass effect 2 mod and started watching the forums for his mass effect 3 work. As I was waiting I started reading other parts of the forums and picked up an interest. Moonshine put out a request for help and I took up the challenge, again using info I found from this forum. This lead to me doing fixes for the ME2/ME3 controller mods and writing my own ME1 controller mod.

I can identify myself to that as well, from user to modder. The groups concept doesn't bother me in itself though, it's practical to see who does what. What is more tricky is to actually close some sections to non-developper/modder users, which is what you plan to do if I understood the quote below correctly. I don't think that's a good idea, the tool is open source at first, and as such shouldn't be closed to anyone.
giftfish wrote:These groups will be used to control access/abilities to certain forums, which is, you know, is what groups are supposed to do.

Question : Will mod discussion threads also be relocated to modders area ? Or will there be a support section in the users area ?
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Re: IMPORTANT | State of the Toolset and Forum

Postby giftfish » 07 Jan 2016, 17:51

CreeperLava wrote:
dybuk wrote:I'm not sure I quite see the clean distinction like you do between modders, coders and users.

I started as a user who just wanted to play mass effect on his sofa. I googled and found Moonshines mass effect 2 mod and started watching the forums for his mass effect 3 work. As I was waiting I started reading other parts of the forums and picked up an interest. Moonshine put out a request for help and I took up the challenge, again using info I found from this forum. This lead to me doing fixes for the ME2/ME3 controller mods and writing my own ME1 controller mod.

I can identify myself to that as well, from user to modder. The groups concept doesn't bother me in itself though, it's practical to see who does what. What is more tricky is to actually close some sections to non-developper/modder users, which is what you plan to do if I understood the quote below correctly. I don't think that's a good idea, the tool is open source at first, and as such shouldn't be closed to anyone.

Nope, nothing will get closed, with the exception of Archives. However, standard users will not be able to post new topics in all areas. I'm working on permissions right now and finding out this is actually already the case in some areas, it just wasn't carried through as intended as the forum grew. So, I'm straightening things out a bit.

CreeperLava wrote:
giftfish wrote:These groups will be used to control access/abilities to certain forums, which is, you know, is what groups are supposed to do.

Question : Will mod discussion threads also be relocated to modders area ? Or will there be a support section in the users area ?

The Mods in Development area will stay mostly untouched. The "Downloads" area is going to get a significant overhaul, as it's one of the most problematic areas of the forum. We'll comment more on that as I get a bit closer.

First step is to set up the new groups, which due to FF's interface is horribly slow and tedious. Once they're set, then I'll begin modifying the forum structure.

Btw, 50 PM limit has been lifted. Folks should now have unlimited PMs :o
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