Supporting mods is normally pretty easy, especially if you have your data left pretty open. The place it gets tricky for GSB2 is online challenges. People post their fleet to other players as a challenge, and this works great when the only content in your challenge is content you *know* the other player has on their hard drive, but the minute you allow modding it gets kinda complex.
It’s pretty late in GSB2’s development for me to realize (less than two weeks from release) that the way I was handling it was not actually working, so yesterday I had to go back to the drawing board, and I have high hopes it will be cracked by the end of the day, especially regarding the most likely form of modding, which is extra hulls, modules and ship components (visuals).
When people posted a challenge in GSB1, it was just a binary GSB file. I had a really rubbish system where the player had to tick boxes when issuing a challenge saying what extra DLC content might be included. In fairness, the game did actually check on launching a challenge and warn people if they needed extra content, but it really did kinda suck.
With GSB2 I’m improving this. I hacked the mod-content code last night so it told each piece of moddable content (module/component/hull) what mod is came with. The base game has been designated as just another mod, which makes this nice and easy. Then, when I post a challenge, the game can scan through every ships hull, module and component and make up a list of all the content packs required, which in 99% of cases will be just the base game. In then sticks that in the header file for the challenge.
Theoretically I can parse that file on the server and store it in a database, and thus show a player what content requires mods and what doesn’t. Also theoretically I can direct them to the download page for that mod. In an ideal world, I’d break mods apart automatically upon submission and handle the file delivery along with the challenge, so you would magically get any extra required content. The bandwidth requirements there might be a pain, and this is all fantasy work for after release.
But I am at least confident that I will release with a system that at least lets people put together mods, and use them within challenges without any confusion or random crashing. Worst case situation is a popup on a challenge saying “sorry, this requires the ‘l33t ship hulls mod’ and you don’t have it yet!”. That will just be phase one.
GSB2 had a superb modding scene, and I want to be supporting that in GSB2 from day one. I suspect the ship design steam workshop submission stuff will help get people interested in the mod scene better, and the integration of a mod control panel will also make mod management a lot easier.