Guide to releasing unofficial content

This guide is written for Windows-users as the majority of The Babylon Project players are Windows users, and because of the fact that the author of this guide is using Windows himself. In the future, certain parts of this guide might be updated to include similar steps for linux and OS X users if necessary.

So you've just finished this great mission, campaign or mod of yours for TBP? So now you want to know how to make it available to the general public? Read on.

Part 1

At first we would like you to check Karajorma's FreeSpace FAQ. If you have made a mission or even a campaign, we strongly recommend you to read Common Mistakes. And please, playtest the mission yourself a number of times with different approachs, other players will not necessarily do things your way which may break your mission when things don't go as you had planned.

Part 2

The first thing you need is a tool that can extract and compress zip-files. 7-Zip is such a tool, and excellent one I might add. It is also free. If you don't have a similar tool already, grab the latest version of 7-Zip and install it.

The second thing you need is VPMake, this tool is a command prompt tool but nevertheless the best available at this time. No need to be afraid of command prompt, I have written a short tutorial how to use it. Once you have downloaded VPMake, I recommend you to extract VPMake.exe to your Windows folder (e.g: C:\WINDOWS). When you do this, you can execute VPMake.exe from any directory without typing full path to the file.

Part 3

It is always recommended to use vp-file(s) to distribute your content, vp-files are basically like uncompressed zip-files. In other words, a single vp-file can contain all your files; missions, speech, command briefing animations, etc. Now would be a good time to review Karajorma's FreeSpace FAQ to get yourself accustomized with FreeSpace 2's directory structure if you aren't already.

Since vp-files are not compressed in any way, to make distribution easier to everyone, you should compress your vp-files. Zip-format is perhaps the most commonly used compression standard, which makes it the most logical choice as no operating system should have trouble in extracting zip-files with commonly available free extraction tools.

You should also think about how you name your vp- and zip-files. It is always extremely handy to easily find out what version someone has when helping him/her out with a problem. Most common naming methods version numbers or dates. This also makes it far more easier for people to realize when there is a newer version available.

An example of version number naming method:
MyMission-1_0.vp / MyMission-1_0.zip
MyMission-1_1.vp / MyMission-1_1.zip

An example of date naming method:
MyMission-20050728.vp / MyMission-20050728.zip
MyMission-20051014.vp / MyMission-20051014.zip
(Format: yyyymmdd)

Note that the game looks for vp-files in alphabetic and numeric order, the first vp-file in a directory gets a priority over next. For example, if you have both MyMission-20050728.vp and MyMission-20051014.vp in the directory where TBP is installed, TBP would use MyMission-20050728.vp because it comes first in alphabetic and numeric order.

Part 4

In this example, we have one mission which contais a single command briefing animation and two voice files. To keep vp-file creation simple, I have kept directory names short and also avoided needlessly long directory structure. A folder named as "MyMission" contains all your mission files and other data files such as voice files. A folder named as "MyVP" is the folder where your vp-file will be created.

C:\MyMission\data\cbanims\MissionIntro.ani
C:\MyMission\data\missions\MyMission.fs2
C:\MyMission\data\voice\special\CoolOneLiner.wav
C:\MyMission\data\voice\special\WittyResponse.wav

Now, open Start-menu --> Run. Type "cmd" or "command" to open command prompt.
Type:
vpmake -dir C:\MyMission\data -mconfig C:\MyVP\MyMission.vpc
and press enter.

Then type:
vpmake -dir C:\MyMission -rconfig C:\MyVP\MyMission.vpc -o C:\MyVP\MyMission.vp
and press enter.

Now you have your vp-file, in this example it is located in C:\MyVP -folder. The vpc-file that was first generated is simply sort of a cache file. When making vp-files, you always need to execute both commands, as the cache file must be updated before generating a new vp-file. Don't forget to name your vp-file and zip-file appropriately, as suggested in part 3 of this guide.

Part 5

Always include a readme file in the zip file. This file should include installation and uninstall instructions (which should be both short thanks to vp-files), a short description of the content, who is author of the content and what should one do in case of problems (such as go to TBP forums in a case if problems). If you anticipate something will be asked often, it will not hurt to include a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) in the readme. It is recommended to use a simple text editor such as Windows Notepad to write your readme file, people should have no problems reading a simple text (.txt) file in any operating system even if they do not have advanced text editors installed. As with your missions, don't forget to check the readme for spelling and grammar.

Now you need to compress your new vp-file, you can do this using 7-Zip or any other compression tool. We recommend to use zip-compression format, as it can be painlessly extracted in most operating systems. Do not make self-extracting exe-archives, as exe-files are a Windows thing and cannot be run natively in other operating systems. The better compression you select, the longer it is going to take to compress your vp-file, but it will take less space and thus reducing the time required to upload and download the file.

Part 6

Now you are done, all that's remaining is for you to contact TBP staff, you can contact the staff via the forums. You can later check unofficial content download locations. Please give the staff reasonable time to make action.


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