With two full single-player campaigns alongside skirmish and multiplayer, there’s already a lot to do in Company of Heroes 3. But some of us would rather make our own fun. And we’re in luck, since this third installment will be launching with mod tools and Steam workshop support on day one. Mods have been a huge part of the RTS scene going back to the ‘90s, with entire genres like the now wildly popular MOBA spawning out of user-generated maps. Relic is fully aware of this, and that’s why they made a point of shipping the new Essence Editor at release.
“It has always been a priority from the beginning to have mod tools as part of our story. We’ve gone back and forth on what that could look like in terms of timing. But as we’ve seen over and over again with our really invested community group” … “It was such an important beat and hopefully a love letter to the creators who have stuck around for so long for us in our community, to have tooling and editors that are available day one.”
Company of Heroes 3: Unit Spotlight – IGN First
To have it ready for launch, the initial release of the Essence Editor will be somewhat limited. Notably, custom unit skins and meshes won’t be supported just yet – though you can mix and match different clothing items and accessories from the units already in Company of Heroes 3 to create custom kits.
“Our modding community really helped us understand what was the most impact and highest priority capabilities in the toolset. So what we initially thought would be super important, for example asset swaps or making skins, was actually lower on the priority list. And what was higher was being able to do tuning, to be able to do their own modes, scripting, and also their own maps.”
One of the key pieces of this implementation is a type of all-in one balance mod Relic is calling tuning pacaks. If you’re the kind of World War II RTS fan who has very specific opinions about the speed and armor penetration on a Tiger II, or simply want bigger battles with more guys on screen, this is where you get to take matters into your own hands.
“A tuning pack really allows players to balance the game in their own way. To make some units stronger, some units weaker, faster, slower.” … “You can mess around with pop cap and all those sorts of features. It can affect performance if you raise it too high, so use at your own discretion.”
Mod tools have come a long way since Company of Heroes 2 dropped almost a decade ago. And Relic has faced the challenge of both expanding what their tools can do, while also trying to keeping them usable and learnable by today’s standards.
Company of Heroes 3 – North Africa Campaign Screenshots
“I think the tools will be much more user-friendly and better-received than previous Company of Heroes’ tools. We’ve spent a lot of time making quality-of-life improvements, workflow improvements, collaboration improvements.”
“What we’re now seeing and providing is a lot more capability in making new maps, atmospheres. You can even do a lot of different terrain molding and mesh management, which is amazing. But we’ve also added a lot of lua capability. So a much richer scripting environment. So you can build new, different types of modes you never could before.”
“You can adjust time of day. You can transition time of day from morning to night. We have a new cloud system. You can make custom clouds that are all animating and cast shadows. So there are a lot of visual things you can do with the editor.”
Fog of War
Total conversion mods have been high on the community priority list and, like custom skins and models, it’s something that won’t be ready for launch. But if you want to build some individual missions set outside the theaters of Company of Heroes 3’s Italian and North African campaigns – it is a World war after all – you should have quite a few tools to do that.
“If someone wanted to make a Normandy map or something else on the Western Front, they really could use the assets we’ve provided.” “We actually have more than we have in the past in terms of natural terrain. Rocks and stuff like that. Foliage, a lot of which is native to all of Europe.” “Architecture is very similar. So you could definitely get away with some buildings near the South.”
And if you’re less interested in creating very authentic, historical experiences, there will be plenty of opportunities for more chaotic and unorthodox mods as well.
“What you’re able to do for new modes is substantial. So almost anything you can think of, you could probably build. We’ve already had some really fun internal ideas of what that could look like. We’ve thought through how do we make, you know, battle royales with just tanks.”
“If you wanted to give some personality to some of the units, make them more aggressive or more passive, you can absolutely do that. You can tell units to do certain patrols or to stay in certain areas, or away from certain areas.”
To make all of this user-generated mayhem easy to find, Company of Heroes 3 will have Steam Workshop integration ready to go as soon as we hit the beaches as well.