Empire Earth – Modding

by The Great Briton

Modding Empire Earth textures can be a lot of fun. Aside form the satisfaction of creating a decent, professional looking texture, if you dig around Empire Earth’s files for long enough you will find several units that the designers decided to cut from the final game, such as a hovercraft, an Age of Empires – style mining camp, a different futuristic tank, a road, and even Elvis Presley!

This article is split into three parts. Part A focuses on how to use EE Studio – it will show you the basics of how to decompress units, and how to put your modified textures back into the game. Part B shows in great detail how to modify textures effectively using Adobe Photoshop (For this tutorial I will show how to edit the Sentinel texture). Part C outlines some more uses of EE Studio – including how to edit sounds or take apart Campaign files.

(Note: Many times in this article I will tell you to save certain files in the Empire Earth directory. If you intend to view the mods using Empire Earth – The Art of Conquest, you will need to put them in that directory instead.)

Part A – Using EE Studio

Before you get started, there are a few things you will need:

  1. A copy of Empire Earth (Or Empire Earth – the Art of Conquest)
  2. EE Studio
    This program lets you decompress the modifiable files. It was created by a smart guy called Enrique Orduno, with help from other smart guys such as AnZ. You can download it here.
  3. A graphics program
    To make a good texture, you will need an advanced program such as Adobe Photoshop. At around $650 it is very expensive – thankfully there is a much cheaper version called Adobe Photoshop Elements, which is basically 90% of the full program for about $100
  4. A Texture library (Optional)
    On my computer I have built up a Texture Library that contains over seven thousand 64×64 pixels sized textures – each one different. Yes – that’s right, seven thousand. That’s 140MB. That means that for every possible situation, I have a texture for it. These textures come mostly from the texture files of games such as the Tomb Raider series. A Texture Library isn’t necessary at all, but it saves time having to go onto Google continuously to search for a particular texture. This library is most useful when texturing buildings.

Now that you have got all (or most) of these, you can get started! I have split this down into five steps…

1. Download and install EE Studio.

You can find EE Studio here. It was created by a member of the empire Earth community, Enrique Orduno. Basically, this is what it does…

If you look in the Data folder in your Empire Earth directory, you will find a file called “data.ssa”. This file contains the textures and models for every single object in the game (Not quite every object actually – more on in Part C) as well as several other files which tell the game how to run. (Unfortunately most of those files are uneditable)

EE Studio takes “data.ssa” to pieces, and extracts from it all the files it contains. Then, you can edit the textures as much as you like!

(You will notice that the campaigns are also in “ssa” format – you can also use EE Studio to extract scenarios etc from campaigns!)

2. Extract the SSA file

Before you extract the files, make a new folder somewhere on your computer, placing it in the sierra folder would be sensible (You will need about 160MB of space). Call this folder something like “edit”

Now, open EE Studio and select “SSA Extract”. Type in the location of the “data.ssa” file on your computer, (In the Data folder in your Empire Earth directory) and press Enter. Then, type in the location of the folder you just created. Press Enter and wait.

(If you want to look at the Art of conquest units, you will need to find the “data.ssa” file in the Art of Conquest directory)

Now, go and look at this folder! You will find six subfolders:

  • Civilisations – this contains all the default civilisations in the game, You can move them into the Empire Earth directory and edit them in-game.
  • Db – this contains lots of “DAT” and “LOG” files. Editing these are useless.
  • Models – this contain all the models (or shapes) of all the units and buildings etc in the game. You can’t edit these, but you can swap them around – for example giving a marine the same shape as a caveman.
  • Sounds – This contains all the sound effects used in Empire Earth. Using a sound program, you can edit these.
  • Textures – For the EE modder,, this is the most important folder. All the files in here are .tga format, and these can be edited using a paint program.
  • Unit ai scripts – These tell the units how to behave. They cannot be edited.

3. Decompress the texture and convert it to .tga

I have always thought that the Digital Age Sentinel doesn’t look very realistic – so in this tutorial we will modify the Sentinel texture…

First of all, you need to find the texture. Open EE Studio and click “DCL Decompressor”. In the “Input File”, select browse and find the sentinel texture:

“Sierra/Edit/EE/Textures (Make sure the File Type is “Textures”)

You will see that the Textures folder is full of hundreds of .sst files. All the human textures begin with “men_”. You will notice that there is no “men_sentinel” texture. You have to use a bit of common sense. The texture we want is called “men_trooper_11t” Select this file and press Enter.

Then, for the “Output File”, select a folder to put all your decompressed textures in. Type in a file name you will remember (It would make sense to keep the original texture name), and then press Enter. Press “Decompress”, and wait.

Now, you can look at the texture. In EE Studio, select “Textures (SST)”, then click “Open (SST File)”. Find the decompressed texture and open it. It should look exactly like this:

You can’t open .SST files in any program other than EE Studio, so you will need to convert it to a format that other programs can read: Select “Save(SST to TGA)”. Keep the same filename to save confusion, and save it.

4. Edit the texture

Now, you can exit EE Studio and open your graphics program (This tutorial will use Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0)

Open “men_trooper_11t.tga” in Photoshop. Now, you can edit the texture as much as you like. Look at Part 2 for a tutorial on how to do this effectively)

After you have finished editing the texture, save it as a .TGA file. Call it “men_trooper_11t”.

5. Put the texture into the game

Then close Photoshop and open EE Studio. Go to “Textures(SST)” > “Convert(TGA to SST)”. Find the file then click “Open”.

Now you have to find the place to put the finished texture. Go to Empire Earth/Data. There should be a folder called “Textures”. If not, make one. Then save the file in there. Make sure it is called the same thing as the original file was called. In this case, that’s “men_trooper_11t”.

(Note: If you want to view the mod in Empire Earth – The Art of Conquest, you will need to put the file in Empire Earth – The Art of Conquest/Data/Textures”. Even if the texture is for an original EE unit.

And, here is my finished version of the Sentinel! If you want to see exactly how I got from the original unit to this, carry on reading…

Part B – How to edit the Sentinel texture (Using Adobe Photoshop Elements)

First, open “men_trooper_11t.tga“.

To make it easier to modify, we are going to make it bigger. ON the toolbar at the top of the screen, select “Image” > “Resize” > “Image Size”

Check that “Constrain Proportions” is selected, then change the Width to 128 pixels. Make sure that the box next to “Resample Image” says “Bicubic”. Press OK. (This will double the size of the image.)

This will also make the finished texture more detailed.

Now for the fun bit… First of all we want to get rid of the stupid mask that the Sentinel wears. To do that, I go to the toolbar and click “Select” > “Load Selection”.

Choose Alpha Channel. Now you will see that dotted lines appear on the image. Everything outside of these lines will be invisible when you view the unit in-game. In this case, the only non-selected area is the black area that surrounds the Sentinel’s gun. Zoom in so you can see a bit more clearly. Now, select the “Rectangular Marquee Tool”. Holding the “Alt” key down, draw a box over the mask texture. Then let go of the mouse. Go to “Select” > “Save Selection”. Save it as “Alpha Channel”.

If you then put this texture into the game, the Sentinel would look exactly the same, but it would have no mask! But we’re not finished yet…

The Face

The Sentinel’s face also looks strange, so we’re going to change it. If I was making a proper mod, I would create an entirely new face, but for the purpose of this tutorial we will use the face from the Marine.

Use EE Studio to find and decompress the “men_marine_10t” texture. Convert it to a TGA file and open it in Photoshop. Double its size like we did to the Sentinel texture, then, using the Rectangular Marquee Tool, select the face. Go to “Edit” > “Copy”. (You will notice that there is also a blank area under the Marine’s face – if you wanted to you could give the Marine a mask, just like the Sentinel!)

Now go back to the Sentinel texture and select “Edit” > “Paste”. Move the face so that it is in the top right hand corner of the image.

The Clothes

Now let’s change the colour of his clothes. I mean, do futuristic armies not bother with camouflage any more?

So I go onto the Internet and find a picture of a modern army uniform.

It doesn’t look like much, but this is enough to create a realistic texture.

First, using the Lasso tool, select the torso of the jacket. Then copy it into a new file and resize it:

Then, copy it into the sentinel texture and place it over the top of the original torso texture. Then copy it so that it covers the back of the torso as well.

Now we need to add in some detail like buttons and pockets. The easiest way to do this is to make the image 10 times larger, add in details, and then change the size back to normal. So, go to “Image” > “Resize” > “Image Size” and change the Width to 1280. Make sure that this time you use “Nearest Neighbour” rather than “Bicubic” (This will stop the pixels from blurring together). Then, using a small brush, add in as much detail as you like. Then, using “Nearest Neighbour” again, make the image 10 times smaller. And this is what you end up with:

Now, we need to do the same thing with the legs. You don’t need to bother changing the arms – as they will be coloured with their player’s colour.

The white area on the right, underneath the mask texture, is the helmet texture. You could give it a metal texture, but I have made it camouflaged.

Now, add in some more details of your own choice. Another thing I would do is edit the gun – it is possible to change the shape of the gun, but this requires complicated editing of the “Alpha Channel”. For this tutorial, I suggest you just get rid of the yellow border around the gun. To do this easily, select the gun, then go to “Enhance” > “Adjust Color” > “Hue/Saturation”. Change “Master” to “Yellows”. Then set the Lightness level to –100. The gun is also slightly blue – you may wish to select Blues and then change the Saturation level. Something like –40 would be OK.

And here is the finished texture. You will see that I have also changed the boots and the hands and given him a headset and webbing,

Now save the texture and follow the rest of “Part A – Using EE Studio”.

Part C – Other uses for EE Studio and EE modding tricks…

There are many things you can do with EE Studio apart from modifying textures. In this section, I will show you some of those things, and throw in a few tricks and secrets that EE modders like myself have discovered, as well as outlining a few problems that you may encounter.

· Using .cem files(models)

If you look in the “Models” folder, you will find hundreds of .cem files. These are the models, or “shapes” of the units. Generally, these will have the same name as the unit textures, but without the “t” at the end. For example, the Marine texture is called “men_marine_11t.sst” and the Marine model is called “men_marine_11.cem”.

It is impossible to modify these, as they are a format that only Empire Earth’s creators know how to use. But – you can swap these model files around.

For example, say for some reason, you want a flying hippopotamus? No problem! Simply use the “DCL Decompressor” to decompress the Hippopotamus texture and model, which are “amb_hippo_00t.sst” and “amb_hippo_00.cem”.

Then, find out what the name of the B-2 bomber texture and model are called. They are called “air_b2_11t.sst” and “air_b2_11.cem”.

You can probably work out the rest.. Rename the Hippopotamus texture to the same name as the B-2 texture, and rename the Hippopotamus model to the same name as the B-2 model. Then, put the texture in Sierra/Empire Earth/Data/Textures. And put the model in Sierra/Empire Earth/Data/Models.

Then play the game! When you build a B-2 bomber, it will fly the same, sound the same, drop bombs the same way, but it will look like a flying hippopotamus!

· Using .wav files (sounds)

The Sounds folder contains hundreds of .wav files. There is no need to convert these files – .wav is a popular sound format that Windows is familiar with. (But you still have to decompress them) However it is hard to edit the sounds because they have confusing names, making it difficult to find the sound you want. But it is possible. If you want to edit the sounds, a good program to use is Audacity, which you can download here. It’s completely free and contains a lot of effects to help you edit sounds. Once you have finished your editing, you need to place the sounds in Sierra/Empire Earth/Data/Sounds.

· Using .tga files

In the Textures folder you will find, as well as .sst files, some .tga files. These are the mouse pointers. You can decompress these and then edit them and put them into the Textures folder in your Empire Earth directory. (You do not need to change them into .sst files)

You will also notice, if you have Empire Earth – The Art of conquest, that about half of the new unit textures, even if they aren’t mouse pointers, are .tga format. You can decompress and edit these just like the original Empire Earth mouse pointers.

· Extracting Campaign files

As I have already said, EE Studio takes .SSA flies to pieces. Apart from the data.ssa file, there are other “.ssa” files within Empire Earth – Campaigns.

Open EE Studio and go to “SSA Extract”. Let’s take a look at the Greek campaign…

Find the location of the Greek Campaign, which is Sierra/Empire Earth/Data/Campaigns/EETheGreeks.ssa.

Select a folder to extract it to, and press Enter. Now take a look at the folder. It will contain three subfolders – Campaigns, Scenarios and Sounds. The Campaigns folder contains only a text document – you do not need to bother with this. In the Scenarios folder there are all the scenarios of the campaign, in .scn format. You need to use the “DCL Decompressor” to decompress them, then you can put them in Sierra/Empire Earth/Data/Scenarios and look at them in the Editor.

This folder also contains .jpeg files. These are all the pictures used in the campaign. They do not need to be decompressed. And the sounds folder contains all the sounds used in the scenarios. You will need to decompress these before you can open them.

· Not all units have textures/models…

Not all units have their own models. If you look hard enough, you will see that the Marine, German Infantry, Sentinel and Shock Trooper all share the same model, “men_marine_11.cem”. That means that if you change the shape of the Marine, you will also change the shape of all four of those units. This is unavoidable.

This is the same with textures, to a lesser extent. For example the Sentinel and Shock Trooper share the same texture.

Another annoying thing is that some units don’t seem to have textures at all… Well, obviously they do, otherwise they would just look like a white shape, but for some reason EE Studio can’t find the texture. For example, the Airport. There is an airport texture, called “bld_airfield_10t.sst”, but this only contains the texture for the runway. The airport building texture doesn’t seem to exist. This can be annoying. Fortunately, only a few units have this problem.

You should also bear in mind that if you try to swap around models (Like the above example of turning the B-2 bomber into a hippopotamus), the animations won’t always work correctly. For example, I once wanted to give the Guardian the same appearance as the Flamethrower. So, I swapped the models and textures around. When I tested it, it works fine, however when I kill the Guardian (That now looks like a Flamethrower), it doesn’t fall over. It just jumps up in the air and freezes. Again, this problem fortunately only affects a few units.

· Making Unit buttons

You will notice that when you select units and buildings (In the game) a little picture of them appears in the bottom left corner of the screen. You can also edit these using EE Studio. You will find them in the Textures folder. Usually they will have the same name as the actually unit texture, but starting with “but_” instead of “men_” or “bld_” etc. (But not always, as you will see) In this tutorial we have been using the Sentinel, so we will edit the Sentinel’s button. First we need to decompress the texture, which is “but_sentinel_00t”. Now convert it to .tga.

Now close EE Studio and open Empire Earth. Go onto the Editor, and, using the White Terrain tool, paint the background white. Now place your new unit on the map and take a screenshot (Press F9 or press “Print Screen”). (Make a high hill behind the unit and paint that white. This will look like the unit is completely surrounded by white)

Now close Empire Earth and open Photoshop. If you took the screenshot by pressing F9, you can find the screenshot in the Empire Earth directory. If you pressed “Print Screen”, just go to “File” > “New from Clipboard”.

Crop the image so that just the unit remains, and then use the Magic Wand button to get rid of the white background. Now, resize the unit so that it is the same size as the button. (64×64 pixels)

Use a background image like this:

Copy the unit screenshot on top. Then save it as “but_sentinel_11t.tga”.

Use EE Studio to convert it to an .sst file then put it in the Textures folder in your Empire Earth directory.

· Objects that are not in the game…

As far as I can remember, there are five units or buildings that you can find using EE Studio that do not feature in the game. Using EE Studio you can find the textures and models for all of them.

Here’s the list of them (But I’m not going to tell you where the files are – you will have to find that for yourself!)

  1. Hovercraft – this is a futuristic looking hovercraft. You could swap it with a Frigate texture and model…
  2. Mining Camp – this is basically a three-sided shed with a tunnel inside…
  3. Elvis Presley – I don’t know whether the designers made this as a joke, or whether it was going to be a Modern Age hero, but, there is an Elvis Presley texture and model in there somewhere.
  4. Road – there is a texture and model for a road, including dotted lines down the middle and a pavement/sidewalk along the sides. (Note: this is not a terrain – it is an object).
  5. Futuristic Tank – This is basically a different version of a futuristic tank.
  6. Futuristic Helicopter – A different version of the helicopter transport that has a Star Wars feel.

There are probably many more unknown objects waiting to be discovered… so find them!

· Texture Categories

By now you will have noticed that most texture files start with a three-letter word, (usually three letters) such as “men” or “bld”. The following is a list of the most important of these categories, in alphabetical order, with an explanation of what they contain, to help you find files more easily.

Most of the unit models also start with these words.

(Note: The terrain textures don’t have categories, they just start with their name.)

1. act – All the “action” buttons, such as the “Stop” button or “Stand Ground” button, start with this.

2. air – All flying objects, with the exception of the Eagle and the flying cybers, start with this.

3. amb – All the “ambient” objects – such as trees, rocks, animals, resource mines etc, start with this.

4. bld – All the buildings start with this.

5. but – All the unit buttons start with this.

6. button – For some reason, some of the unit buttons start with this instead of “but”.

7. cliff – All the cliff textures start with this.

8. fx – The “special effects”, such as lightning or explosions, start with this.

9. gun – All the non-human units that (mostly) shoot projectiles, such as siege engines, tanks and cybers, start with this.

10. men – all the human units – including heroes – start with this.

11. nav – All the naval units start with this (Except the shark and dolphin etc)

12. sfx – More special effects – if the effect you are looking for doesn’t start with “fx”, it probably starts with this.

13. sha – Pretty much every object has a texture that starts with “sha”, but they don’t seem to do much. If you look at them using EE Studio, they are empty.