The openage Converter - Part II: Preparations for Conversion

Our last blogpost was all about parsing the AoE2 .dat file and structuring its content into objects that represent the logical entities of the original format (like in Advanced Genie Editor). However, we cannot start with the transition to nyan objects just yet. The reason for this is that the openage API has a different structure than the objects we acquired from the .dat file so far. Thus, an additional refinement is required to before we can do the transition to nyan. How this affects the converter is our topic for today.

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Spotting the Differences

Attributes from the .dat file often do not have a direct 1-to-1 mapping to the nyan API. While openage and AoE2 essentially do the same thing on the surface, the underlying structure of the openage API can differ quite significantly from the structure of the logical entities in the Genie Engine. Some of the mechanics were extended or streamlined by us, other had to be altered to fit the Entity-Component System model our API uses. A few examples of different data models are listed below.

Game Mechanic Genie Engine openage
Unit Upgrades Units are replaced with upgraded unit Unit attributes are upgraded (with patches)
Creation location Stored in connection or created unit object Stored with creating unit object
Trebuchet (un)packing Trebuchet is replaced with (un)packed unit State change in state machine
HP Hardcoded behaviour (damage, death, heal) HP is a configurable attribute

Unit upgrades are especially challenging because AoE2 replaces the whole unit object reference, while openage upgrades only the attributes that actually change. In order to detect which attributes change we need to know the upgrade order of units (also called a unit line) and create a diff between neighboring units in that line. Replacement mechanics are also used in other ways, e.g. for the trebuchet, which requires its own special treatment.

Other mechanics, such as the creation location of buildings or units, can sometimes be annoying to detect when we process units one at a time. For example, there is no way to see which buildings a villager can create by looking at the villager object alone.

Concept Grouping

The first step we take to solve the described problems is to use concept grouping. The idea behind this method is that even though the data model of the Genie Engine and openage can be very different, the gameplay mechanics/concepts stay the same. One example of such a concept would be the aforementioned unit line, while a concept group is a specific instance of the concept, e.g. the archer unit line in AoE2. Examples for other concepts are age upgrades, civs or transform groups (trebuchets).

In the converter, the concepts are implemented as Python classes whose instances become the concept groups. The classes usually implement methods that can figure out additional context about the groups, e.g. whether a unit line is unique or what position every unit in the line has. To establish the concept groups, the converter iterates through every logical entity, finds the related concept and adds the entity to its corresponding group.

GenieUnitLineGroup UML

(The above image shows an UML excerpt from the Python class GenieUnitLineGroup (for - you guessed it - the unit line concept) on the left as well as an example instance in form of the archer line. The instance stores the units that are part of the line as an ordered list of GenieUnit objects which you should be familiar with from the last blogpost. Methods from the class are available for every instance and help us determine a line's properties.)

One big advantage of concept groups is that every concept does have a 1-to-1 mapping from AoE2 to openage; something that a single logical entity did not necessarily provide. The groups' Python classes provide an abstract view on the concepts in this case which translate the Genie data model to the openage data model. Hence, you can also interpret the created concept groups as API-like objects that represent an openage API concept using Genie Engine data. By operating on the groups during nyan conversion, the converter does not have to worry about the context of individual logical entities anymore and can concentrate solely on fetching the necessary data from the groups.

Linking

The purpose of linking is to add information about the relation to other groups to a concept group. We mostly do this for relations that would be hard to detect from just looking at one concept group because it is not stored as a value in its logical entities. An example for this that we mentioned before are the buildings a villager creates. The links in a concept group are technically just a bunch of concept-specific lists in the Python classes. These lists are filled by iterating through all concept groups we created, each time looking for a relation to another group and appending the group to the list asspociated with the relation type.

GenieUnitLineGroup UML

(This is the same GenieUnitLineGroup class as shown above, this time with linked information visible. creates stores the building lines created by the villager, garrison_locations the places where it can garrison. Note that these links are also stored as lists, but in contrast to line which stores references to GenieUnits, links will usually reference group instances.)

Linking is not as important as grouping, but it saves us a lot of runtime when a relation is relavant more than once. It also ensures that every concept group has all information it needs for conversion available in the Python object instance and (theoretically) does not need to search the rest of the dataset for information.

Now that we have prepared the data for conversion, we can finally start to translate it to the nyan API.

To be continued...

The series will continue soon with another blogpost about the converter. Next time we will start to look at the most important step in the conversion process: the nyan object creation.

If you have any questions regarding this blogpost or you are eager to help developing openage make sure to pass by in our forum. You can also check the weekly development news on our subreddit!

As always, if you want to reach us directly in the dev chatroom:

  • Matrix: #sfttech:matrix.org
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