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Halo Wars Modding

Anyone still interested?

Poll: Halo Wars Modding (29 member(s) have cast votes)

Halo Wars Moddin'?

  1. Yes (24 votes [82.76%])

    Percentage of vote: 82.76%

  2. No (5 votes [17.24%])

    Percentage of vote: 17.24%

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#1 User is offline   kornman00 

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Posted 25 May 2011 - 07:12 PM

So recently I was helping a friend out on reverse engineering an XBLA title when I figured I'd take another stab at decrypting Halo Wars' archive files.

Well, a couple of days later I figured out the general gist of the encryption scheme used. It's XTEA based (with some other processing done, in 64 byte blocks). I really don't have the time to reverse engineer the PPC code back into anything which I can use on regular computers right now, so instead I wrote an XEX which processes a directory (on the Xbox, remember, this is an XEX) for all .era files and decrypts them (will be adding the re-encryption process in the next day or two).

I was wondering how many people are actually still interested in Halo Wars modding? Just a heads up on some file formats (a few of them at least): they use Granny (for animations), DDS (for textures), and XML files. After an archive is decrypted, there is still a bit of processing left to do to the contents, but it's all trivial crap at this point.

Obviously you'll need a modded 360 to mod Halo Wars, so the fact that the decrypt/encrypt tool is an XEX shouldn't be an issue with people who care about this.

Oh, and the encryption is used on their game saves too...so you could end up modding those too.

#2 User is offline   TCK 

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Posted 25 May 2011 - 07:45 PM

I'd be very interested to see what happens, don't have a modded Xbox though to do any of it myself.

#3 User is offline   DEElekgolo 

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Posted 26 May 2011 - 02:28 AM

Yes, I would be interested
Don't have a modded xbox but I am interested.

This post has been edited by DEElekgolo: 26 May 2011 - 02:30 AM


#4 User is offline   kornman00 

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Posted 29 May 2011 - 01:34 AM

So I've been staring at the header block of some ERA files for the past couple of days, trying to figure things out. Turns out the first major entry in an ERA archive is a hash (SHA) table. I'm starting to understand more of the archive format now, and figured out they just use some standard zlib compression for individual files in the archive itself. Hopefully I'll be able to make an archive exploder here in the coming weeks, then later, an archive builder. Can't wait to have my spartans jacking scarabs! Will probably look into modding the XEX to skip the encryption/decryption process (for archives and game saves) since it's moot now.

#5 User is offline   unknownv2 

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Posted 29 May 2011 - 03:50 PM

I'm also interested in researching Halo Wars. Just like you, I found the crypto functions but didn't have the time to re-write it, so I went on to other projects.

#6 User is offline   blitzburnz4 

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Posted 02 June 2011 - 05:10 PM

Ya that would be siiiiiiiiicccckkk

#7 User is offline   kornman00 

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Posted 27 June 2011 - 03:39 PM

In the not-so-distant future, I'll be adding the source code to a Halo Wars archive en/decrypter to OpenSauce. It'll be a 360 project, so you'll need the XDK to compile and a console capable of running unsigned code to use it. I'll also do my best to include documentation on the archive data structures I've come across. I'll probably also put up a download of a compiled xex (so all you would need is a console).

(just an update for anyone who actually cares)

#8 User is offline   kornman00 

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Posted 10 July 2011 - 01:17 PM

I've added the source to the Xbox360 program I use for decrypting ERA files to OpenSauce.

For those without a 360 which can run unsigned code, I've uploaded a 7z archive of all of the ERA files in decrypted format. Can't say how long that will stay up, so get it while it lasts.

While this is the step in the right direction, it's not the last. There is still the issue of figuring out the compression used on internal archive files and data (eg, xml files stored in an archive).

I also need to finish the encryption code, so when archive modding becomes possible, they can be re-encrypted and used with an unmodded HaloWars XEX.

#9 User is offline   TCK 

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Posted 10 July 2011 - 02:09 PM

Tried to download, got a message about exceeding allotted bandwidth for the day.

#10 User is offline   kornman00 

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Posted 10 July 2011 - 04:47 PM

Upgraded regular members max daily bandwidth to 700MB

#11 User is offline   unknownv2 

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Posted 11 July 2011 - 01:20 PM

Thank you for releasing your work.

#12 User is offline   kornman00 

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Posted 13 July 2011 - 12:15 PM

No problem. Expect a pretty big update between now and the end of the month ;)

#13 User is offline   kornman00 

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Posted 21 July 2011 - 07:06 AM

Another step in the right direction. The majority of the designer game data in Halo Wars gets postprocessed from raw XML into a binary XML (or XMB). I've finally finished working on code which translates XMB back into XML (and I'm almost done with the system for translating it back)

To give an example, attached is the data file which is used to inform the player of various events in the game (expect when playing online). E.g., the "incoming attack to this base" sound event is defined thru this, along with all the other "factoids" the player's AI says (including some I've never seen used).

Once I'm finished with this XML crap I can move on to models and animations.

Attached File(s)



#14 User is offline   gruntlord6 

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 02:25 PM

View Postkornman00, on 21 July 2011 - 07:06 AM, said:

Another step in the right direction. The majority of the designer game data in Halo Wars gets postprocessed from raw XML into a binary XML (or XMB). I've finally finished working on code which translates XMB back into XML (and I'm almost done with the system for translating it back)

To give an example, attached is the data file which is used to inform the player of various events in the game (expect when playing online). E.g., the "incoming attack to this base" sound event is defined thru this, along with all the other "factoids" the player's AI says (including some I've never seen used).

Once I'm finished with this XML crap I can move on to models and animations.

I am looking forward to your future progress :)

#15 User is offline   kornman00 

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 06:33 PM

Modding Halo Wars will be loads easier than modding say, Halo3. Well, assuming you have the proper equipment (modded box or otherwise). A metric ton of the game data is in an optimized form of XML (XMB as they call it, binary instead of textual). Like I mentioned earlier, I already have something for handling them and pooping them back out into regular XML. The game can actually handle straight XML, so you don't even need to convert them back into XMB once you mod whatever file.

The root.era archive is where the majority of the game data is found (eg, leader definitions, powers, physics, etc). Most of the game itself is actually implemented via their Trigger system. Scenarios, ai behaviors, etc, can all be defined and adjusted via triggers.

My goal is to have an initial set of tools and documentation for people to begin modding Halo Wars by the end of August. I don't think it's too far of a stretch to say new textures could be put in game by the end of the year, followed potentially by new models.

#16 User is offline   Voho 

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Posted 30 July 2011 - 06:31 PM

This is definitely something I'd like to see, although of course, it isn't exactly something I can participate in (no modded console or coding knowledge). I do have one or two questions, if you don't mind me asking.

1. I know actually doing the modding is restricted to a JTAG or Development kit, but would it be possible to create Campaign game saves for use on a retail console, similar to those in Halo 3 and Halo: Reach? I remember the Campaign having a save and load function, though I may be mistaken.

2. I've always been interested in using AI only or "Rare" units (such as the Needler Elite, Rhino, or any sort of Flood faction units) in a Campaign or Multiplayer setting. Is it possible to bring these units into Multiplayer (or Campaign missions where they aren't utilized)? Unlike you, I have absolutely no idea on how the games engine stores the units, so this might be a dumb question.

Sorry if this is bothersome, I'm just curious about this stuff ^_^

#17 User is offline   kornman00 

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Posted 31 July 2011 - 11:21 PM

Modded campaign saves would be possible on retail boxes, however, they would have to be re-encrypted before they're put back into a container and resigned. Currently, I've only written a de/encrypt tool that runs on the 360, so you would still be limited from modding campaign saves.

I don't recall the needler elites from the campaign off hand, but yeah it isn't too difficult setting up units and where they're built at. In fact, I've been meaning to re-add the Pelican to the Air Pad's unit selection list. I want to make an army of Pelicans :3. Same goes for the Spirit. In fact, the covie leaders at one point had extra leader powers like the Humans do. Where humans can air lift with a Pelican, they could air lift with a Spirit. They also appeared to have planned for a "cloak units" power, which would have been crazy...Imagine a cloaked Scarab + Engineers all of a sudden appearing behind your base! There were a few others as well, but I forget them off hand.

#18 User is offline   blitzburnz4 

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Posted 01 August 2011 - 05:20 AM

K-Man I'd just like to say thanks for doing this, not many else would go through the time to do this for their community, anyways with that I'd just like to say I'm kind of a noob with anything above usermap modding (Only really doing many usermap mods in Halo 3.)

Going back to the point, if I recall correctly in Halo 2 there was unused code that people took advantage of. (Such as the Flood Juggernaut) I was just pondering if there was any hidden or unused code(s) of this matter in Halo Wars.

This post has been edited by blitzburnz4: 01 August 2011 - 05:23 AM


#19 User is offline   kornman00 

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Posted 01 August 2011 - 06:52 PM

Well, that stuff wasn't unused code, it was unused game data (data != code). But yeah, there is a ton of stuff left in that people could take advantage of. Some of it usable without any extra work, some of it not so much (but it would still provide some good reference material)

#20 User is offline   Voho 

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Posted 01 August 2011 - 09:59 PM

View Postkornman00, on 31 July 2011 - 11:21 PM, said:

Modded campaign saves would be possible on retail boxes, however, they would have to be re-encrypted before they're put back into a container and resigned. Currently, I've only written a de/encrypt tool that runs on the 360, so you would still be limited from modding campaign saves.

I don't recall the needler elites from the campaign off hand, but yeah it isn't too difficult setting up units and where they're built at. In fact, I've been meaning to re-add the Pelican to the Air Pad's unit selection list. I want to make an army of Pelicans :3. Same goes for the Spirit. In fact, the covie leaders at one point had extra leader powers like the Humans do. Where humans can air lift with a Pelican, they could air lift with a Spirit. They also appeared to have planned for a "cloak units" power, which would have been crazy...Imagine a cloaked Scarab + Engineers all of a sudden appearing behind your base! There were a few others as well, but I forget them off hand.


That sounds insane! I'll keep an eye out on future progress, and hope for more videos :D

P.S. Idea: Swap all of the Covenant units for Flood units and fight a Covenant AI in skirmish. Would be cool to see UNSC vs. Flood (sorta), especially with larger population caps.

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