Sunday, March 23, 2008



SCALE is a wonderful little backronym that a friend and I came up with back in 2006. It stands for "Scalable Contant Abstraction Layer Engine". It's an overly fancy name for a helper library designed for usage in data-driven games.


Before I began dabbling in hobbyist game development, I liked to make mods for games. Back in 2003, I joined the Halogen team, which aspired to create a Halo total conversion mod for Command and Conquer: Generals. Following the disappearance of their existing coder at the time, I quickly assumed the role of lead coder for the project - and remained sole coder until the project ended in late 2006.

Halogen was actually reasonably close to completion. By the middle of 2006, most of the UNSC faction was complete, and the Covenant units and structures were well on their way. We had plans for an open beta in mid-late 2006. By that time, Halogen had gained a reasonably large amount of popularity. We were well known in the C&C modding community, and we also made a small name for ourselves in the Halo community. Our updates were often mentioned on the front page of

In September 2006, we effectively recieved a cease and desist letter. It wasn't actually sent by Microsoft, though. SketchFactor, a community manager at Bungie, elected to inform us of the bad news before Microsoft's lawyers got involved. And so, after 3 years of working on Halogen, we officially shut down the Halogen project. If you google "halogen mod" you may still be able to find some online articles if you want more information.

Of course, it was no secret why were were shut down. A few weeks after the notice, at X06, Microsoft's new Halo RTS "Halo Wars" was announced. Since Command and Conquer: Generals was an EA game, Halo was Microsoft's intellectual property, and Halogen was going to be direct competition, it's obvious why we were shut down.

But I never forgot the experience I gained through Halogen. Command and Conquer: Generals was an extremely moddable game - practically all game assets were exposed through a simple, easy to use plain text system. All in-game entity definitions were changeable through regular .ini files - making modding a breeze. This extreme moddability is what kept Command and Conquer: Generals alive for so long. Through my experience on Halogen, I learned the value of highly data-driven game design.

That's what SCALE is. It's not just a format, it's an engine for data-driven assets, based loosely on the .ini modding system used in Command and Conquer: Generals. Effectively, C&C:Generals was my inspiration for designing this system, and the great time I had modding it provides the motivation for SCALE's implementation.

Now that my overly lengthy history lesson is over, I'll begin talking about SCALE itself in more detail in a later post sometime.