How to pack your Mission

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This article describes how to pack The Dark Mod missions into so-called PK4 files for release.

Mission PK4s

Each TDM mission must be packaged in a PK4 file (a PK4 is just a renamed ZIP archive). The PK4 contains all the files needed to run the mission, including map, cm, aas, proc files, textures, models, scripts, defs, xdata, etc. The contents of the PK4 resemble the folder structure as found in the main darkmod/ directory: textures go into textures/, .def files go to def/ and so on.

At the very minimum, a PK4 archive needs to contain the compiled map and two text files:


Easy to see, the above example list of files is based on a mission called outpost. The two text files are needed to display your mission in the "New Mission" dialog in TDM's main menu. See their description below.

Choosing a PK4 filename

It's important to come up with a unique filename for your PK4 file, as the filename is used by the in-game mission manager to distinguish the packages: it's best to choose a PK4 name that has not been used by other released missions. Furthermore, don't use foreign characters for the filename, stick with the alphanumeric characters A-Z, a-z and 0-9. Please do not include version information in the filename, future updates should have the same filename to properly update via the in-game installer.

Internationalisation (I18N)

Comment from Geep, 2021: When the i18n string table was introduced, it was to allow quick translations, with the map and other assets unaltered. Nowadays, higher-quality translations usually require changes to the map and/or assets. Given that, the benefit of the string table to translators is modest. For mappers, it has non-trivial costs, in terms of effort, but particularly complexity and opacity when working in DR. So this section might be considered Optional.

To make it easier to translate your mission into different languages, you need to prepare it for this. The most important steps are:

  1. Use #str_XXXXXX templates instead of hard-coded English strings for inventory names, readable texts etc.
  2. Put the contents of the strings for the #str_XXXXX templates into strings/fm/english.lang
  3. Seperate the content of your FM from the fan mission specific dictionaries.

More details can be found in the I18N main article.


The darkmod.txt file describes your mission in the TDM's mission selection dialog:

Title: #str_20000
Description: #str_20001
Version: 1
Author: angua & greebo

The description text mustn't be too long, be sure to check the length of the texts when testing the package in the mission installation dialog. As of TDM 2.0, version numbers are only used as whole numbers.

Starting with release TDM 1.01 it will be possible for missions to specify a "required version", so that missions which are built upon undead (for example) can specify in their darkmod.txt that it needs TDM 1.01 and upwards to run. If the mission installer encounters a version mismatch, a notification appears and TDM will refuse to install it.

You can specify another line after Version:

Title: The Outpost
Description: Break into a builder outpost to retrieve a gold ingot.
Version: 1
Author: angua & greebo
Required TDM Version: 1.01

The "Required TDM Version" string is optional, so existing missions still work of course.

Note: If your mission uses #str_XXXXX templates, the minimum required version becomes v1.07!

VERSION: The internal downloader can only handle integers. So, don't update from v 1 to v 1.1, go from 1 to 2.


This file holds the name of the first mission to load when the player selects "Start Mission". This is interesting for multi-map campaigns, but for a single-map mission just put the name of your map file in here:


Before creating the PK4

You should always perform a full recompile of your map. Delete the .proc, .cm and .aas* files and run a dmap command from TDM console. Make sure the dates of these files are making sense and no old files are floating around in your maps/ folder.

Creating your PK4

A good way to create your initial PK4 is to copy the compiled map files to a temporary maps/ folder and to zip them up. You can use any compression program capable of handling ZIP files, like 7-zip, WinRAR, WinZip, whatever (important: do not create files using RAR, 7z or any other format, only the ZIP format will be recognised). The zip file can have any legal filename - it doesn't have to be the exact mission name. Then rename its suffix to .pk4. It is better to have a name with all lower case letters, otherwise there can be problems under Linux.

Be sure that the maps/ folder ends up in the root of your ZIP. Then add the darkmod.txt and the startingmap.txt to the archive.

Removing unnec. files

Make sure that you do not accidentily pack backup files like "mymap.bak", "" or other random files into the PK4. They just increase the file size, but are not neccessary for playing the mission at all.

The _i18n.pk4 file

From v1.07 onwards: Create another PK4 file and put the files from strings/fm in it, as well as any language specific assets like GUI backgrounds. At minimum this file must contain:


The filename MUST be "yourfmname_i18n.pk4", e.g. for the FM with an PK4 of outpost.pk4, this file must be named "outpost_i18n.pk4".

In case you haven't added any custom models, textures or other assets (i.e. you're just using vanilla TDM assets), you're done here. Proceed with #Testing the PK4

Adding custom Assets

Any custom models, textures, def, xdata files need to be added to the PK4. Be sure to put the files in the exact same folder structure as found in the darkmod/ main mod folder. Example: .mtr files need to go to the materials/ subfolder. If you were to extract the PK4 file to the darkmod/ folder, the files would end up in the correct place (note: don't do this actually, you might overwrite existing files in the darkmod folder).

In the (hopefully) rare case your mission needs to overwrite existing TDM content (e.g. modify a DEF file present in the main mod to change a setting), just include the modified file in your PK4. The file in your PK4 will "overrule" the ones in the mod base when the mission is installed (this is what the fs_game_base and fs_game parameters are for: "game" content will overrule "game_base" content).

Be aware that replacing files containing definitions (def, mtr, etc.) could potentially render your mission incompatible with future versions of TDM, so 'try to avoid this where possible'. Sometimes it is necessary, however.


Do not package Darkmod.cfg or autoexec.cfg with your mission. Doing so will overwrite players' own config files, potentially cause their TDM installation to break!

Testing the PK4

Once created, add a new folder in your darkmod/fms/ directory and put the PK4 in there. Then start TDM, your map should be listed now in the list of available missions. Make sure to use a "good" foldername for your PK4, not conflicting with any existing ones and without spaces, special or foreign (=non-english) characters. Numbers are fine.

Install the mission and see whether it starts correctly.

Splash Image (optional)

When browsing through the mission selection dialog, a small background screenshot can be displayed in the menu. This file is named install_splash.tga and can optionally be provided by the mission creator. Just create a small 256x256 image (must be TGA format, DDS files won't work) and put them in your PK4, next to the startingmap.txt and darkmod.txt files. The loading code will find this image and extract it just in time for display in the menu.

FM Notes (optional)

It's possible to display a couple of lines as FM notes. Just add a file called readme.txt in the PK4. When this file is available, an additional button "Notes" will be displayed next to the "Install Mission" button. This is a good place to put acknowledgements and credits.

Distributing your Mission

Now that you have your distributable PK4 file, others can play your fan mission. For the next steps, see Your Mission - From Beta Testing to Release and Beyond.

See also

  • I18N - Internationalization main article