Legendary Edition vs Original Trilogy
Anyone who has experience with Mass Effect modding will tell you that both making and installing mods can be quite challenging. Fortunately, the community tools created for the Original Trilogy (OT) have provided a solid basis for a simpler and more consistent experience for all users in the remaster. Before we talk about Legendary Explorer, it is very important for everyone to understand that mods created for the Original Trilogy are NOT compatible with Legendary Edition. Due to some fairly significant back-end changes to the game, it is also impossible to "port" mods quickly from OT to LE. If a mod author has chosen to undertake the challenge of recreating their mod in the new version, they will almost need to rebuild it from the ground up so please be patient and supportive of the content creators who choose to do this.
Equally, if a mod you loved in the original games is not being remade, please do not harass the mod author about it. Many mod authors have updated their OT mod pages with their thoughts on Legendary Edition, so be sure to read the description page and any pinned comments before asking about it.
I'd also like to address some of the questions raised in the community around "porting" mods to Legendary Edition. It is incredibly important to respect the wishes of the original mod author, so if you're hoping to port over a mod that was published for the original games in the remaster you should always ask the creator of the mod for permission before starting out. It's possible they're already working on moving it over themselves. If the original author says no, or simply doesn't respond then you do not have permission to port it. However, we don't allow authors to gatekeep specific ideas or concepts, so if one person has made a happy ending mod for Mass Effect 3, that doesn't mean that someone else can't make one.
The key difference is that it would be a new author approaching a similar concept entirely independent of the original mod, rather than simply "porting" it like-for-like. Think of it this way, when Dreamworks released an animated adventure movie featuring ants in 1998, that wouldn't have stopped Disney from releasing A Bug's Life in 1999.
On this subject, we've invited Audemus to join the Nexus Mods Moderation team to act as a voice of the Mass Effect communities and help us investigate any valid reports raised around mods for both LE and OT in a timely fashion.
Legendary Explorer (LEX)
Legendary Explorer is the evolved form of the tool know as ME3Explorer for the OT games. It is the culmination of many years of work by several talented developers in the Mass Effect modding community who have translated and reverse-engineered almost all the different assets and formats from the game and built tools to allow modders to more easily create their own content. LEX is currently maintained by the ME3Tweaks group.
With LEX, you'll be able to view and extract game assets as well as being able to edit plots, conditionals, in-game text, conversations, cutscenes, audio, 3D assets and more. It is also designed to export your mod creations in a format that can be safely applied to the games.
The toolset has been available in an "open beta" state for the last few weeks, but it has now reached a point where it is relatively stable and ready for wider use.
You can download Legendary Explorer right now from the mod page.
The tools themselves currently aren't fully documented yet, but we've set up a wiki site for Mass Effect LE and will be working with the community to fill it out in the future. If you have experience with ME3Explorer or LEX, please consider contributing!
Best Practices for Mod Authors
In order to maintain a healthy modding ecosystem and to make mods as compatible as possible Mgamerz and Audemus have provided some "Top tips" for new and existing mod authors. These are simply guidelines but if everyone can follow them, it will make modding Mass Effect LE better for everyone!
- Avoid sharing mods that replace the entire Coalessced.bin file. It is possible to add Coalessced edits via a DLC mod which will be merged with other mods/DLCs for compatibility.
- Avoid sharing mods that replace files from the base games. This will cause instabilities with the LEX tools (and mod managers). All edits can generally be achieved using DLC mods or mergeable files.
- If your mod is not mod manager compatible, please make sure to select the "Remove the 'Download with Manager' button" option when uploading it to avoid confusing users.
Several veteran mod authors of the Mass Effect scene are also working on a "community patch" project intended to fix bugs found in the base game and provide a new framework for easier compatibility between mods. If you need help creating your mod check out the wiki?, forums? or chat with the lovely people at the Mass Effect Modding Discord server?.
The eagle-eyed among you might have noticed that the "Mod Manager Download" buttons have started popping up across the Mass Effect game sites recently. This is part of a collaborative effort to make installing mods easier for users by allowing them to install mods directly into their mod manager.
ME3Tweaks Mod Manager (M3)
As well as creating the modding toolset from scratch, the community have also created their own mod manager which integrates into the Nexus Mods website for downloading, updating and endorsing your favourite mods. ME3Tweaks Mod Manager has been created by Mgamerz and the ME3Tweaks team in parallel with Legendary Explorer and offers mod management for both the old and new Mass Effect games (excluding Andromeda). The application also contains a number of tools useful to mod authors and is regularly updated with new features for the Legendary Edition games.
What about Vortex?
At the time of writing Vortex is not compatible with Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2, Mass Effect 3 or Mass Effect Legendary Edition. Much of the modding ecosystem for the Mass Effect series is intrinsically tied to the unique formats used by ME3Tweaks (complex manifests, merge files, etc). However, Vortex is an open-source tool and we're happy to work with anyone who has the knowledge required to bring some of this functionality over in order to take advantage of the existing and upcoming features of our official mod manager.