The Watcher

Have you ever wanted to adventure into the world of Jade Empire as someone other than the seven characters BioWare has chosen as PC's? Here is how you do it by replacing one of the pre-existing character appearances with a new one taken from another NPC.

This tutorial assumes that you have no previous knowledge of Jade Empire modding and follows a step by step procedure to guide you through, but it also attempts to explain the "why" along the way, to provide a basis for future independent modding. The character I have chosen is The Watcher, as he provides a good example for this particular guide.

Note: Currently, we are limited from using characters who have shared body models but use different heads, like the Two Rivers school students or the Imperial Guards. It is also impossible to create new characters from scratch, as there is no model importer/exporter tool for Jade Empire. Maybe in time that will change, but not today.

Tools NeededEdit

1. Jade Empire ERF RIM Editor (see Tools page for details).

The ERF RIM EditorEdit

To begin, you will need to download and extract the tool known as the Jade Empire ERF RIM Editor. It will allow you to view and extract files from the game's data directory, including important model and texture files for the character you will want to play as, so this tool is essential. Even though you will not use it until later on, it is best to have it close at hand.

Download and extract the JE ERF RIM Editor executable somewhere handy, such as your main Jade Empire directory.

Now we shall proceed to the process itself.

Step OneEdit

1) Back-up your Jade Empire override directory, as you will be altering the files.

2) Locate the "appearance.2da" file in your Jade Empire\Override directory and open it using Notepad or any other text editor.

3) Be sure that the "Word Wrap" option is toggled OFF in your desired text editor. Alignment is very important here and Word Wrap distorts all the lines shown.

What you are seeing now is a table containing important appearance data for every character in the game, which is assigned a "Label".

4) Now you will need to choose which pre-existing character you will like to have replaced and find his/her label. This should be pretty straightforward, as the player characters' labels can be found right at the beginning, but in case you need assistance finding them:

- Wu the Lotus Blossom is on line 0 (zero), Radiant Jen Zi is on line 2, Scholar Ling is on line 3, Furious Ming is on line 5, Lu the Prodigy is on line 6, Tiger Shen is on line 7 and Monk Zeng is on line 8.

Note: If you are fond of Role-playing your characters, in this particular case Monk Zeng would be the best PC to choose to be replaced by the Watcher, as the other characters in the game will comment on him having dark robes and stern features, which is also quite an accurate description of The Watcher. This is a purely aesthetic recommendation however. The choice is yours.

Choose which character you like and remember their line and label. You will need them shortly.

5) Now you will need to find the line and label of the NPC you want to have your character replaced with. In our case, who we are looking for is The Watcher. Scroll down to line 172 and you should see "TheWatcher_m" as the label.

6) Highlight everything starting from "N_Watchr" all the way to the end of the 172 line (in other words, everything except the line number and the label itself) and then copy it to your clipboard.

7) Go back to your desired Player Character's line and, like above, highlight everything on the line except the line number and the label itself. Afterward, hit "paste", thus replacing the existing PC data with The Watcher's.

Example: If we use Monk Zeng on line 8, the following data:

P_Tan_ 0 1 1.526 2.563 5.311 50 6 0.5 1 45 15 720 0 human 0 -1 1 -1 1 -1 1 0 0 1 sh_malelow_ ss_j0s_monkzeng 0.648 1 0x00000000 0 **** 1 0 0 -1 0x0006f000 1 **** **** **** 1 0 **** **** 1.04329 camerahook 0

will become:

N_Watchr_ 0 0 1.526 3.12 5.28 50 6 0.5 1 45 15 720 0 human 0 -1 1 -1 1 -1 1 0 0 1 sh_skinLow_ SS_j0s_watcher 0.778 6 0x00000000 0 **** 1 0 0 -1 0x0006f000 1 **** **** **** 1 0 **** **** 1.04503 camerahook 0

8) Save and close the "appearance.2da" file.

You have now successfully replaced all your PC's appearance data with the one from The Watcher, thus allowing you to play as him after all is said and done. *But* we are not done yet. If you try this in game at this moment, it will crash once you attempt to select your PC in the character selection screen. The reason being, that the Watcher does not appear until late in the game, so Jade Empire does not have the model and texture files stored as early as Two Rivers, and it will not know what to do.

To overcome this, we will need to access Jade Empire's data files and extract the necessary model and textures for the Watcher to place them into the Override directory, where they can be used by the game at any time, independent of chapter or area.

And this is where the ERF RIM Editor comes in. Moving on.

Step TwoEdit

1) Click on the ERF editor executable and run it.

2) You will be presented with an empty window. Click on "file", then on "open".

3) Browse until you reach your Jade Empire data directory. (...\Jade Empire\data).

Now you will need to find where the model and texture files for the NPC you want to use and extract them. This is area-specific. The Watcher is easy, because he only appears in the Lotus Assassin fortress. So, find the "j04_lotus" folder and double-click it. (\...\Jade Empire\data\j04_lotus).

4) You will probably see nothing there, so in the "files of type:" drop-down menu, select the "Resource Image File (.*rim)" option.

5) Now you will see two .rim files, "a303.rim" and "a303-a.rim". Both of these contain the data we need to make the Watcher playable.

6) Open a303.rim by double-clicking on it. Another window should pop up. This contains the data to be viewed and the contents to be extracted.

7) Scroll down until you find the "N_Watchr" MDL file and extract it to your override directory. (you can do this by clicking it, then going to "Tools" and "Extract Selected" then navigate to your Override; or by simply dragging and dropping the said file to your Override. Both ways work.)

8) Open a303-a.rim.

9) Find the following files: "h_watchr01"; "n_watchr01"; "n_watchr_" and extract them to your override directory just like you did above.

10) Check that you have all the files correctly in your Jade Empire Override directory:

  • N_Watchr.mdl (~10kb, main model for the Watcher character)
  • h_watchr01.txb (~42kb, texture file for the Watcher's mask)
  • n_watchr01.txb (~42kb, main texture for the Watcher character)
  • n_watchr_.mdx (~88kb, not sure what it is for, but it's required nonetheless)

The Watcher before Bladed Thesis.


And this should be it. We have modded the appearance.2da *and* provided the game the required models and textures to make it work well. Going into the game and selecting your Player Character will reveal The Watcher's persona instead, along with all the proper animations.

The game will also not crash on cut scenes, as it will simply show your "vanilla"/unmodded Player Character in them, when the case applies.

To play as an NPC other than the Watcher, you will simply need to substitute the label/line number with the one you desire and make sure that the Override directory has the required model and texture files so as to not crash the game.

Enjoy a wonderful game as your NPC of choice!

- Written by QVAESTOR -