Changelog tutorial

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Pi-C
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Changelog tutorial

Post by Pi-C » Fri Mar 08, 2019 1:58 pm

TL;DR
Teach modders to write changelogs in such a way that they make best use of Factorio's capabilities.
Why?
There are lots of mods around, and most of them have changelogs. It is good to have changelogs (you want to know before updating whether an update may break something) -- it is even better if one can read them directly in the game and doesn't have to switch to the browser and look in the mod portal. However, there are many mods where the "Changelog" button in the game's mods manager is inactive. Sometimes this happens because of a real bug (e.g. typos), sometimes the authors never really cared enough to fix such seemingly unimportant errors, and sometimes they just hadn't realized that changelog files require a special syntax.
What?
Recently, I happened to start Factorio from the terminal instead of using the shortcut in the menu. I was updating some mods and checking out others by selecting them in the game's mods manager. When the game restarted, I saw the output that is usually hidden and noticed a number of lines like these:

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2944.131 Error CachedChangelog.cpp:37: Failed to parse changelog for mod [insert name here]: invalid changelog file, error on line 1.
Although I'm not a modder myself, bugs do bug me and so I dug around a bit, tried to find out what was wrong, and filed bug reports against some of the mods I have installed. However, I soon realized that it would be less work to start a thread explaining modders how to write changelogs that can be parsed by and displayed in Factorio.
In short: rules and example of a working changelog file
As suggested by GrumpyJoe, here is an example of a working changelog file (snippet from Schall Alien Mutation, with some changes to categories):

Code: Select all

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Version: 0.17.2
Date: 2019.03.21
  Balancing:
    - Updated pollution_to_join_attack values to base game 0.17.12 standard.
  Optimisations:
    - Code tidying and cleanup.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Version: 0.17.1
Date: 2019.03.07
  Changes:
    - Updated thumbnail for 0.17.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Version: 0.17.0
Date: 2019.03.01
  Info:
    - Updated to 0.17.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Version: 0.16.3
Date: 2019.02.07
  Optimisations:
    - Optimized code to make better order in spawn tables.
  Graphics:
    - Added icons to alien types, in case any mods are using them.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Version: 0.16.2
Date: 2018.12.15
  Locale:
    - Russian is available.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Version: 0.16.1
Date: 2018.12.06
  Optimisations:
    - Internal name changes.
  Locale:
    - Simplified Chinese is available.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Version: 0.16.0
Date: 2018.11.25
  Info:
    - Initial release
  Locale:
    - English, German, traditional Chinese are available.
  License:
    - Using Bob's Copyright License. Document included.
A summary of the syntax rules (in the following, each "*" represents an obligatory space):
  • Never use the tab character (\t) anywhere in the changelog file -- it's an illegal character!
  • The changelog entry for each new version of your mod must begin with a header line. It must contain exactly 99 dashes ("-"), nothing else, no spaces anywhere!
  • Immediately after the header line, include a unique version number. Don't indent the line! The required format is "Version:*[version number]".
  • The release date is optional. If you include it, don't indent the line! The required format is "Date:*[date string]". The date string must not be empty -- if you don't know the date, just leave out the entire line!
  • Add categories! Category lines must be indented with 2 spaces. They must end with a colon, no spaces are allowed after the colon! Category names may contain spaces. The required format of such a line is "**My category:". Here is a list of the "official" categories used by the developers for Factorio's changelog.
  • Under each category, add at least one list entry. These lines must be indented with 4 spaces and begin with "-", followed by a space. One entry can span several lines. Each additional line must be indented with 6 spaces. The required format is "****-*[text]" or "******[continued text]".
  • You may insert empty lines before a category line and at the end of a changelog entry. Empty lines must be really empty -- they must not contain any spaces!
  • The file must be named "changelog.txt". It must be in the root directory of your mod, and it must be encoded as UTF8 without BOM!
Update (2019-06-15): It's common knowledge that once you've uploaded your mod to the mod portal, the changelog will be shown there and in the game. However, there have been cases where a flawless changelog would be displayed in the game, but not on the mod portal. Nobody really could explain that. Somebody brought up that issues with cacheing or synchronization might be the reason, and the usual suggestion was to just wait until the problem would fix itself.

Schallfalke has a better explanation. He observed that if a mod was initially released, the changelog wouldn't be shown on the modportal and it would only be shown in the game's mod manager after it had been installed. If an update of a mod was uploaded and that update contained a changelog, this changelog would be displayed on the mod portal and (if it was a valid changelog file) in the game's mod manager for both installed and new mods.
That behavior seems to make sense: Changes are in respect to the previous version, so there are no changes yet in the initial release. However, the changelog is not only used to keep track of changes -- just check out the list of categories! But wouldn't it also make sense to describe major features in the changelog of the initial release, or to give information about the localizations available etc.? Needless to say, it would help to avoid a fair bit of confusion if the changelog would always (from the initial release onwards) be shown on the mod portal. Couldn't that be implemented?
Getting started … detailed explanation
First thing you should be aware of is that your changelog has to follow some rules regarding syntax and formatting in order to be recognized by the game's parser. Consider this example:

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Version 0.4.1: Updated for Factorio 0.17. Fixed conflict with nanobots.

Version 0.3.2: Fixed ghost variation offset.

Version 0.3.1: Updated for Factorio 0.16.x. Decreased file size. Added a button to deselect the input field.
[…]
Every version has its own line, it shows everything one needs to know, and it is concise. That's good, isn't it? Nope. You can read it, I can read it -- but to Factorio's parser, it doesn't make any sense at all.

So, how about this?

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1.0.1:
- Updated mod to work with 0.17.x
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1.0.0:
- After some hours of testing I declared this version v1.0.0; I'm quite happy with how it is now.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
0.6.0:
- Fixed the balancing
- Upgraded the graphics to 64x64 tiles instead of the old 32x32
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
0.5.1:
- Added the Github page as the homepage URL in the info.json
The version number on a separate line allows for listing a number of different changes with improved readability, the separator lines between the version entries help to see where a new changelog entry begins -- that sure must be alright! Wrong again: I will get it, you will get it -- but Factorio's parser won't.

So, what syntax does Factorio expect?
Syntax rules
Let me start with a disclaimer: I have no clue! I am just a normal player, not a modder, and I couldn't find a guide to changelog syntax. All information I provide comes from comparing changelog files from mods I found a parsing error for in the output with changelog files from mods that could be parsed successfully.

In short, what I've written here boils down to more or less qualified guesswork. That means the information and explanations I can give are likely to be either wrong or incomplete. This posting can only a be starting point, making modders aware that their changelog files may need some tweaking. I would appreciate it very much if anybody with more knowledge on this matter -- modders or even devs -- would correct me where I've been wrong, or add more information. Perhaps there even is a document laying out the rules for changelog files that can be parsed by the game? If so, please link to it!

Now, on to the real stuff …
  • Structure of a changelog file (I use the -- working -- file from Schall Lamp Contrast as an example here)
    • The changelog file is a normal text file containing one or more changelog entries.
      Update (2019-03-08): It should be named "changelog.txt" and be stored right in the root directory of your mod.
      Update (2019-03-12): According to steinio, it may be required that the changelog file is encoded as UTF-8 without Byte Order Mark (BOM).
      Update (2019-03-23): Bilka confirmed that changelog files encoded as UTF-8-BOM will break parsing. So, please encode your changelog files in plain UTF-8, without BOM!
  • Structure of a changelog entry
    • A changelog entry starts with a header line. If the parser encounters such a line, it will look for a new changelog entry in the following lines next line.

      Code: Select all

      ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    • A header line contains only dashes ("-"). I guess, technically it would be enough if the first character is a dash; then again, humans can make more sense of it if the header lines span the whole line width.

      Implications: This means that the first line the first non-empty line of the changelog file must be a line with only dashes. It also means that the last non-empty line of the changelog file must not be a line containing only dashes -- otherwise the parser will throw an error because it expects to find another changelog entry. (I mention this explicitely because these seem to be the most common mistakes causing the parser to abort with an error message. Apparently, many modders consider a line consisting of only dashes to be a separator line, so they omit it at the start of their file. Also, it seems some modders want to make their changelog file look neat, so they use dashed lines as top and bottom borders.)

      Update (2019-03-19): It is now official that the header line must be the first non-empty line in the changelog file. That means it doesn't matter if you hit ENTER a couple of times before starting the first header line. However, keep in mind that a line containing only space characters does not qualify as an empty line!

      Update (2019-03-29): According go badtouchatr, the header lines must consist of exactly 99 dashes.
    • After the header line, add a version field:

      Code: Select all

      ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
      Version: 0.17.0
      
      Update (2019-03-19): Please note that "Version: …" must start at column 1 of the line, there must be no spaces preceding it! Also, no empty line is allowed between this line and the previous header line!

      Update (2019-04-16): The version field should only contain one version number, no additional text. This will work as expected:

      Code: Select all

      Version: 0.17.0
      
      These will be parsed without an error, but the result will not be what you expect:

      Code: Select all

      Version: 0.17.0 [BETA]
      Version: 0.17.0/0.17.1
      Version: 0.17.0-0.17.2
      
      Apparently, version numbers may only contain digits and dots. If the field contains any other other character, parsing will stop right there. So, all of the three lines shown above would be rendered as

      Code: Select all

      Version: 0.17.0
      
      If only little has changed between two versions -- e.g. if you updated your mod to the latest version of Factorio in 0.17.0 and decided to add a changelog in 0.17.1 after reading this tutorial :-) -- it seems to make sense to use the latest version number. So, instead of

      Code: Select all

      Version: 0.17.0/0.17.1
      
      I'd recommend using

      Code: Select all

      Version: 0.17.1
      
      because that was the version where the last change documented in this block has been implemented.
    • Add a date field (optional):

      Code: Select all

      ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
      Version: 0.17.0
      Date: 2019.03.01
      
      Update (2019-03-19): Please note that "Date: …" must start at column 1 of the line, there must be no spaces preceding it! There may be empty lines before or after it.

      I'm not sure whether the date field is actually required by the game's parser. However, it is nice to know when a mod has been updated by the author, so just include it, please! By the way, it shouldn't matter to the parser whether you write "2019.03.01", "2019-03-01", "01.03.2019", or whatever. I take it that everything after "Date:" is just interpreted as a string by the parser.

      Update (2019-03-08): As Blue Templar pointed out, the date format does matter to humans! Factorio is played around the world, and people in different countries are used to interpret date strings differently. "08/03/2019" could be read as "March 8, 2019", but also as "August 3, 2019". So Blue Templar suggests that the value of the date field should be given in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), which I strongly support as having all mods using one time format makes things unambigious. A date string with the current time in UTC notation looks like this:

      Code: Select all

      Date: 2019-03-08 21:49:16+01:00
      
      For more information about this format, please refer to RFC 3339. :-)

      Update (2019-03-19): According to my tests, the date field is optional. However, if you set it, it must not be empty! The contents of the date field must be a non-empty string -- ideally the current date and time (UTC), but something like "November 2018" would also be possible. If you don't remember when you have released a version, you could just insert a space after the colon ("Date: "). In this case, you could also leave out that line altogether: the game's parser will then kindly insert "Date: " on its own.

      Important: Take care to use unique version numbers and dates! I've seen one mod where the parser complained about a duplicate date field. Actually, the author had just copied the version and date fields, so there were two entries with the same version/date string in the changelog file.
      (I would have expected the parser to stumble over the duplicate version field, which should have been parsed first -- don't know why it didn't.)
      If you release more than one version on the same day, I'd suggest to add the time to the datefield, like this:

      Code: Select all

      Date: 2019-03-01 11:36:25+01:00
      
      Update (2019-03-08): Time format changed to UTC, as suggested by Blue Templar.
    • So far, we have just defined the header: There is a line signifying the beginning of a new entry, there is the version number, and there is the date of when the changes have been implemented. Now it's time for the content! Just add a description of your changes, optionally [spoiler](?)[/spoiler] embedding them in by adding other fields:

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      ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
      Version: 0.17.0
      Date: 2019.03.01
        Features:
          - Updated to 0.17.
      
      That's it!

      Update (2019-03-08): According to my tests, all information must be provided as contents of a field. Here is an example that doesn't work:

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      ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
      Version: 0.17.0
      Date: 2019.03.01
      
      Added magnificent new features!
      
  • Order of changelog entries
    I think in all of the changelogs I've seen, new entries have been added to the top of the file. However, the in-game changelog viewer shows the oldest changelog entry at the top and the latest at the bottom. I therefore believe that order doesn't really matter. Insert new entries at the top of the file if you feel like it, or add them at the bottom if that is more to your taste. I guess you could even put them in arbitrary order if you really are into stuff like that! It should make no difference as far as the game's parser is concerned, but it could drive you and/or your mod's users into insanity. :-D
  • Structure of fields
    A field consists of FIELDNAME:FIELDCONTENTS. The colon after FIELDNAME seems to be is mandatory. Apparently (see the previous code snippet) FIELDCONTENTS may must begin with a space (version/date) or a linebreak (other fields).

    FIELDNAME apparently can contain spaces. It should start with a capital letter -- that may not be required by the game parser, but it helps human parsers (i.e., the users of your mod).

    A properly indented list structure may not be is mandatory, but helps your users to parse the file -- especially, if you have more than just one field in your changelog entry:

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    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Version: 0.17.0
    Date: 2019.03.01
      Features:
        - Updated to 0.17.
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Version: 0.16.0
    Date: 2019.01.31
      Features:
        - Replaced the vanilla lamp graphics for higher contrast circuit display.
        - Lamps are not colliding with vehicles, allowing walk or drive over.
        - Options on lamp base style, to fit concrete tile or for stronger contrast in signal display.
        - Options on lamp glow size. (Default: 3.  Vanilla: 6.)
        - Options on reorder priority on signal colour. (Default: vanilla settings.)
        - Options on enable colour display on white signal. (Default: off.)
        - Options on enable colour display on grey signal. (Default: off.)
        - Options on enable colour display on black signal. (Default: off.)
        - Options on priority on white signal. (Default: L1.)
        - Options on priority on grey signal. (Default: L2.)
        - Options on priority on black signal. (Default: L3.)
      Locale:
        - English, German, traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese are available.
      License:
        - Using Bob's Copyright License.  Document included.
    
    Update (2019-03-12): Steinio hinted before that , possibly, no tabs may be used in changelog files. This has been confirmed now by Muppet9010. So, please, don't use tabs in the changelog file, only spaces are allowed!

    Update (2019-03-19): According to my tests, the game's parser is rather finicky regarding indentation. It adheres to these rules:
    1. "Version:" and "Date:" must start at column 1.
    2. All other field names must be indented by 2 spaces and start at column 3. The line must end with the colon, no space characters are allowed after it!
    3. Start a list (one or more lines) after the line with the field name. Each line of this list must be indented by 4 spaces and start with a dash followed by a space ("- ") at column 5. Consequently, the actual text starts at column 7. If you have very long lines, they will be wrapped so that the new lines start at column 5. You may insert a linebreak instead. In this case, you must insert at least 4 spaces to avoid parsing errors; however, you should insert 6 spaces, so the text aligns correctly.
  • Notes on field names
    • Be consistent! If you want to use a field name like "Bugfixes", use it always in your file -- don't write "Bugfixes: …" in one changelog entry and "Bugfix: …" in another!
    • Think of these field names as categories! Seems like some cool stuff is possible if you do it right. Have a look at this screenshot, for example:
      asphaltroads_all.png
      Changelog of Asphalt Roads (all changes)
      asphaltroads_all.png (107.43 KiB) Viewed 1281 times
      Notice the long row of tabs at the top of the screen? These correspond to field names used in the changelog file.
      asphaltroads_minorfeatures.png
      Changelog of Asphalt Roads (minor features)
      asphaltroads_minorfeatures.png (63.38 KiB) Viewed 1281 times
      This screenshot just shows a list of minor features. Apparently, the parser compiles a list of all changelog entries containing a category field name ("Minor Features" in this case), and then shows the contents of that field in the tab's window. That's some quite impressive magic, isn't it? Just structure your changelog file/entries correctly and you've got filters automated -- if that isn't in the spirit of Factorio, I don't know what is … :-)

      The filtering goes even further. There is a version selector at the top left of the screen. See this screenshot:
      schalllampcontrast_0.17.png
      Changelog of Schall Lamp Contrast (v. 0.17)
      schalllampcontrast_0.17.png (39.73 KiB) Viewed 1281 times
      But something is missing, right? Remember, we had the following fields defined:

      Code: Select all

      ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
      Version: 0.17.0
      Date: 2019.03.01
        Features:
          - Updated to 0.17.
      ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
      Version: 0.16.0
      Date: 2019.01.31
        Features:
          - Replaced the vanilla lamp graphics for higher contrast circuit display.
          […]
        Locale:
          - English, German, traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese are available.
        License:
          - Using Bob's Copyright License.  Document included.
      
      So, where are the tabs for "Locale" and "License"? Well, they are created -- if you set the filter to version 0.16:
      schalllampcontrast_0.16.png
      Changelog of Schall Lamp Contrast (v. 0.16)
      schalllampcontrast_0.16.png (86.11 KiB) Viewed 1281 times
      Update (2019-03-08): Bilka was so kind to provide a list of FIELDNAMEs that are guaranteed to work. He also mentioned that he is not sure about custom FIELDNAMEs used by mods -- they could work, or they might cause a parsing error.

      Update (2019-04-16): It seems you can really use any string you want as a field name. Bilka explained the differences between using official and custom field names: If only official field names (the ones used by the developers in the vanilla game) are used, the All tab will always be the last one on the right; if you make up your own, they will be placed to the right of the All tab, so All is harder to find.
  • Empty lines
    You may use empty lines to visually separate blocks. However, please make sure these lines are really empty, as in "empty string"! Neither space nor tabulator characters are allowed. Just hit ENTER to insert an empty line -- and if your editor provides an option like that, activate "Remove trailing spaces on save"!
What should go into the changelog?
So far, I've explained what is needed so your changelog will be displayed in the game. The question of what information should be mentioned there is hardly less important, however. Here are my thoughts on that matter, with suggestions for what categories to use:
  • Info: I'd use this for anything important that should stand out from the mass of regular changes:
    • Initial release
    • Update to a new major version (e.g. 0.17) of Factorio
    • New or changed dependencies
    Why dependencies? They are listed on the main page of the mods manager, after all! -- True. But the information provided there is only correct for mods that are not installed yet. If a mod already is installed, the information contained in info.json (e.g. mod description, author, and dependencies) is displayed for the currently installed version. If you click on the changelog button, however, the changelog from the latest version of the mod will be displayed.

    Most people will have the latest version of the game installed. Some, however, might prefer to wait a bit longer to avoid newly introduced bugs -- and others may even be unable to update because of some obscure, unfixed bug. So, if you change your mod in such a way that it depends on the latest version of the base mod or a library, there may be people it might not work for after the update. If you add the changed dependencies to your changelog, these people will know that updating the mod might be dangerous before they try. If nothing else, including such information in the changelog is being polite to your users.
  • Bugfixes: As a rule of thumb, if a line contains the words "fixes" or "fixed", it should be filed under this category. You probably should use "Bugfixes:" even if you've only changed one bug: "Bugfixes:" is an official category, the singular form ("Bugfix:") is not -- and the in-game changelog viewer will sort tabs differently if custom categories are used (see above).
  • Feature/Minor Feature/Major Feature: If you've added something you're really proud of, use these categories to make the new feature stand out!
  • Changes: Almost everything else should go here, except for
  • License/Translation/Locale: Again, these categories are important enough to stand out. "License:" is not an official category, however, so you should be aware that using it will mess up the order of the tabs.
I think these categories should be more than enough in most cases. If you want to use others, just do it! There are more official categories to choose from, and in case you need something else, you could always create your own.
General hints and common traps
  • Be sure to structure all of your changelog entries correctly! A file like this:

    Code: Select all

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Version: 0.17.0
    Date: 2019.03.01
      Features:
        - Updated to 0.17.
    
    Version: 0.16.0
    Date: 2019.01.31
      Features:
        - Replaced the vanilla lamp graphics for higher contrast circuit display.
        - Lamps are not colliding with vehicles, allowing walk or drive over.
        […]
    
    would not throw a parsing error because it starts with a header line. However, it would be parsed differently than expected: The parser would only see "Version: 0.17.0". "Version: 0.16.0" and everything that follows would be considered as part of the description for version 0.17.0.
  • Test and test again, and again! If the parser aborts with an error in line 1, it doesn't mean that there are no errors later on. The parser will abort at the first error it finds, so if you correct that error and try again, it may abort at another line. Please, do yourself and your users a favor and correct everything until the file is parsed correctly!
  • How to check for errors: This assumes that your mod does have a changelog file! If there is no file named "changelog.txt" in your mod's root directory, the parser won't need to be started for your mod, so there will be no debugging output. In this case, please create a changelog -- it's useful to have!
    1. Start the game from the command line, so you can see debugging output.
    2. In the main menu, click on "Mods" (or whatever that is translated to in your game's locale).
    3. Look up your mod under the "Manage" tab and select it.
    4. If your changelog file failed to parse, you will see now an error message in the debugging output. In this case, quit the game, fix the error, and restart at step 1! :-)

      Update (2019-03-21): Actually, debugging output is appended to factorio-current.log. So, you don't have to start the game from the command line if you watch that file.
  • Update (2019-03-12): Don't use tabs in changelog files, indent lists with spaces instead!
  • Update (2019-03-12): Again: Make sure your changelog file starts with a header line (a line that contains only dashes)!
  • Update (2019-03-12): Again: The last non-empty line of your changelog file must never, ever be a line that contains only dashes!
  • Update (2019-03-12): It is a lot of work to replace all those tabs with spaces, and removing all those spaces at the end of a line. Fortunately, a lot of IDEs and editors have options like "Replace tabs with spaces" or "Remove trailing spaces on save" -- use these, if you don't already! Alternatively, if you are on Linux, this oneliner will help you:

    Code: Select all

    sed -i -e 's/\t/  /g' -e 's/\s*$//' changelog.txt
    
    The switch "-i" causes sed to overwrite your file, so be sure to make a back-up!
  • Update (2019-04-16): Beware! "The changelog is displayed on the mod portal" is not a valid test! Apparently, if you upload your mod, the changelog file will be extracted and displayed as is -- without any regard for the syntax rules imposed by the in-game parser. So, it is possible that the changelog will fail to parse even though it is displayed on the mod portal. Use the in-game changelog viewer for testing, and check factorio-current.log for error messages, please!
Conclusion
That was all information I could think of. I hope you don't think me presumptuous for telling you how to do such easy and/or boring stuff like writing a changelog! Well, just see it this way: The devs and some modders (I don't think anybody would use every mod that is out there!) have provided me with a wonderful game that I've spent way too many hours on already, and I just want to do something for it in return -- and if this should help to improve the overall quality of the game, it's just so much the better for everyone!

As stated above, there may be things I've got wrong or that are missing. If so, you are very welcome to leave your comments in the thread!

============
Changes:
2019-03-08
- Fixed some typos
- Edited section "Add a date field"
- Added link to list of guaranteed-to-work field names (section "Notes on field names")
- Added information about name/location of the changelog file (section "Structure of a changelog file")

2019-03-12
- Made my own changelog cleaner by adding dates to update notifications
- Added note about file encoding (section "Structure of a changelog file")
- Added note that tabs are not allowed in changelog files (sections "Structure of fields"/"General hints and common traps")
- For emphasis, added another note on the issue of dashed lines at start/end of changelog files (section "General hints and common traps")

2019-03-19
- Verified/corrected information I wasn't sure about before (sections "Structure of a changelog entry" and "Structure of fields")
- Added note on rules for indentation (section "Structure of fields")
- Added note on editors (section "General hints and common traps")

2019-03-21
- Added note about debugging output appended to factorio-current.log (section "General hints and common traps")

2019-03-23
- Added note about correct file encoding for changelog files (section "Structure of a changelog file")

2019-03-29
- Added note about number of dashes in header lines (section "Structure of a changelog entry")

2019-04-06
- Added section "Empty lines"

2019-04-16
- Added example of a working changelog file and a short description of the syntax rules at the top (section "In short: rules and example of a working changelog file")
- Added note on the contents of VERSION fields, regarding multiple version numbers/text add-ons (section "Structure of a changelog file")
- Added note on the difference between official and custom field names
- Added section "What should go into the changelog?"
- Added note that the mod portal is not suitable for testing changelog files (section "General hints and common traps")

2019-06-15
- Added explanation why sometimes valid changelog files would be shown in the game, but not on the mod portal (section "In short: rules and example of a working changelog file")
Last edited by Pi-C on Fri Jun 14, 2019 11:59 pm, edited 12 times in total.
A good mod deserves a good changelog. Here's a tutorial (WIP) about Factorio's way too strict changelog syntax!

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Re: Changelog tutorial

Post by BlueTemplar » Fri Mar 08, 2019 2:22 pm

Thanks a lot, this is going to be very helpful for new modders !

However :
Pi-C wrote:
Fri Mar 08, 2019 1:58 pm
I'm not sure whether the date field is actually required by the game's parser. However, it is nice to know when a mod has been updated by the author, so just include it, please! By the way, it shouldn't matter whether you write "2019.03.01" (which I would interpret as January 3 of 2019), "2019-03-01", "01.03.2019", or whatever.
Hell no !
I am now experienced enough that I know that 01.03.2019 might mean January 3rd, 2019, rather than March 1rst, 2019 ;
but if you write it with the year first, especially with dashes, 2019-03-01, I will certainly understand that as March 1rst, 2019 !
Date: 2019.03.01, 11:36 A.M.
A note : since this is a World Wide (Wube? :P ) Web site, I'd strongly recommend using UTC times.

A longer version, with supporting arguments :
http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=7901

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Re: Changelog tutorial

Post by steinio » Fri Mar 08, 2019 3:02 pm

Date must be:

Code: Select all

Date: 07. 03. 2019
See Factorio/data/changelog.txt.

Are the fields fixed or can anybody create new ones?
Are fields before bullet points mandatory?

I may remember that file format must be UTF-8 without BOM and no tabs - spaces only.

Cu, steinio.
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Re: Changelog tutorial

Post by Bilka » Fri Mar 08, 2019 3:29 pm

For the base game changelog the fields (Features, bug fixes etc) are fixed to be from a certain list, otherwise one of our tests will fail. Not sure how this is handled with mod changelogs, if it will error or just use them. So, here is the list:
"Major Features"
"Features"
"Minor Features"
"Graphics"
"Sounds"
"Optimisations"
"Balancing"
"Combat Balancing"
"Circuit Network"
"Changes"
"Bugfixes"
"Modding"
"Scripting"
"Gui"
"Control"
"Translation"
"Debug"
"Ease of use"
"Info"
"Locale"
"Other"
I'm an admin over at https://wiki.factorio.com. Feel free to contact me if there's anything wrong (or right) with it.

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Re: Changelog tutorial

Post by Pi-C » Fri Mar 08, 2019 4:18 pm

BlueTemplar wrote:
Fri Mar 08, 2019 2:22 pm
Thanks a lot, this is going to be very helpful for new modders !
Thanks! :-)
However :
Pi-C wrote:
Fri Mar 08, 2019 1:58 pm
I'm not sure whether the date field is actually required by the game's parser. However, it is nice to know when a mod has been updated by the author, so just include it, please! By the way, it shouldn't matter whether you write "2019.03.01" (which I would interpret as January 3 of 2019), "2019-03-01", "01.03.2019", or whatever.
Hell no !
I am now experienced enough that I know that 01.03.2019 might mean January 3rd, 2019, rather than March 1rst, 2019 ;
but if you write it with the year first, especially with dashes, 2019-03-01, I will certainly understand that as March 1rst, 2019 !
Bad wording on my part. I know that people in different countries use different date notations and that this might lead to misunderstandings. What I meant is, it doesn't matter to the game's parser how the date is formatted. But you're right, having a standard format for the date could be useful.
Date: 2019.03.01, 11:36 A.M.
A note : since this is a World Wide (Wube? :P ) Web site, I'd strongly recommend using UTC times.

A longer version, with supporting arguments :
http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=7901
Agreed, same thing as with the date. If there already is a universal format, why not adopt it as a standard here?
A good mod deserves a good changelog. Here's a tutorial (WIP) about Factorio's way too strict changelog syntax!

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Re: Changelog tutorial

Post by Koub » Fri Mar 08, 2019 4:41 pm

[Koub] Moved to modding Help, and pinned as sticky.
Koub - Please consider English is not my native language.

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Re: Changelog tutorial

Post by Pi-C » Fri Mar 08, 2019 6:00 pm

Bilka wrote:
Fri Mar 08, 2019 3:29 pm
For the base game changelog the fields (Features, bug fixes etc) are fixed to be from a certain list, otherwise one of our tests will fail. Not sure how this is handled with mod changelogs, if it will error or just use them. So, here is the list:
Thanks, that is good to know! I'll include this list in my first post, if you don't mind.
[…]
"Locale"
[…]
This is one of the fields that has been bothering me, "License" is another one. I'm referring to Schall Lamp Contrast (last 2 screenshots) again:

It is good that he keeps track of License and available Locales. However, due to how the viewer works, people only will see tabs for these if they are mentioned in a changelog entry for the version they are looking at. In other words: people viewing the logs for version 0.16 will see what locales are available and what license the mod uses, while people viewing the logs through the version 0.17 filter won't get this information. Sure, they could switch the filter to the very first version available -- but who would think of that? Seriously, I had assumed at first that a field name would have to appear at least twice in the changelog file before it is used as a tab because I couldn't find "Locale" and "License" in the 0.17 view. Only much later I realized that these appear once I filter for a different version!

One way to cope with this would be to have a License/Locale field for every major version in the changelog. Although that seems to be a handy hack, it defies logic. Say he has

Code: Select all

  Locale:
    - English, German, traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese are available.
in the first entry of the 0.16 changes. Adding that also to the first entry for 0.17 is not logically correct because the changelog is meant to document changes -- and the locales haven't been changed. Even if he would add new locales, something like

Code: Select all

Locale:
    - English, German, traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese, Russian, Spanisch are available.
would look strange because only two new locales have been added. Say there has been a major update and one of the previously supported locales isn't supported yet -- this would complicate things even more. Perhaps the wording could be changed to

Code: Select all

Locale:
    - English, German, traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese are available now (no new locales).
This would allow modders to mention important but unchanged information in each major version without making it seem incorrect. However, this depends on the modders writing their changelogs correctly, and the parser wouldn't help them because it can only scan for formally -- not factually -- correct entries.

My idea is to introduce to new fields (may be more if needed): "New Locale" and "New License". The old fields would then still be defined in the very first entry of the file. However, they would not be used as tabs any longer, but could be displayed in the main page of the mods manager (on the right, in the table where you find "Status", "Version", "Author" etc.):
schalllampcontrast_main.png
Schall Lamp Contrast (Main page)
schalllampcontrast_main.png (915.45 KiB) Viewed 1222 times
So these fields would always be displayed, though not in the changelog viewer. The changelog viewer would display the new fields, however. It could look like this:

Code: Select all

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Version: 0.17.0
Date: 2019.03.01
  Features:
    - Updated to 0.17.
  New Locale:
    - Added Russian and Spanish locales.
  New License: 
    - Using GPLv3 from now on.  Document included.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Version: 0.16.0
Date: 2019.01.31
  Features:
    - Replaced the vanilla lamp graphics for higher contrast circuit display.
    […]
  Locale:
    - English, German, traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese are available.
  License:
    - Using Bob's Copyright License.  Document included.
(@Schallfalke/bobingabout: Should you ever read this -- sorry for messing with your changelog/removing your license! I just needed a good example to work with … :-))

Thinking of it, it would even make sense to replace "Locale"/"License" with "Original Locale"/"Original License", that would make the meaning even more clear. Trouble with this is, all existing changelogs would have to be updated.

Bilka, do you think that idea has any merit? It would entail additional work for the devs, after all, and I don't know how complicated it would be to implement new keys and change the parser's behaviour. You guys certainly have more pressing issues to cope with right now -- but then again, some GUI overwork has been announced already, this might fit in there … :-)
A good mod deserves a good changelog. Here's a tutorial (WIP) about Factorio's way too strict changelog syntax!

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Re: Changelog tutorial

Post by Pi-C » Fri Mar 08, 2019 6:33 pm

steinio wrote:
Fri Mar 08, 2019 3:02 pm
Date must be:

Code: Select all

Date: 07. 03. 2019
See Factorio/data/changelog.txt.
You're right, that is the format used in the vanilla changelog. But perhaps the devs have used it there only because they live in the Czech Republic and therefore are used to the format "[D]D. [M]M. YYYY" (characters in brackets are optional, leading zeroes are not strictly required according to this Wikipedia article)? Changelogs with different date notations are parsed without error, so technically, the parser only requires that a date field is present
(Is it really required?)
and that there are no duplicate date fields. Once again: The parser is dumb and doesn't care for factual correctness; it doesn't matter to the parser whether you read that date string as "March 7th, 2019" or as "July 3, 2019" -- you would even get away with a year like "1019" or "2219", I think.
A good mod deserves a good changelog. Here's a tutorial (WIP) about Factorio's way too strict changelog syntax!

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Re: Changelog tutorial

Post by steinio » Fri Mar 08, 2019 6:42 pm

Interesting.

Good work over all.
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Re: Changelog tutorial

Post by Schallfalke » Fri Mar 08, 2019 7:00 pm

Pi-C wrote:
Fri Mar 08, 2019 6:00 pm
(@Schallfalke/bobingabout: Should you ever read this -- sorry for messing with your changelog/removing your license! I just needed a good example to work with … :-))
Just read this. I am delighted to see my mod here. It must be tidy enough somehow that it could be used as an example.
But no! I won't turn away from Bob's faction! :lol:

Back to business. (Continuing with using Schall Lamp Contrast as example.)
Since the version filter defaults to "0.17", but no "All" as option, together with tabs auto-hidden, players may never realize there are "Locale" and "License" tab.
Solution one would be to use "All versions" as default filter option.
Solution two would be not auto-hide the tabs. Maybe just a darker colour and/or low alpha as a disabled button? (Therefore, when selected "0.17", there will be two selectable tabs: "All", "Features" and two unselectable tabs: "Locale", "License".)

@Bilka or Devs
Is it possible to make "All" tab always as the first one? Other tabs may not need any sort order, but "All" tab is somehow special.

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Re: Changelog tutorial

Post by Bilka » Fri Mar 08, 2019 7:25 pm

Schallfalke wrote:
Fri Mar 08, 2019 7:00 pm
Is it possible to make "All" tab always as the first one? Other tabs may not need any sort order, but "All" tab is somehow special.
It is always the last tab unless you use an "unofficial" category (one that is not on the list that I posted). I am pretty sure that the location of the tab could be moved to be first, but I'm not gonna mess with GUI unless one of the GUI designers tells me to do so...

Because I'm not a GUI designer and because the in-game mod GUI is essentially already finished, I am not gonna internally bring up any potential mod GUI changes that aren't my own ideas/strongly supported by me. Sorry guys, but I'm not the right person for GUI feedback.
I'm an admin over at https://wiki.factorio.com. Feel free to contact me if there's anything wrong (or right) with it.

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Re: Changelog tutorial

Post by Schallfalke » Fri Mar 08, 2019 7:56 pm

Bilka wrote:
Fri Mar 08, 2019 7:25 pm
Schallfalke wrote:
Fri Mar 08, 2019 7:00 pm
Is it possible to make "All" tab always as the first one? Other tabs may not need any sort order, but "All" tab is somehow special.
It is always the last tab unless you use an "unofficial" category (one that is not on the list that I posted). I am pretty sure that the location of the tab could be moved to be first, but I'm not gonna mess with GUI unless one of the GUI designers tells me to do so...

Because I'm not a GUI designer and because the in-game mod GUI is essentially already finished, I am not gonna internally bring up any potential mod GUI changes that aren't my own ideas/strongly supported by me. Sorry guys, but I'm not the right person for GUI feedback.
Oh, I see why now, because it is not official...
When "All" tab is already designed as last, I agree with you better not to move it.

I was thinking of moving my "License" entries to others like "Info" or "Other"... But after some thought, I still feel having the term "License" would be more clear, rather than being put in some seemingly unimportant categories.
Maybe I would just leave it like this for now, and wait for "License" being added into the list in the future. ;)

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Re: Changelog tutorial

Post by Pi-C » Fri Mar 08, 2019 9:40 pm

Koub wrote:
Fri Mar 08, 2019 4:41 pm
[Koub] Moved to modding Help, and pinned as sticky.
Thanks!
A good mod deserves a good changelog. Here's a tutorial (WIP) about Factorio's way too strict changelog syntax!

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Re: Changelog tutorial

Post by Pi-C » Fri Mar 08, 2019 9:47 pm

steinio wrote:
Fri Mar 08, 2019 6:42 pm
Interesting.

Good work over all.
Thanks!
I may remember that file format must be UTF-8 without BOM and no tabs - spaces only.
Could you make sure, please?
A good mod deserves a good changelog. Here's a tutorial (WIP) about Factorio's way too strict changelog syntax!

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Re: Changelog tutorial

Post by Pi-C » Fri Mar 08, 2019 9:57 pm

Schallfalke wrote:
Fri Mar 08, 2019 7:00 pm
Pi-C wrote:
Fri Mar 08, 2019 6:00 pm
(@Schallfalke/bobingabout: Should you ever read this -- sorry for messing with your changelog/removing your license! I just needed a good example to work with … :-))
Just read this. I am delighted to see my mod here. It must be tidy enough somehow that it could be used as an example.
Well, it was parsed correctly, it was short enough to be fully included -- and it provided a challenge by leading me on a false track (the issue with Locale and License mentioned above).
But no! I won't turn away from Bob's faction! :lol:
I guess you couldn't change the license without dumping his library? Then keep it by all means! :-)
(No offence to bobingabout meant here, of course!)
A good mod deserves a good changelog. Here's a tutorial (WIP) about Factorio's way too strict changelog syntax!

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Re: Changelog tutorial

Post by Schallfalke » Fri Mar 08, 2019 10:26 pm

Pi-C wrote:
Fri Mar 08, 2019 9:57 pm
I guess you couldn't change the license without dumping his library? Then keep it by all means! :-)
(No offence to bobingabout meant here, of course!)
No, apart from the license, I have actually not used anything from him or his library.
I just felt his license is much more human-readable, and fit my attitude between copy-left/right. It would not discourage fellow modders from collaborating with me or making relevant work, which is the most important IMO.

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Re: Changelog tutorial

Post by Muppet9010 » Tue Mar 12, 2019 12:01 am

Something to add to your overview is that you can use spaces for indentation, but not tabs.
using tabs will cause the parsing to error with a generic error on the line.

Code: Select all

Failed to parse changelog for mod Zooming Out Screenshots: invalid changelog file, error on line 23.

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Re: Changelog tutorial

Post by themadgunman » Tue Mar 12, 2019 3:40 pm

Muppet9010 wrote:
Tue Mar 12, 2019 12:01 am
Something to add to your overview is that you can use spaces for indentation, but not tabs.
using tabs will cause the parsing to error with a generic error on the line.

Code: Select all

Failed to parse changelog for mod Zooming Out Screenshots: invalid changelog file, error on line 23.
Best post ever, was tearing my hair out for nearly 20 minutes wondering why my changelog wouldn't parse until i read this

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Re: Changelog tutorial

Post by Muppet9010 » Tue Mar 12, 2019 4:11 pm

lol yup I only found it by copy/pasting my changelog one line at a time into a sample one until it broke.
Factorio devs obviously fight for the spaces rather than tab side in the battlefield that is indenting.

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Re: Changelog tutorial

Post by Pi-C » Tue Mar 12, 2019 6:22 pm

Muppet9010 wrote:
Tue Mar 12, 2019 12:01 am
Something to add to your overview is that you can use spaces for indentation, but not tabs.
using tabs will cause the parsing to error with a generic error on the line.
Thank you! I've updated the text. :-)
A good mod deserves a good changelog. Here's a tutorial (WIP) about Factorio's way too strict changelog syntax!

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