How to unpack your game with X3 ModManager

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What does unpacking the game mean in the first place...

Most of the data which is part of X3 game is hidden in so called catalog files. These are the files with extensions .cat and .dat. Most games use this technique, the most famous example being the .pak archive developed for Quake.

The correct title of this article should be " How to extract", but for some reason this action was always reffered to as "Unpacking the game".

So to unpack your game means to extract all the files from the catalogs.

Why should I extract the catalogs?

You probably shouldn't ;)

People who need to do that

If you play (or want to) with 3D modelling then you will have to do that. You will be able to access all the scene/body files and you will be able to import the models with DBOX2.

People who may want to do that

If you are playing with modifications on general level, altering the T files, you simply want to know what is inside.

People who don't want to do that

If you are a scripter then there is no gain by having the files extracted, because none of the scripts are in the catalogs (and in fact they cannot ever be put in there). You will of course need to access the xml text resource files but you just can extract those files and nothing more.

People who shouldn't ever start thinking of doing that

If the first place you visit while on Egosoft S&M is anything other then X2/3 Scripting and Modding ;)

Before we will extract the files, lets find out where to extract them.

Choosing where to extract the files

Extracting directly into your one and only game directory

This is not recommended. It was used in early days of X2.

Making another copy of your game and extracting the files directly into that directory

First you will need to copy your current X3 installation:

  • Easist way is to simply copy the whole X3 installation directory and name it for example X3 Reunion Unpacked. You will then have to delete the catalogs - all the files with extension .cat and .dat in the main directory (,, ...)
  • Better way is to first create an empty directory (X3 Reunion Unpacked) and copy the content of the original X3 installation directory, excluding the catalogs. This saves you copying of valueless data.

Now you can skip to How to unpack the files (below) and extract the catalogs into this newly created directory.

Extracting the files into separate directory aside from X3 game

This step is required if you want to do 3D moddeling (probably using DBOX2).

First unpack the catalogs (see below) into directory named for example X3 Reunion Unpacked Data. Don't copy any other game files as in the previous option. Next you will need to convert all BOB files into BOD files with X2BC. See How to convert BOB files to BOD files with X2BC.

Once you have the files converted, you may delete the original BOB files and save some disk space. However if you can afford it, it's better to leave them, as you may later modify the BOD files and will need to re-create them from the original BOBs.

How to extract the files

Start the X3 ModManager and open file Click on Extract button. A dialog will appear. It must say Extract catalog to. If it says Exctract file xx or Exctract n file(s) then close it and click on the arrow next the to Extract button and select Extract whole catalog.

Now make sure you have Decompress files during extraction and Preserve file paths checked.

Select the target directory. If you want to extract into separate directory then select that directory, else select the root directory of X3 installation where you want to exctract the files (example: D:\X3 Reunion Unpacked). Press OK.

Now open catalog and repeat the process. When asked for file overwrite press All.

Do the same with all the catalogs in the main game directory (1 to 5 for X3 version 1.2)

That's it. If you were extracting the files into second game directory and you copied all the game files, you can now delete the catalogs as they are no longer needed (and in fact they must not be present otherwise the game would use them and not your extracted files). Be sure not to accidentally delete the catalogs from the original game directory!

Things you should know when running multiple game installations

Savegames are saved in your Documents directory in your profile. That means that you have the same savegames no matter what game installation do you start/play.

Mod catalogs on the other hand are in the mods directory in the corresponding game root, so you will have to copy them to all your game installations if you want to use them.

When you activate some mod in installation 1 and then later you start game from installation 2 and the activated mod is not present in the mods dir of the game, there will be no mods selected in the Select Mod Package window, but you must press the Original button otherwise the game will crash. That's because there is only a file name of the active mod stored in the registry and the game will try to open the file from within its own mods directory. And this will fail as there is no such file.

If you setup X3 Editor to use your installation 1 as data source and later you activate some mod from installation 2 which is not also located in installation 1, an error will occur when starting X3 Editor saying: Cannot open mod catalog xxx. This error is not fatal and you may continue without problems.

See also

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