Keen Vorticons Modding Tutorial (patch based)

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This tutorial aims to teach Keen Vorticons modding (Keen episodes 1, 2, and 3) to people who don't know the first thing about modding, but even the experienced modder should find this information as a good reference tool. Keen 1 will be used for specific examples, but if you are modding Keen 2 or 3, you should be able to follow along.

Setting Up Files and Folders

Download the Keen Vorticons Modding Package

Alternatively, you can also manually create this package:

Create your base folder called "Keen1mod" on your desktop. In this folder you'll want to create one sub-folder called "BMP".

Copy all your Keen 1 game files into the folder "Keen1mod".

Tool Downloads

These are the tools you will need in order to mod Keen's 1, 2, and 3 are and included in the modding package. If you wish to download them individually:

  • Download CWSDPMI.EXE, (Mirror)
    • Note: Depending on your computer's operating system you may need CWSDPMI.EXE to run modkeen and other modding programs.

Level Editors

You will need one of the six existing level editors: KeenEdit, KeenWright, Keen MakeOver, iKeen, Mindbelt, akeen. This tutorial does not include instructions for any of them since most have their own wiki page or a help text in the download file. All of these editors are included in the modding package. The most user friendly and recommended Level Editor is Mindbelt.

  • KeenEdit (DOS) level editor developed by Jeremy Haubold in 1996
  • KeenWright (DOS) level editor developed by Andrew Durdin in 2000
  • Keen MakeOver (Windows) level editor developed by Geoff Sims, Oracle & Flaose in 2001
  • iKeen (Windows) level editor developed by Xtraverse in 2004
  • Mindbelt (Windows) level editor developed by CK Guy in 2007
  • akeen (Windows) level editor developed by KeenRush in 2013

Drawing Tools

One of the simplest tools for modifying Keen graphics is MS Paint. However, only the versions of MS Paint prior to Windows 7 will function with the Keen palette correctly.

Some modders use programs such as GIMP or PhotoShop.

Setting Up Files and Folders (Continued)

Unzip the tools in your tool folder. Copy the following files into your "Keen1mod" folder:

  • modkeen.exe
  • unlzexe.exe
  • ck1patch.exe (Keen 2 requires 'ck2patch.exe', Keen 3 'ck3patch.exe')


Once these files are in place, Unlzexe your Keen1.exe. This will decompress needed information in order to make patching possible. Use Unlzexe by dragging and dropping the Keen1.exe file onto Unlzexe.exe. A window may flash on the screen when you do so.

  • Note: If you are using the 64 bit version of unlzexe, this will create a Keen1.exenew. You will then need to delete the old Keen1.exe and rename Keen1.exenew to Keen1.exe.
  • Note: If you are using the 32 bit version of UNLZEXE, open a CMD (like beneath) in that folder and enter UNLZEXE KEEN1.EXE to unpack it.


Modkeen exporting graphics and texts

Open a command prompt. (If you are unfamiliar with this process: go to your computer's start button, and either click 'run', or in the search field type run and click the first result.) In the run box, type: cmd. Now you have a command prompt open. You'll see something like:

cd desktop\Keen1mod

Press enter, then:
modkeen -episode=1 -export -bmpdir="BMP"

If all goes well, you should see a list of everything modkeen has exported followed by the word Done!

  • Note: If you are using a 64 bit version of windows modkeen may not run through the command prompt. You can run it instead by dropping modkeen.exe onto DOSBox.exe and then typing:
    modkeen -episode=1 -export -bmpdir="BMP"


Your patch file is used to access all the edited content in your mod. It's what allows you to have new graphics, new tile properties, new levels, new music, new text, new enemy behaviors, etc. It also allows you to change the 'rules' of the game in certain ways (although there are limitations).

If you look in your "Keen1mod" folder, you will notice that Modkeen has generated a patch file for you called Keen1.pat. You will want to rename this so that it isn't overwritten in the future. Locate Keen1.pat and rename it to something like mymod.pat.

You can also create a patch file from scratch. To do this, create a new .txt file called mymod. Open the file and insert the following code lines:

%ext ck1


This tells ck1patch that you're using Keen1 (extension .ck1) and defines the End of the patch process. For now, we won't patch anythin; we just need this for testing purposes.

Finally save it as mymod.pat and make sure you select all files in the Save as type section. You should now have a mymod.pat file.


modding.bat batch file

Your batch file is what you'll use from now on to play your mod. To create a batch file, first create a new text document and name it whatever you want. In this example we'll use modding. In the text file, type:

modkeen -import -episode=1 -bmpdir="BMP"
ck1patch mymod.pat

Now, go to file and save as modding.bat and make sure you select all files in the Save as type section.

This batch file tells ModKeen to import all the graphics (which you just unloaded, but haven't edited YET) and then runs Keen1.exe with your patch file (which doesn't have anything in it YET). Lastly, it pauses at the end, to give your slow human eyes time to read any error messages that may pop up.

If you run modding.bat right now, you should get a completely vanilla game of Keen 1. Now it's time to start modding!!


The following modding steps can be done in any order and at any time. They are just divided into a few different categories:


Navigate to the sub-folder called "BMP". Open and modify 1TIL0000.bmp with a graphics editor of your choice. This file is the tileset for your entire mod.

  • Note: Be sure NOT to change the location of the 'done' tiles, the four ship parts, or the two blank 'sky' tiles (light grey and black). Anything else you can modify and alter with the TileInfo program, if you wish. For easiest results, make direct changes: i.e., a block becomes a block, points become points, map screen tiles become map screen tiles. Don't try anything fancy unless you're prepared to TileInfo for it.

Feel free to run modding.bat to look at your handiwork.


Open and modify the 1SPR00xx.bmp files, which are also located within the "BMP" folder. These are all the sprites used to animate the monsters, Keen, map-Keen, and bullets/explosions. Try not to change the size of these very much--you'll run out of memory and receive the "Try unloading your TSRs!" error when trying to run your mod.

Feel free to run modding.bat to look at your handiwork.


Navigate back to main folder "Keen1mod". Open and modify any LEVEL**.ck1 files with the level editor of your choice. (Mindbelt is recommended). Make new levels, a new mapscreen, etc. Place enemies and points and ship parts, and save.

Feel free to run modding.bat to look at your handiwork.

Game Texts

Open and modify the text files for the game with a text editor of your choice. The text files are STORYTXT.ck1 , ENDTEXT.ck1 , PREVIEWS.ck1 , HELPTEXT.ck1 . Be glad they are simple text files--for Keen2 and 3 editing, you actually have to fish around in a hex editor for this stuff!

  • Note: Be sure to playtest these changed files a lot; be sure you get the spacing, word-wrap, and word lengths pleasing to your eyes.


Open and modify your mymod.pat file, adding in patches to do whatever it is you want to do. For a basic Keen1 mod, all you need to use this for is changing the Yorp Statue messages, and the Game End messages. You can use the The Neural Stunner or Startext to do this, or open an already-built mod and see how they did it. You can add other patches too. Check out Keen:Modding for more help.

Feel free to run modding.bat to look at your handiwork.


TODO: This section is not written yet. Meanwhile check this page for further information: TSRMusic


Finished already? Make a duplicate (backup) of your mod's folder. We do this as a safety precaution; wouldn't want to lose anything vital! Return to your original "Keen1mod" directory, and run your "final" compile of the game (run modding.bat one last time, and quit out of Keen1.)

Delete modding.bat. Make a new batch file, play.bat, and put just two simple words in there:

ck1patch mymod.pat

Delete everything in your "Keen1mod" directory, EXCEPT:

  • Keen1.exe
  • ck1patch.exe
  • any files with the extension .ck1
  • mymod.pat
  • modding.bat

Be sure to run play.bat to be sure the whole mod works well in this final form. If something is not right, refer to your backup and start over again.

"ZIP" your folder into an archive, and send it to the fine folks of the Public Commander Keen Forum.

Credits For This Tutorial