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Custom Background in AoE II DE

Have you ever wanted to just set any picture you like as the main menu background in Age of Empires II Definitive Edition? You came to the right place.

Of course, you can create a mod for really sophisticated customizations in AoE2 DE. IF you can, that is. Personally, I cannot but I still wanted my custom main menu background.

Assuming there are others like me, I thought I would share here, how you can set any picture as background in the Age of Empires II Definitive Edition main menu.

While it took me a while to find all the bits and pieces, it is a rather simple process – once you know it.

First things first.

Take some time to decide, which picture you want to have as your new main menu background. Consider, that its colors, patterns, and brightness should not interfere with the other UI elements (menus, texts, etc.).

Once you have selected the new background picture, you have to make sure that it

  • has the correct dimensions, and
  •  is converted into the correct format, in this case, ‘.dds’ (DirectDraw Surface)

I am sure you know how to resize the picture, and there are tons of tools for such tasks. Personally, I like working with IrfanView, but it really does not matter.

What are the ‘right’ dimensions?

You will need your background to be available in these two dimensions (yes, you need two files – one for HD and one for lower resolution):

  • 5120 x 2160 (HD)
  • 2560 x 1080 (SD)

You can prepare those as JPG or PNG files, whatever you prefer.

Convert your JPG or PNG file into DDS

A quick web search will show you a whole bunch of tools for converting your files. I eventually picked convertio – for no particular reason – and it works just fine.

Once the images are converted, download them to your PC.

Replace the original background

Next, you need to find the location of the original background images. In the default installation via Steam, these should be

  • HD:
    C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\AoE2DE\widgetui\textures\backgrounds
  • SD:
    C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\AoE2DE\widgetui\textures-sd\backgrounds

In each of these folders, there is a file called ‘mainmenu_bg.dds’. Please

  1. Rename the original into something like ‘mainmenu_bg.dds.bak’
  2. Copy your new files into the respective folders (make sure to put the HD version in the HD folder and the SD version in the SD folder)
  3. Rename the new files to ‘mainmenu_bg.dds’ in each folder

That should do it. Start AoE2 DE and – unless you have any start menu mods activated – you shall see your custom background.

Bonus Tips

Did you know that you can also replace the launcher picture? To do so

  1. Create a picture with 640 x 480 pixels and save it as a ‘.bmp’ file
  2. Navigate to (by default)
    C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\AoE2DE\resources\_launcher
  3. Rename the original ‘loading_slash_sml.bmp’ file to ‘loading_slash_sml.bmp.bak’
  4. Copy your custom file into the folder and rename it to ‘loading_slash_sml.bmp’

As mentioned, there are probably more elegant solutions out there, but I found this one agreeably simple.

Regarding other UI elements, these paths might come in handy:

  • Civs: C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\AoE2DE\widgetui\textures\menu\civs
  • Unique Unit Icons: C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\AoE2DE\resources\_common\wpfg\resources\uniticons
  • Buildings: C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\AoE2DE\widgetui\textures\ingame\buildings
  • User Icons: C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\AoE2DE\widgetui\textures\menu\usericons
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