Homeworld Cataclysm open .BIG files

Homeworld Cataclysm (like Homeworld) stores data in .big files. In order to extract these files you’ll need an extraction tool. There are several user built tools that work great. I used winbigw and had no issues with it. To extract .big files follow:

  1. Download winbigw
  2. Start WinBigw.exe. Once you’ve installed the tool start the WinBigw.exe program.
  3. Extract a .big file! Navigate to your Cataclysm directory and open either cataclysm.big or update.big. To extract all the files into a new folder use the right most button.


cataclysm.big contains almost all the essential game files. Among these are several script files, some object files and a bunch of .shp files which contain all the object data for each ship. One thing that annoyed me about Homeworld Cataclysm was that the data source wasn’t easily accessible like it is in Homeworld 2. To aid you in this process and give you an idea of what you’re getting into, I’ve extracted some of the game’s .shp files and uploaded them into the spreadsheet below (link to spreadsheet).

Now the fun part. With with WinBigw you can recompress .big files and replace the existing ones in your installation for some potentially hilarious results (and more legitimate modding activites if you’re into that kind of thing…)

  1. With the program open click the top left ‘New Big File’ option
  2. Create a file named cataclysm.big
  3. Find where you extracted the contents of cataclysm.big earlier and select that folder when the add from menu appears. Make sure there are only extracted files in this folder (no .exe files etc.)
  4. Back up your original cataclysm.big file in your installation directory and replace it with your newly created one. Note: I would recommend you start with editing sacolyte.shp as I have. There are many different ships and some ARE NOT WHAT YOU THINK. There are plenty of neutral units, and editing these files will have no observable effect if you’re just quickly testing it out in a skrimish match.


To show what you can do with just the ship files I did a little experiment. I decided to tweak the sacolyte.shp file and create a my own new and improved Somtaaw giga-acolyte who’s only goal is to dump ridiculous amounts of slow moving bullets on the enemy. For *safety* reasons I started slow:shota006shota009

Not bad. Let’s try upping it to 3 bullets per second.shota010 shota011 shota012 shota013shota015 shota016 shota017

Just… a few more…shota018full_of_starsshota019full_of_stars_2

20 bullets a second from 142 acolytes was about as far as I could go. My pc tried to render the ensuing bullet-vomit and promptly shit the bed. Being able to edit the .shp files and re-compress them opens up a lot of interesting modding options. The only question that remains is whether or not you can make something that will stack up against a swarm of giga-acolytes. Post your ideas below!

    February 23, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    That’s pretty neat. Crazy the kinda stuff you can do, thanks for sharing this!

    Editing the .shp files only work if you put the files back in the installation folder, NOT back into the .big file. The game will crash if you make a new .big file with WinBigw.exe
    For example, this is what you end up with when you edit the Samtaaw mothership:
    C:\Program Files (x86)\Cataclysm\race_sect\sMothership.shp

    Do you know your way around with SCRIPT files? In particular, I wanna change the Kushan and Taiidan Ion Cannon Beam color to their original colors. Blue for Taiidan and Red for Kushan. In Cataclysm / Emergence they’re reversed.

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