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Ace of Space - Lo2k

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For this week's mod author interview, we're joined by Lo2k, who has been a member of our community since 2006 and is the author of over 50 different mods for No Man's Sky.

Thank you for joining us Lo2k. To start off, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Thanks for inviting me for this interview on Nexus Mods. Sure. I'm Laurent Rousseau, aka Lo2k. I'm French and I live close to Paris. I'm repairing multi-function printers for a living and it provides me with quite a lot of challenges. I always wanted to create video games but heh, when I was younger, video games were "not a job" as I was told so often and I was far from the creative guys posting impressive portfolios of 3D animations to be hired. So I did 3D creations on my own, 2D editing, a bit of video editing, and finally, I dove deep into coding and I believe all of this helped me in some way to become a modder.


How did you first get into gaming? 

Gaming in general, or modding?

For gaming, I can't remember the very first time. My dad was the manager of a Xerox Store, selling the very first Apple computers well before the Apple Stores even existed. So I had a Mac SE for a long time at home and a bunch of games, even if the mac has never been a gaming platform. But at that time, PC gaming was not yet a big thing either, so I played the very first iterations of Crazy Cars, Dark Castle and Lode Runner in black and white. At his store, there was also Amstrad 6128 and 464, so I also played some colourful oldies like the very first Gauntlet. That was another era…

Concerning modding, the story will be shorter. It really started in 2002 with the release of Geoff Crammond's Grand Prix 4 also known as GP4. As an F1 fan, I played GP3 a lot and saw the modding community growing. When GP4 was released, I had quite a lot of spare time so I started to look at it from the modding side and I learnt to code at the same time. This eventually lead me to create a lot of tools for this game, including a full track editor called GP4 Builder, and they are still in use today in the GP4 community. 

I left the GP4 community in 2016 after 12 "years of service" and started to look for new challenges and hobbies. Amongst them were a mobile game project and a new game I just bought and I was loving but that has a lot of tiny things that were annoying me and I would like to fix to enjoy the game even more: No Man's Sky.




From our conversations, you seem to really like No Man's Sky, what is about the game that draws you in?

Well, NMS was sold (mark my words) to be the best retro-sci-fi experience a boy (or girl) could have ever dreamt for. And I had this young boy vibe for colourful sci-fi worlds, travelling into a galaxy full of stars and planets, discovering new ships, new wonders, exploring hundreds of planets, each with a diversity of trees, plants and creatures we had never seen before. That was appealing, to say the least.


The game had quite a negative reception when it was first released but Hello Games has managed to turn it around with the NEXT and Beyond updates. Have these changes influenced your opinion of the game?

Well, maybe, but not in the way you might think about, because for me the game has never been a complete deception. I was awaiting a solo game that lets me explore a universe alone. And that is what was released. We can argue on diversity, on bugs, on creature animations and a million other stuff but the core feature was here for me.

Since then, each update has brought something to the game. Each one making the game a bit stronger. We got base building, we got vehicles, we got new biomes, we got freighters and then frigates, we got an attempt at multiplayer and with latest Beyond release, we got a full multiplayer experience, we got VR and changes everywhere. I'm very pleased with that and I believe everyone is.

But on the other hand, I'm a bit worried about the latest changes from NEXT and Beyond. Multiplayer is not my thing and while I'm glad they brought it to the game for all the fans that dreamt playing this game with/against other players, I just hope Hello Games will continue to give us a way to play this game solo. Sadly this is less and less the case.

To give a single example: The anomaly, the tiny and almost claustrophobic shelter of 2 outlaws has become a massive nexus with tons of NPC and land pads. It makes sense from a multiplayer point of view but it is complete nonsense if you play the game solo. In my humble opinion, Space Stations would have been a better choice for a multiplayer HUD. Polo and Nada would still have their tiny station and everyone would enjoy the game either in Solo or MP. Nevermind…

Also, the Vulkan switch they opted for just before Beyond release and that is supposed to improve framerate had an unintended side-effect which removed all the shaders from the modding scene and most of the graphical fixes and enhancements mods for NMS were done via shaders. I could cite my UltraWide HUD mod that was bringing an unstretched HUD experience for all non-16/9 monitors NMS players. It's quite sad because not only this feature was never released for the game but now they even broke the mod that could fix it for them. Anyway, I can't blame HG because I have huge respect for all they have accomplished for NMS, from the initial development, flooding, Sony pressure, bad release and devoted commitment for years up to this day.
So all in all, yeah, we have great new things in the latest updates and a few little niggly things. And I hope we will continue to see more improvements than niggly things.


No Man's Sky features a lot of procedural generation, would you say this makes it difficult to mod? 

It depends on what you want to mod. NMS is, from the different games I looked into for modding, the one that exposes the most settings to modders. Every big or small setting is available to editing, either via a simple text file or via textures and there's not much stuff that is fully written in the stone of the EXE file.

So we can't add many features to the game if they were not designed by Hello Games, but we can tweak almost all of the existing features. Even procedural generation is based on settings, like turbulence, noise, scales, roughness... a lot of them are exposed and are used by modders as Redmas or Rayrod who both provide complete overhauls of planet generation.

NPC, ships and creature generation on the other side makes them difficult to mod at this time. But modders find their way. Redmas rebalanced scales of the different parts of ships and vehicles to bring more variety to them for example. WinderTP replaced the shuttle class with ships from their favourite Sci-fi movies in Ships of Moar

Buildings use an L-system I still haven't looked in deep, but which creates tiny changes in the arrangement of each building interior, even if the scale of the changes is not as noticeable as it might be.

All in all, procedural generation is tough and Sean Murray did a humongous work on terrain generation. There's still room for improvements to create a larger diversity everywhere else, but it might be their focus for the next or the next, next update.




What tools do you use when working on mods?

Actually, the only tools really needed are an archive extractor like Periander's PSArc to decompress all the game files that are stored in ".pak" files and Monkeyman's MBINCompiler that could convert the binary ".mbin" files into ".exml" (text) files and the reverse. From here, you can use your favourite text editor and texture editor (with a DXT plugin as textures use the DirectX format).

On my side, coming from GP4 where all the files were in the binary form like the ".mbin" of NMS, I also use a hexadecimal editor when I need. It's of great use to compare changes or to quickly update some mods when a very few values have been changed after a new update.


Have you ever made any mods for other games (or thought about doing so)?

Not really, I mostly made some tools for Geoff Crammond's Grand Prix 4 as I described above. I don't know if you count them as mods as tools aren't really mods but they allow others to create mods with them. I also helped in improving some tracks and textures back then nonetheless.

I also looked around Cities Skyline modding community as I love this game too and would have loved to bring some improvements here and there but the framework is completely opaque to me so I play the game within its restrictions and the great mods already published by more talented modders than me like Move-it and Transport Lines Manager.


Do you have any tips and tricks to share with others who might want to start modding No Man's Sky? 

Hmm, not really. The first advice is to come on the No Man's Sky Modding Discord where most of the modders are discussing. A newcomer will most likely ever have an answer to his questions. There's also the modding wiki that provides a good overview of most of the common knowledge about NMS modding.

My own advice to someone who would like to start modding NMS would be for him to unpack the files, look at the way files are stored into folders and the file names. Then convert the most expressive ones in mbincompiler and browse the list of settings until you find a value that could bring a change you would like to see in-game. Then recompile the mbin, repack and test your first mod.

See your change in-game and check if everything is as you expected. If not repeat until satisfaction. Modding is a trial and error game of his own. A great one though :)



What are your favourite mods for No Man's Sky by other authors? 

I browse Nexusmods every day so I see about every mod released, but I personally use very few mods from other authors in my own game (Having 60+ mods on my own already covers a wide range of improvements).

The only mods I can't play without are:
  • Riccaforte's RemoveIntroLogo which is one of the very first mods released for the game and that is still working today! 
  • Clean Space version to remove the kaleidoscopic speed lines at each pulse drive.
  • I also loved LawnReality's Crescent Worlds but it sadly can't be used anymore as it was a shader-based mod.


Is there anything else you'd like to say to the Nexus Mods Community. 

Well, Nexus Mods has grown a lot and now hosts probably hundreds of communities so I'm not sure what part of NexusMods audience is also interested in NMS. But if they haven't tried the game so far and would like a space sandbox game, where you start at alone and end your journey with several ships, bases, a massive fleet and a better knowledge of an imaginary universe, they might want to try NMS :)



Get 50% off No Man's Sky at GOG.com until 30/09/19!


A big thank you to Lo2k for taking the time to respond to our questions. As always, if there are any mod authors or mod projects you'd like to hear about, don't hesitate to send a message to Pickysaurus and BigBizkit.

16 comments

  1. Tatwi
    Tatwi
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    the vast majority of these "mods" are simply changing a value or two in some text files. Anyone can achieve the same results with the use of NMS Modding Station and a text editor.
    1. RangerDulann
      RangerDulann
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      Your downplaying it a little bit. Sure it's become easier but there's still effort involved. Making one adjustment, start NMS. Nothing happens? Start over again.
      And because of the lack of tools there's not going to be a ton of mods like with Fallout or The Witcher.
    2. Onykron
      Onykron
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      It’s easy to edit NMS files, right! What is not easy is to make them bug-free and compatible with other mods, then we talk about them hours of experimentation and implementation.
  2. rappetou
    rappetou
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    Super que NexusMods t'ai choisi pour être interviewé et mettre en avant ton taff, tu le mérites amplement... FÉLICITATIONS (en français dans le texte ;) !

    Great that NexusMods has chosen you to be interviewed and to highlight your work, you deserve it... KUDOS!

    :D
    1. link8dragon
      link8dragon
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      Normal, c'est vrai que c'est mérité, après tout le super boulot que j'ai pu voir xP
      Mais ça fait plaisir de savoir qu'il y a de bon vieux moddeurs FR sur NMS, et des doués ^^
      La seule chose à dire est:
      Keep up the good work, Atlas count on you ;)
  3. nms808
    nms808
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    Personally these mods make the game so much more enjoyable and give me some measure of control over what I may see and experience in the game. Honestly it's come to the point that I can't enjoy the game without them. Every update that drops I religiously restore what I can of the broken mods and install anything new that comes along that may enchance my No Man's Sky journey. That comes first before I even begin to explore any new content that has been added by an update.Thank you so much for all your hard work modders, and thanks to Hello Games for the memories. I can still remember that first planet, a thousand worlds away...
  4. bangadrum
    bangadrum
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    awesome article! total agree with anomaly thoughts. currently there's a batch of players/bots that are using a mod/mechanic exploit to block access to anomaly terminals and also to boot a player right out of the top of the anomaly roof! new players who havent disabled damage from others will get a rude suprise.
  5. JacobBruce
    JacobBruce
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    I agree with you on the space station multiplayer thing, the way they did it doesn't make much sense. Appreciate your great work on NMS btw.
  6. JP193
    JP193
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    Nice to see NMS get a modder highlight, obviously the mods for it are much smaller and very different to say, Skyrim, but it's a good game [now] and for those who play it regularly, those small mods have cumulative effects to make the game less tedious, prettier and more fun.

    I agree and respectfully disagree with different things Lo2k but I'd rather focus on agreement: I agree that they should do some solo content updates next. Heck maybe something to do with modding some day too, since modding is a very community-made and lead endeavor that is a little hacky right now.

    Like LeonidasNerevar said, thanks to any fellow modders reading and Nexus for making games better for next to free.
  7. LeonidasNerevar
    LeonidasNerevar
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    If I ever get into No Man's Sky, then I think I may truly appreciate this mod author's work; but for now, I thank him for just making mods in general. Keeping the modding community not only alive, but growing. Good job Nexus for continuing to host these interviews with worthy authors.
  8. Lo2k
    Lo2k
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    The latest experimental version released a few minutes ago is supposed to fix the UI for non 16/9 monitors... we might need to redo the interview now :p
    1. trevix
      trevix
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      heheh I thought the same thing.
      thanks for all your hardwork, this is awesome.
  9. NooBzPoWaH
    NooBzPoWaH
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    That was nice to read about our most proactive NMS modder .
    Thanks to both of you ! :)
  10. krEsz
    krEsz
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    The link for Lo2ks profile at the end leads to ElSopas profile lol
    1. Pickysaurus
      Pickysaurus
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      Good catch, all fixed up :)