Skyrim

The future of Vortex and the Nexus Mods app

  • Comment
Back in October 2022, we announced the arrival of Tim (Halgari) to the Nexus Mods team. We touched briefly on the future of Vortex and potential 2.0 updates. Things went a bit ‘stealth mode’ after that, so now it’s time to give more of an update on how the team has developed and how we see the next generation of mod management. This is going to be a long one, so buckle up!


A brief history of Vortex

Development of Vortex first began all the way back in 2016. At the time our team at Nexus Mods consisted of Tannin (Seb) as the sole developer of the mod manager, several backend developers who were primarily focused on running and maintaining the Nexus Mods website, and a couple of Community Managers. Since then, we've expanded our team and resources dramatically, including founding entire departments that didn't exist before, specifically Front End, Design and Product. While we are incredibly proud of Vortex - a staggeringly versatile mod manager and an undeniable successor to Nexus Mods Manager - it is a product of its time. With our new teams in place, we believe that we can do even better (more on that later in this post).

It is with a touch of sadness that we formally announce Seb's departure. He left Nexus Mods on amicable terms approximately two months ago. We want to extend our heartfelt gratitude for his unwavering dedication, hard work and professionalism, and wish him the best in his future endeavours.

Seb's journey in creating Vortex was not undertaken alone. In 2018, Nagev (Adrian) joined the team and played a pivotal role in developing several impressive extensions and frameworks for the application. Unfortunately, Adrian had to leave abruptly in 2022 due to health concerns and is also sorely missed.

With the departure of the original Vortex developers, we close one chapter and begin another. Our mod management application is of such significant importance and it has taken some time to find the right talent to take it forward. For over a year, we've been steadily assembling a new team to take our app development to the next level.





The future of Vortex

We recruited Insomnious (Simon) back in February to collaborate with Tannin and continue work on Vortex. If you follow the GitHub activity, changelogs, or have spent some time in the Vortex forums you might've seen him around already. Simon has a background in creating modding tools for Unity games.

Simon's work on Vortex can be seen in the last few releases and include better support for Markdown in collection instructions, error-handling improvements and enhancements to how Vortex displays and detects changes to Premium membership. The most significant change he has authored so far is the shift to using OAuth for Vortex login, aligning it with other apps. 

When asked about Vortex's current state, Insomnious praised its power and modular design but acknowledges the challenges of catering to a diverse user base. Users range from casual gamers to dedicated modders, and the goal is to make modding more inclusive while accommodating experts. Community feedback varies, with some wanting more upfront information and others seeking a gentler learning curve.

Future plans for Vortex include improved communication of updates, error-handling enhancements, and expanded game support. The most exciting update is a new default theme that aligns Vortex's interface with the Nexus Mods website. Dashboard updates are planned to ease the new user experience. Behind the scenes, efforts are focused on optimizing development pipelines and documentation.

Vortex will continue to be our primary, supported mod manager for the foreseeable future and will be the application that we provide to support modding for upcoming titles such as Starfield.





The Nexus Mods App

Alongside the continued development of Vortex, Tim (Halgari) has put together a new team of experienced developers from the community to begin work on our next generation of mod management software - dubbed the "Nexus Mods App". The app team combines the skills of developers who have worked on Vortex, Mod Organizer 2, Wabbajack and several other modding tools. 

The Nexus Mods App will be a ground-up reimagining of what we (and you) want our mod manager to be, building on the lessons learnt from Vortex and NMM before that. 

Mat (Demorphic) caught up with Tim about the new project and his new team to answer what we're sure are some of your burning questions.


Halgari, how has it been since joining Nexus Mods, did a specific vision exist for our mod manager, or was this something you had quite a lot of freedom with?

It’s been great, I think it’s a dream for many software engineers to turn their hobby into a full-time job. So being able to work on modding tools, and mod managers has in many ways been a life goal fulfilled.

As far as the vision for the app goes, I have been given a lot of trust and freedom. Being told to “go build the right thing, we trust you” is both empowering and daunting.

I have a strong background in software engineering, and I've spent ~20 years working on large computing systems. I also spent well over a decade writing code in a programming language called Clojure

Something that was pushed heavily in the Clojure community was the concept of “rethinking your designs in the context of new advancements in technology”. For example, these days most computers have SSDs and multi-core processors, we should leverage this as the “new norm” especially when considering how the environment will change by the time we end up launching an application. 

So after joining Nexus Mods, I spent a good 2-3 months researching existing mod managers, writing prototypes, and figuring out how I could apply lessons I’ve learned in my career to mod managers. I also spent time nailing down the technology I wanted to use for this work. Every programming language has its good and bad sides, and so I spent some time writing these all up in a matrix of the requirements our project had, and the benefits of each language. In the end, I landed on C# and Avalonia as a great middle-ground of excellent productivity, extremely performant code, and cross-platform support. 


It looks like instead of building a “Vortex 2” or iterating our current mod manager, you want to go back and build mod management from the ground up, why is that?

In many ways, this is a “Vortex 2” just under a different name. The name change from “Vortex” to “The Nexus Mods App” is a marketing decision more than anything. We realised that a lot of new users didn’t know why a thing called “Vortex” should be central to their modding workflow. In addition, even the term “mod manager” is foreign to a lot of users, we were getting feedback along the lines of “I don’t make mods, why do I need a manager for them, I just want to install mods?”. So while “the App” is a rather sterile and boring title it instantly conveys what the app does. If you want to run Discord on your desktop you download the “Discord App”, if you want to install mods from Nexus Mods, download the “Nexus Mods App”. 


Can you talk a bit about your thought process when deciding whether to keep adding functionality to Vortex or take a different approach?

Certainly. First of all decisions like this are always hard to make, and should never be taken lightly. My main approach in analysing what to do with a project like this is to look at the existing app, and the issues with it, identify why things were designed the way they are, and figure out if those requirements and rationales still stand, or if new technologies render some of these requirements moot.

Vortex was designed to be maintained mostly by one person, acting as the community coordinator. It was designed to be a shell into which a lot of extensions could be injected. In addition, it was developed in Node.js, primarily with Windows in mind. 

But the world has shifted a bit in several regards. Nexus Mods now has funds available to operate a small team of developers to focus specifically on our app (we currently have 5 programmers, a UI designer and a project manager), so this means we can take on more work. Relying primarily on volunteer work means that when something goes wrong with the support for some game, we have to kindly ask people to spend their unpaid free time fixing a bug. If we have more people on the project and work in a more centralised, but open community, we can fix these bugs ourselves and keep a higher level of quality control on the project. 

In addition, while Node.JS was probably a good choice when Vortex was created, in the meantime other technologies have come out that allow for much greater performance, flexibility and simplicity in app design. Specifically, we’re basing the app on .NET and Avalonia. These tools are cross-platform and are performant enough that we don’t need to write submodules in C or other languages. 

So to summarise, in order to get Vortex to the place we wanted it to be, we would have had to rewrite large portions of the application and at that point, we might as well rewrite it in a platform more closely aligned with our long-term goals. 


It looks like you have pulled together a very talented team to help you out, who are these guys?

We’ve been looking for the right people to support the development of the Nexus Mods App. We now have the team assembled.

Simon (Insomnious) has been a Unity developer for some time and has quickly picked up the ins and outs of Vortex, so he’s heading up Vortex (as mentioned above).

Florian (erri120) and I have worked together for quite some time on Wabbajack, and he also has been heavily involved with Mutagen (patching library for Bethesda games) and has written the Game finder library we use in the app. 

Seweryn (Sewer56) has built several modding frameworks and brings with him a lot of experience with micro-optimization, reverse engineering, and low-level knowledge, as well as experience with some of the more arcane parts of .NET like native interop, function hooking, etc. 

Gabriel (AL12), most people know from his work as a lead developer on the Mod Organizer 2 project. It’s great to have someone on the team with a wealth of experience in mod management, game modding and open-source development.



Thanks, it’s good to get that additional insight. Your philosophy on development appears to be very open and collaborative. Are you keen on involving the modding community in Nexus Mods App development?

Absolutely, I’ve been a big proponent of open-source software development almost since I started programming in the early 90s. As a manager told me years ago: “Lock a developer in a room for two weeks and they’ll come out convinced the code they wrote is the best thing ever designed by humankind”. In other words, being open to input and suggestions from the community is a great way to get a new perspective on your work, and to find out what’s working for people and what needs to be improved. 

While we anticipate doing the majority of the work on the app ourselves, we would love to get more people involved in the project. The code is open source (GPL3), and the toolchain is quite easy to set up, just install your C# IDE of choice, hit “build” and you’re good to go. 


Nexus Mods App will be open source. Why do you feel open source is the way forward, regardless of the risks?

Open-source development is critical to the success of almost any modding application. First of all, open-source code is free for anyone to read, and audit. This means it’s much harder for bad actors to develop code that has ulterior motives.

Now obviously, Nexus Mods has to make money, but we do so via visitors to the site and premium subscriptions. This means that success for a mod manager is encouraging more modding, which aligns well with the goals of the users. Users want to mod games, we want to write tools that make it easier for them to mod games. 

Open source is really the only way to build a project like this, because otherwise the financial incentives are all off, if a modding app is paid or closed source, it only makes the users want to use the application less. Likewise, if we made the mod manager a premium-only feature, we would be discouraging new users from trying the app on a whim. So while like any for-profit company, the goal of the app is to drive increased engagement and subscription, the best way to do this is to encourage more modding via a completely free, 100% open-source application.




What's the current status of the app?

The Nexus Mods App is considered pre-alpha which means it's not suitable for use by the general public. We are open to community developers trying it out if you're interested in collaborating or sharing feedback with our team on it, but you should not attempt to use any build of the app as a daily driver for modding yet as this can (and at this point, will) break your modding setup. 

We are building the app to milestones, so you can track the progress towards each major goal by checking out the GitHub page. No timelines will be provided for these milestones as we're working towards a level of quality rather than a set date. 


I want to know more. How do I get involved?

If you're fluent in C# and would like to learn more about the Nexus Mods app, you can visit the GitHub repository here. There you can read about the technical decisions driving the fundamental design of the app, see open tasks/milestones for planned features and download preview builds. It's worth noting that 80% of the work so far has been on the "back end" of the project and the current UI is not an accurate representation of what we've done so far. 

We're not looking for user feedback quite yet, but we'll be sure to make it hard to miss once we do get to that stage! 

In the meantime, you can continue to vote on your favourite suggestions for Vortex on our feedback board. Vortex will remain our primary, supported mod manager for the foreseeable future but we'll keep you updated on the progress of the Nexus Mods App through our site news and forums. 

414 comments

  1. lostintime
    lostintime
    • premium
    • 24 posts
    • 0 kudos
    To be honest, naming your Vortex successor the "Nexus Mods App" makes Nexus Mods come off as very cold and corporate. IMO

    Is forced LOOT sorting (with the option to add manual rules) still a thing in Vortex? Haven't used Vortex in a few years and that was my main issue with it compared to MO2.
    1. AugustaCalidia
      AugustaCalidia
      • premium
      • 2,855 posts
      • 9 kudos
      LOOT sorting was never forced in Vortex, because you could simply turn it off.  Your load order sorting options in that case were (and still are) setting rules via menu and/or a Vortex version of drag/drop and via group assignment.
    2. lostintime
      lostintime
      • premium
      • 24 posts
      • 0 kudos
      Perhaps I am completely misremembering this. But from what I remember Vortex would not allow me to manually rearrange the load order of esps/esms but instead I had to set rules of what should load before/after others. Maybe I just did not understand how it worked, maybe it has changed since I last used it.

      Have nothing against Vortex, I just am sticking to the setup that is working for me right now (MO2).
  2. avpn
    avpn
    • member
    • 73 posts
    • 0 kudos
    Hopefully this be closer to MO2 than Vortex?

    Yes, MO2 is a bit complex when starting but when you learn it, its great. Vortex was supposed to be MO on steroids as far as I remember the approach used to put it out. I tried to learn Vortex at the time but it was so frustrating I dropped it and never looked back. It may be better now, but the first impression killed it for me.

    Just make it efficient like MO2 is and not ugly fancy like Vortex is and its a good start. Really, Vortex UI is what probably breaks the experience for most of the users (it did it for me). Also, don't lock it down behind user accounts or even premium paid functions and don't put useless ads in it.

    Just my two cents.
    1. AugustaCalidia
      AugustaCalidia
      • premium
      • 2,855 posts
      • 9 kudos
      Vortex has never been locked behind anything, and neither will its successor, as stated in the article.

      "Useless" ads are necessary to help Nexus Mods pay its bills and keep the lights on.

      You could eliminate these "useless" ads for yourself and simultaneously help Nexus Mods financially by adding a bit more to your two cents and buying a premium membership. 
  3. mudkipastaken
    mudkipastaken
    • member
    • 2 posts
    • 0 kudos
    So Vortex support is stopped and we need to install vortex 2?
    1. Zanderat
      Zanderat
      • premium
      • 9,605 posts
      • 136 kudos
      Vortex 2 (or whatever they will call the new mod manager) isn't out yet. 
  4. DiealteEiche
    DiealteEiche
    • premium
    • 167 posts
    • 1 kudos
    Ergo, goodbye Mod Manager 2, goodbye all you better managers than Vortex.
  5. knightsnow
    knightsnow
    • member
    • 1 posts
    • 0 kudos
    Why 2077 is no more in vortex?
  6. iason
    iason
    • premium
    • 48 posts
    • 0 kudos
    After playing the Nolvus List for Skyrim, I really want tools for mod curators to be able to bundle mods together in an all-in-one fashion. 

    The Collections are cool, but Nolvus really pushed that to a cool new place. 
  7. Zanderat
    Zanderat
    • premium
    • 9,605 posts
    • 136 kudos
    Has anyone else noticed  the  the silence of the new dev team on the issues with Vortex and Starfield in the Vortex Support forum?  Litereall not one dev ha s bothered to post there.  At least Tannin would have popped in to say that they were working on it.
  8. Norman46spear
    Norman46spear
    • supporter
    • 1,260 posts
    • 49 kudos
    A cool feature would be Desktop game icons that open directly to Vortex to mod the game you click on.
  9. PadhomeVanDarke
    PadhomeVanDarke
    • member
    • 321 posts
    • 24 kudos
    Please don't be pressured to change anything - The MO2 people are loud, but for some of us who DO very much like the ability to view individual files and love the spider web because they've been thoroughly traumatised by the experience of manually sorting 1.5k entries, you are a godsend.

    Just fix the 401 errors and do whatever you need to optimise the new app.
  10. Akira1364
    Akira1364
    • premium
    • 944 posts
    • 32 kudos
    There's a relatively large contigent of people who just will absolutely never use this if the "spider web of doom" method for sorting loose asset files is still the only one provided. Something to keep in mind.
    1. Wolfpack49
      Wolfpack49
      • premium
      • 8,123 posts
      • 197 kudos
      It's actually really easy to resolve, but that screen scares everyone. It'd be better if you just got a message that you have circular references, and it sent you on to the individual file conflict resolution screen. This one:

      https://wiki.nexusmods.com/images/thumb/b/bb/Conflicts14.png/800px-Conflicts14.png
    2. Akira1364
      Akira1364
      • premium
      • 944 posts
      • 32 kudos
      It's not scary, it's just inefficient and annoying for multi-mod loose file conflicts (which absolutely do happen fairly frequently).

      The screenshot you linked is slightly better but it's not going to convince anyone who prefers a combined approach of MO2's straightforward ordered dragging and "hide" functionality.

      Some other things to note:

      - the "immutable modlists" doc on Github describes what sounds like the possibility of this app requiring MASSIVELY more disk space than MO2 does by needing downloaded archives to be retained, which is not a trivial thing at all and will make it a non-starter for a lot of people if true

      - the Skyrim SE game description doc on Github gives the very strong impression of having been written by someone who does not really know all that much about modding Skyrim SE. They describe "Loose Files Load Order" in an unnervingly downplayed way and seem to think it's WAY less important than it actually is, and they also name FNIS in a special-casey sort of way. FNIS should not be special cased, rather it (and all other third party tools that generate new files) need to have the ability to output directly into specific mod folders (e.g. "BodySlideOut", "NemesisOut", etc) that can themselves can then have their order adjusted as necessary. This is a major current advantage of MO2 over Vortex, Vortex simply does not have proper manageable support for handling the output of non-FNIS tool executables.
    3. Wolfpack49
      Wolfpack49
      • premium
      • 8,123 posts
      • 197 kudos
      The screenshot you linked is slightly better but it's not going to convince anyone who prefers a combined approach of MO2's straightforward ordered dragging and "hide" functionality.
      Sorry I fail to see why hiding the files for the mods you don’t want is easier than simply selecting the mod you do want for each file. If 5 mods are vying for a file, that’s 4 mods you need to hide. Seems pretty ass backwards to me.  

      You and I aren’t scared by the spider web but new modders most definitely are. 
    4. Akira1364
      Akira1364
      • premium
      • 944 posts
      • 32 kudos
      "Sorry I fail to see why hiding the files for the mods you don’t want is easier than simply selecting the mod you do want for each file. If 5 mods are vying for a file, that’s 4 mods you need to hide. Seems pretty ass backwards to me."

      For this particular note I suppose my point was that I feel the UI layout of MO2 for that particular thing is more straightforward and shows more at once. It can also be sorted by filename / mod name / etc.
    5. psycros
      psycros
      • supporter
      • 361 posts
      • 7 kudos
      The Vortex UI needs a complete overhaul - its frankly the worst I've ever seen on a multi-game modding tool.  Interface design needs to be as intuitive and straightforward as possible.  Profiles need to contain all the configuration data for the modding of each game...switching profiles should be like using someone else's computer.  Ideally, profiles would have an export-import function as well.
    6. madwolf2006
      madwolf2006
      • member
      • 101 posts
      • 1 kudos
      The Vortex UI needs a complete overhaul
      IMHO Vortex UI needs more than an overhaul it needs a complete rewrite
      IMHO let's get Nexus Mods installing mods in a more traditional way first where you need to install mods in a certain order not to break them and then expand how it installs mods later
    7. GabrielWithoutWings
      GabrielWithoutWings
      • premium
      • 113 posts
      • 3 kudos
      I agree. One of the reasons I stopped using it is the GUI bogs down once you go above about 800 mods (Skyrim and Fallout 4). It took upwards of 20 minutes for the GUI to refresh after sorting or marking a plugin light.
    8. Wolfpack49
      Wolfpack49
      • premium
      • 8,123 posts
      • 197 kudos
       GUI bogs down once you go above about 800 mods (Skyrim and Fallout 4). It took upwards of 20 minutes 
      I have close to 1000 mods and haven’t experienced this. 
    9. Andythefreezer
      Andythefreezer
      • premium
      • 154 posts
      • 1 kudos
      Absolutely. I think egos should be put aside and instead cues should be taken from MO2. I use it because it handles everything. FNIS, Nemesis, Bodyslide. Also mods like TTW that are quite large are handled easily.

      MO2  will reign supreme if the backend of this new mod manager isn't up for these things.

      Because you know what people hate more than being confused by app names? Installling an app, downloading mods and then realizing the app isn't working well with a mod they want and realizing they should have used MO2 to begin with.
    10. sopmac45
      sopmac45
      • premium
      • 1,285 posts
      • 5 kudos
      I have been using Vortex since it came out and I've never had any problem with it ... NMM was a pain but Vortex, it is a gem. 
    11. OlasMarz
      OlasMarz
      • premium
      • 778 posts
      • 7 kudos
       It took upwards of 20 minutes for the GUI to refresh after sorting or marking a plugin light.
      Vortex used to do this about a year and a half ago and it was terrible. It doesn't do this anymore when sorting ....and if it does for some reason, a close and reopen should fix the issue (at least my experience w/ around 3K mods).

      Also, the "spider web of doom" method is daunting at first, but it's not so hard actually. I would like if the new app had a lot of the same features as Vortex, but added a lot more/alternative functionality.