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Prime time with PrimeSonic


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Today's guest in our Mod Author interview series is PrimeSonic - creator of a number of super useful feature mods for Subnautica and Subnautica: Below Zero.


We'll start as we always do. For those who don't know you, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Hi there. I'm PrimeSonic and I've been using this name on the internet since the very early 2000s, back when "Web 2.0" was still in its infancy. I've been a modder on Nexus for just over a year now, although I joined long ago as simply a gamer looking for mods. My day job is in business software, which isn't remotely as sexy as video games, but it pays well and still scratches that "problem-solving itch" more often than not. I've been working as a professional software developer for about ten years now and I took my first steps into computer programming almost ten years before that. I'm a PC hardware enthusiast and you could call me a gamer in that games have always been an will be an important part of my life.


And since we're here to talk about my Subnautica mods, remember that all my mods are open source and publicly available on GitHub.



Given your handle - PrimeSonic - you must be a fan of Sonic the Hedgehog. Which game would you say is the best in the franchise?

The best Modern Sonic experience is still Sonic Generations (Get it on PC for mods). The best Classic Sonic experience is still somewhere between Mania or the Sonic 3 & Knuckles Complete romhack.



How do you feel about the upcoming Sonic movie?

As far as I'm concerned, it doesn't exist.




Could you tell us a little about your gaming history? 

My earliest gaming happened on an NES at the babysitter's and whatever demos I could get on our 486 machine downloaded off AOL Kids. I've been a SEGA diehard since the early 90s but Nintendo has certainly had a special place in my heart too.


To list off the consoles I've personally owned myself: Genesis, Game Gear, Gameboy Color, Dreamcast, DS, Gamecube, Wii, 3DS, Wii U, Switch. But no matter what the generation of console, I always had games on my PC.


My fond gaming memories are plentiful. I could probably play Sonic 3 & Knuckles in my sleep after all the time I devoted to it. Even after years of exploring the world of Arcanum, I still managed to keep on discovering new things, long after I thought I knew the game in and out. I remember eagerly jumping on Sonic Generations when it released, rushing to buy a new and better graphics card so I could actually play it. I did a couple of tours of WoW with good friends back in the day. In the future, I will get to fondly remember FF14 as the MMO I played side by side with my wife.



All of the mods you've shared with our community are from the Subnautica series. What was it about these games that inspired you to start modding them?

It was one of those "right place, right time" things.


One of my favourite YouTube gamers (MegaGWolf) was doing a Subnautica series and I was really liking what I was seeing. Once the game came out of Early Access and I tried it for myself, I was absolutely hooked for weeks following.


There were a respectable number of mods out at the time and used a fair number of them from the get-go. But it was the moment that I looked at some of the open-source mod code for myself that everything clicked. This was C#. I knew I could do this. Heck, I do stuff like this for a living. All at once I felt the rush of being able to apply my coding skills to something I was truly passionate about for the first time.



Your newer mods include a suite of upgrades for the Cyclops Submarine. Could you talk us through some of them?


Yeah. Once I saw how big MoreCyclopsUpgrades was getting, and just how much code reuse there was, I knew it was time to break it up and let people pick and choose the parts they want.


CyclopsSolarUpgrades - It's finally its own mod again!

This is somewhat of a spiritual successor to one of my earliest (and long deleted) mods: CyclopsSolarCharger. This mod adds an upgrade module for the Cyclops that works just like the Seamoth Solar Charger. Unlike the one on the Seamoth, you can add multiple copies of this upgrade module for added effect. Later on, it can be upgraded to a better version, just to give you something to work towards as you get into the later game.


CyclopsBioReactor? and CyclopsNuclearUpgrades - I put these mods together as they were developed in collaboration with the guys of FCStudios.

I don't have any 3D modelling skill or experience. Heck, I can barely make any 2D sprites as it is. But these guys made such awesome work on their own I just knew we would be able to bring our skills together to make something awesome.


In both cases, the mods add a new type of reactor that you can build in the Cyclops: a smaller Bioreactor and a smaller Nuclear Reactor. Both will feed power into the Cyclops similar to how those reactors would work in a base. The extra cool thing is that these mods were designed to give players more late-game stuff to work towards. Each one of these mods also includes new upgrade modules that can be equipped to the Cyclops that will enhance all of the bio/nuclear reactors on board at once!


CyclopsAutoZapper - The newest entry (and with updates to come in the future).

This mod adds a new upgrade module that taps directly into a docked Seamoth's Electrical Defense System, overcharging it to fend off would-be aggressors. The cool thing is that it's completely automatic. If the Cyclops is under attack, it will engage. It's not really a mod I'd recommend for a player's first play-through, but for Subnautica veterans looking for a new tool to defend the Cyclops, this can make for a fun addition.


There's plenty more, so check out the Requirements tab and see just how many mods were improved, or entirely made possible, by MoreCyclopsUpgrades.





If you had to say which one of your mods you are most proud of, which would it be and why?

That honour probably had to go to CustomCraft2. Not just because of how feature-rich it became over time or for how it opened up the door to many non-coders to make some of their own Subnautica Mods. No, the main reason I'm proud of it is because that was where I put my brain to the test and created my own C# serialization language from scratch, complete with its own parser.


I rarely get the chance to write code that complex, so to see it come together and prove to myself just what I was capable of was sheer joy. I'm just amazed that I was able to wrap my head around the problem in the first place considering that I had never done anything quite like that before.



When you play Subnautica, which difficulty setting do you prefer? I've always played on Survival but never actually finished the story.

You really should complete the story at least once. It really does bring everything to a close.


As for me, I very much enjoyed my first play-through on Freedom mode, since I was new to the whole survival genre of games and I really didn't want to stress myself over it. But on my second play-through, I understood just how rewarding it can be to play in Survival mode. There was a real sense of progression between having to catch my every meal in the early game to having a replenishing stockpile of food ready to feast on at any given time.


These days, when I actually play the game, I spend more time in Creative mode just enjoying the scenery or tinkering with a new base idea.



What are your top 3 essential Subnautica mods?

There's so many to pick from and I use so many myself, but if I had to pick just three that all players of all play style preferences should have:



  • EasyCraft? - Makes crafting fun again by taking away the tedium. Once you've used EasyCraft, you won't want to go back.
  • SubnauticaMap? - A well-balanced map feature that feels like a feature that could have been there all along. With the fog of war enabled, I feel it perfectly complements the game's exploration loop.
  • Radial Tabs? - Fixes the crafting trees so you don't have to worry about having too many crafting nodes. With how many crafting related mods there are, this mod here will guarantee that you never have to worry about crafting icons going off-screen.


What tools do you use when creating mods for Subnautica?

It's important to remember that Subnautica wasn't created with a modding framework. So all the mods you see are, more or less, forms of code injection. Mods are made by adding to or replacing the original game code with the mod's code at runtime.


As for the tools to make this happen, I'll list the 2 most important ones.


dnSpy - Because Subnautica is developed in Unity, and Unity is developed in .NET, the DLL files themselves actually contain a surprising amount of meta-data, rather than just being binary blobs. On that note, dnSpy is a crucially important piece of software because what it does is read all that byte code and metadata and reassemble something that looks very close to the original source code. Sure, it's not a perfect recreation in that you lose some of the syntactic sugar, but it's enough for modders to be able to peek into the game's original code and see what we can do with it.


Visual Studio - Looking at the original game code isn't very useful if you can't also write your own and for writing C# code, Microsoft's own Visual Studio arguably sets the bar for what all development tools should offer. I've been using the various versions of Visual Studio in my professional work since the old 2010 edition. It's still a fantastic development environment and, best of all for young coders, it can be free! I may use an Enterprise version of Visual Studio at work, but at home, the Community edition offers everything I could need.


Beyond these tools, everything else is in software libraries that make some aspects of modding Subnautica easier, or just outright possible in the first place. You can find more details on all this in oldark1's Modding Tutorial.



If a modder wanted to get started making their own Subnautica mods, what advice would you give them?


Make sure you're comfortable working with C#, with object-oriented programming, and be ready to learn a few things about Unity along the way. I would also say that creating mods for Subnautica can arguably be harder than it was to write some parts of the game in the first place.


Remember, we are injecting and replacing code here. There are no files to play around with. No text to tweak.

The game doesn't officially support modding. The only modding framework that exists was created by the modding community. So be prepared to dive into some real challenges. You'll be faced with not just expressing your own ideas in your code but also with figuring out how to make them work around someone else's code.


But if you're ready to do all that, there is quite literally no limit to what you could do.




Have you ever thought about making mods for other games?


At this point, I know I could dive into modding any Unity-based game. Knowing what I know now, a lot more games just became "mod supported" for me, whether they were intended to be or not. 

But for right now, I still have Subnautica mods I want to create and others I want to improve. With the limited free time I have to do all that, it may be a while before I dive into modding for another game. It's certainly possible, but likely won't happen for a while.



As a Mod Author do you check out other Mod Authors to either compare or learn from?


Absolutely and all the time.


I wouldn't have started making any mods in the first place if it hadn't been for the modders who came before me.

Their open-source code was an invaluable resource in getting me started. Even today, I'm always checking out what other modders are making. Maybe they've come up with a creative solution to a problem I never thought about or maybe they know Unity well enough to be able to do more with it.


Heck, some of the best mods I'm attributed to came from direct collaboration with other modders who shared their skills. Some mods of mine, in part or in whole, simply wouldn't have been possible without the tips and insights I got from other modders in the community.



Are there any Mod Authors that you look up to or who inspire you?

In the interest of time, I will pick one: The legendary RandyKnapp.


This was the guy whose works got me into modding in the first place and whose large collection of high-quality mods made me want to make more of them.



To wrap things up, is there anything else you'd like to say to the community?


Never let anyone tell you that you're playing the game wrong.


Whether you use one mod over another or none at all, whatever makes the game most enjoyable to you is how you should be playing it.


A big thank you to PrimeSonic 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.

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PrimeSonic — You are a gentleman and a scholar, a refreshing combination of rare, positive traits. I bow before you, sir. Please continue to be a beacon of light wherever you find yourself, and may you be surrounded by a supportive wave of like-minded others :)
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In response to post #72422863.

silencer711 wrote: PrimeSonic — You are a gentleman and a scholar, a refreshing combination of rare, positive traits. I bow before you, sir. Please continue to be a beacon of light wherever you find yourself, and may you be surrounded by a supportive wave of like-minded others :)

You're too kind!
Thank you
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In response to post #72431813.

AlexejheroYTB wrote: Ever since you became a staff member in the subnautica modding community, and long before that, I've looked up to you. You are a great modder, a great person, and I can't wait to see what mods you will come up with next.

You're pretty great yourself too.
Thanks for everything you do for our modding community!
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