BigBizkit: Thank you for joining us today. First of all could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
randyknapp: Thanks for having me! I'm Randy, I'm 33, I live in Seattle with my wife and kids. I'm a professional video game developer with 10 years of industry experience.
Just about two months ago Valheim was first released in Early Access. Yet already, we have not only seen an incredible amount of amazing mods being released, but you yourself have been quite busy with several releases. How would you generally describe the kind of mod you like to create?
I'm most experienced with Unity UI, so I tend to focus on improving usability in the UI or adding new UI that improves some aspect of the game. Oftentimes there's just a niche or a space in the game that wasn't filled by the devs and I can find a way to fill that space. Other times I care about removing tedium or repetitive tasks, especially in survival games. Other than that, the main thing is that I create mods that I want to use. I make them exactly the way I want them, and I generally play the game with all of my own mods installed. Honestly I'm a huge proponent of making games into the game you want to play. Developer intent is important, but like, making it into the thing you want is just as valuable.
In terms of Valheim modding you are most well known for two mods in particular: Equipment and Quick Slots as well as Epic Loot - both of which are a staple in my game. Can you tell us a bit about those two mods?
EAQS was a quick and dirty mod that I tried to get out as soon as possible. I personally wanted a lore-friendly way to increase my inventory space as well as add a few more quickslots, especially since in vanilla the keys for the built-in hotkey bar are not configurable! I honestly wasn't very happy with the implementation of first iteration of it, the inventory system is really hard to mod and it came with a bunch of issues, including a lot of conflicts with other mods. The second version of that mod tries to address some of those issues...but has a few more of its own too. It's a bit of a headache, haha! Ah well.
I'm having so much fun with Epic Loot. I think Valheim is an awesome game, and the vanilla experience is great. But I had a wild hare about Diablo-style loot drops and whipped up the mod, and people have absolutely loved it. I've gotten so much positive feedback about it, it makes me feel really good. Anyway, I love Diablo, Borderlands, The Division, and other looter-shooter/ARPGs and I thought it would be an awesome addition to the game. I am glad I released as early access too. When you release a finished mod and there's bugs, people yell at you. When you release an early access mod, they just report the bugs trying to be helpful! I love it! Plus I've gotten to chat with so many fans of the mod that have great ideas, or helpful suggestions, it's been really nice.
I have to say that Epic Loot truly is an epic mod which adds so much to the gameplay experience! What gave you the idea and confidence that you could pull off such a detailed and polished mod?
Uh, interesting question. I love games, I've loved games since I was a kid, and I've always been a designer at heart. I got my start making levels for Warcraft 2, and it led to a lot of hobby level editing and game design for Warcraft 3, Starcraft, and a slew of Half-Life games and mods. So even though I'm a programmer in my day job, I love designing games and telling stories. (I released a pen-and-paper tactics RPG last year, Zafir: Tactical Roleplaying Game, go check it out (www.zafirgame.com)! Anyway, I love making games, so doing Epic Loot as an additional layer on top of Valheim is sort of like designing a brand new game system, but super interesting because I've got to work within all the constraints of the existing game... and know where to break it to make the experience better. I dunno if I would call it "detailed and polished" yet, I released it as Early Access for a reason, but thank you, I do try to pay a lot of attention to the little things.
Not going to lie: at first I thought Valheim wasn't for me, but once I got into it I got hooked. Now I have a bit over 140 hours in it already! What do you think is it about Valheim that made it into such a hit - both as a game and in terms of modding?
Ah man, this is exactly my kind of game. I think it became a hit because they did a phenomenal job with the content ramp through the game. There are clear gates and progression blockers that drive the player in the right direction without being too forceful about it. Like other survival games, it helps players form goal loops that never really end, so its easy to get caught up playing and play for hours. You know, the "I need some fine wood for a thing, oh I need a better axe, oh I still need to find some tin, and oh I'm fighting a troll and I should make better troll armor, but I need bone shards, so I should go hit that dungeon I saw, and, and and..." type of game.
You’re no stranger to Unity modding and have already made a name for yourself as the author of some of the most popular Subnautica mods. How did you first get into modding and being a creator?
Well, like I mentioned, I did a lot of it when I was a kid, but nothing ever really got popular and I focused on getting into the games industry as a programmer, not a designer. A few years ago I got obsessed with Subnautica when it came out, and once I realized it was a Unity game, I dug into figuring out how to mod for it. The scene was really bare back then. There was no mod loader. There wasn't a nexus page for Subnautica yet. A bunch of people were releasing modified Subnautica DLLs which is a huge no-no, both legally and logistically. Everyone was releasing their mods on their own personal sites with custom installers and stuff. It was a mess, and no one was willing to agree on what a "good mod loader" should be. So this other modder, qwiso, and I developed QModManager, got it on the Nexus and made it a LOT easier for people to create and use mods, and have them work alongside each other. That was the big push that I think kicked off that community. Then it was a matter of doing what I like to do: making UI improvements and quality of life mods. MoreQuickSlots was a hit, and then the big one was AutosortLockers, which reduced the tedium of that part of Subnautica a lot.
Do you have any favourite mods from other authors?
Yeah for sure, I love everything by aedenthorn, I use several of theirs: Clock, CraftFromContainers, HereFishy, just to name a few. HoldAttack is really great on my clicking finger. And I feel like AnyPortal is a must, I mean I liked making a portal hub in my first playthrough, but after that it can get a little overwhelming.
If you had to live in either the world of Subnautica or Valheim - which one would you pick and why?
Oh easy, Subnautica. I'm a huge sci-fi buff, and even though that society might be a capitalist dystopian nightmare, at least they have warp drives and interstellar travel. Subnautica, ironically I guess, is my relaxation game. When I'm stressed out I can boot up Subnautica, start a new game and just enjoy swimming and collecting. Valheim is a fun game and all but, you know, you're dead.
What are some of your favourite things to do outside of modding and gaming?
I love cooking. My wife and I are working through an awesome cook book right now, trying a lot of new things. Did I mention I have little kids? I don't have a lot of free time besides that!
What advice would you give anyone looking to get into modding in general and Unity modding in particular?
Leave your ego at the door. You can always learn more, always improve. That being said, Unity is a great way to get into game dev. There are TONS of tutorials and other resources for making stuff, plus tons of free assets on the asset store. It's the best way to play around and get your feet wet with game dev. And C# is pretty easy to pick up and get going with, and and has the same benefit of a massive amount of online documentation, answers, and resources. My biggest piece of advice is this: start small and finish. Don't start by thinking you're going to make your own MMO or Soulslike or something. Just start by making Tic Tac Toe. Or Yahtzee. Or something equally small and concrete. And then finish it. Aiming for something small and simple and working on it all the way until it's done is going to teach you so so much more than just noodling on something and never getting around to solving the hard problems required to get it done. And have fun! Modding lets you do what you love with games that you love, embrace that.
Is there anything else you’d like to say to the community?
Let's keep building each other up, supporting each other, and helping the community grow and learn together!
A big thank you to randyknapp for taking the time to talk to us! If there's an author or mod project you'd like to know more about, send your suggestions to BigBizkit or Pickysaurus.
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