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Starsector 0.95a is out! (03/26/21); Blog post: Of Slipstreams and Sensor Ghosts (09/24/21)

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Topics - Captain Trek

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"Which mods should I install first?" - Captain Trek's Guide to the Modiverse.

Many a time has the question been asked: Which mods are good? Which mods are the most similar to vanilla? Which mods should I install first? In this thread, I will endeavour to answer all of these questions in a couple of useful ways. You can read the FAQ below for more details on how and why this guide is structured as it is and how everything works, but if you'd like to get right into it; proceed to the mandatory mods and advice section. After that? The vanilla-adjacent section and the non-adjacent section each function as their own fully-fledged modlists designed to give you, without all the hassle of having to choose, a couple of fairly different but both immediately playable modded gameplay experiences that are (I hope!) sufficiently curated that they will prove to be good ones. Alternatively, you can read the more detailed information I have provided in the spoiler tag under each individual mod. These should hopefully give you enough information to allow you to decide for yourself. Or feel free to employ a combination of both styles, taking either modlist and adding your own alterations!


Contents, FAQ, and credits: You're reading it right now!
Mandatory mods and modding advice: The mods you must install as a prerequisite before installing many other mods, and especially content mods. Also contains advice and "rules of thumb" for running Starsector with mods, if you need them.
Vanilla-adjacent modlist: Mods generally recommended for players less experienced with mods in general. Also functions as a curated list suitable for a first-time modded playthrough.
Non-adjacent modlist: Mods generally recommended for more experienced players looking to mix things up with more unusual gameplay elements and greater challenge. Also functions as a curated list suitable for a subsequent modded playthrough.
Other mods - up-and-comers: Mods currently in active development that might soon make it onto a curated list (or at least the worth considering list). Ones I recommend keeping an eye on.
Other mods - worth considering: Mods that are fully functional and interesting in their own ways, but didn't quite fit onto a curated list. Particularly worth considering if the gameplay experience provided by the non-adjacent modlist just isn't exotic enough for you.
Other mods - not recommended: Mods that, due to technical issues or other concerns, I generally do not recommend that you use. Listed here for your convenience and consideration none-the-less. Includes some mods suffer from issues due to not having been updated since version 0.9 of the game.
Synergies and anti-synergies: You'd be surprised how many subtle, interesting interactions there are between various mods, from special ships that only come available when certain other mods are also installed, to gameplay elements that make gameplay elements in other mods stronger or weaker. This section seeks to document as many of these interactions as possible.

Note: There are two types of mods that I consider outside of the scope of this mod guide: The total-conversion mod Archean Order, which by-and-large is not compatible with most other mods, and IP mods (i.e. mods that add a faction from someone else's intellectual property into the game), whose use (or not) scales directly with how big a fan you are of the IP on which the mod is based. If you note that a mod of either of these two types was not included in my guide, rest assured this is entirely intentional and is in no way a commentary on the quality of those mods.


Why a mod guide?
When I say many times has the question been asked, I mean it. If you are a regular on the Unofficial Starsector Chat Discord server, you'll know that such questions are almost a daily occurrence. Indeed, mods are such a big part of the Starsector experience that an entire channel had to be re-branded specifically for non-technical mod discussion to separate it out from the general chat pool. I've had it suggested to me before that there isn't enough of a diversity of mods in this game to warrant an extensive mod guide like this one, but to that I would point out that the demand is obviously there, and very strong. Moreover, Starsector is not a game that functions well on either a gameplay or runtime level if you just blindly install everything, and even a few-dozen faction mods can be a lot for a person to get their head around when they're first starting out and don't know what the "rules" (so to speak) are. Doubly so if you have a potato PC and have to boil it all down to just two or three choices out of all the larger, more hardware demanding mods available. Worse yet, Starsector is a game with a very, very high percentage of good mods, which is also part of what inspired me to do this, and in the way that I did. The majority of mods on the forum, I would argue, have something to offer to at least some audience, and having to choose between so many good options can be hard enough without having to personally investigate every individual mod page. My hope is to make the sometimes rough transition into running mods just that little bit easier for all-comers, and at the same time to help give deserving mods (and there are many) their time in the sun.

Isn't this all just your opinion?
Frankly? Yes. With something like this it's sort of inevitable. However, my goal is simply to provide both a starting point and broad, convenient overviews of what to expect out of each mod so you can plan out a better modded experience for yourself. This guide is not and should not be treated as gospel regarding what mods to use or in what combinations. Though I've attempted to craft a strong gameplay experience with each modlist, my suggestions are as valid as anyone else's.

Why is your guide structured like this? How do I use it?
As it says in the opening paragraph, you can quite happily use the modlists provided "as is", or use the more detailed descriptions in the spoiler tags underneath each mod entry to decide for yourself, or some combination of both. Providing lists that you can just install and not have to think about it and providing the (relatively) short versions of what makes each individual mod worthy of your consideration (or not) caters all (well, most) levels of ducks-given all in the same place. Again, you can employ any combination of the lists as presented and/or my detailed descriptions of each individual mod to cater your modded experience to your own whims as you see fit. And all this from one thread, all without having (mostly) to trawl every individual mod's thread. You'll note that I emphasize the actual lists and the detailed descriptions equally, as I want very strongly to avoid giving any impression that my should be taken as any kind of gospel that necessarily provides the best possible experience to suit all tastes and needs. I do feel, from my playtesting, that these lists provide an excellent gameplay experience that is suitable for general use, but the lists' intended use is as a quick-start tool to get you up and playing modded (and hopefully having fun doing it) as soon as possible, and nothing more. Use my guide to help yourself, not to straight-jacket yourself. There are good reasons the "not recommended" section is so short.

What does "vanilla-adjacent" mean?
For the purposes of this guide, a "vanilla-adjacent" mod is simply any mod that can be largely considered compatible with the existing lore of the vanilla game. In addition, the vanilla-adjacent list is designed to give you as similar as possible an overall gameplay experience to the vanilla game, while still providing access to a (very!) healthy amount of new content to explore. There is, due to the game lore's deliberate vagueness, plenty of leeway with regards to how ships and factions could've come to exist, with most of the hard limitations the lore does impose being technological ones, so the net I cast for vanilla-adjacency is relatively wide. The particular reasons I consider a mod adjacent or not are elaborated upon in the detailed description drop-downs for each individual mod. Note that, if you disagree with any of my reasoning in this regard, keep in mind that my modlists are meant as a starting point, and any player who wishes to make the game as vanilla-adjacent to their own standards (as opposed to mine) as possible can still use the detailed descriptions to help design a modded experience that works best for them..

Okay, but how did you arrive at your current definitions of vanilla-adjacency, and the current state of the guide in general?
The original genesis of the concept of vanilla-adjacency is that I saw more than a few people saying that they wanted to get into mods, but wanted to keep things fairly similar to the vanilla experience at first. Whilst it doesn't matter to everybody, it matters to enough (including me, when I first began installing mods for the game) that I felt it made an effective demarcation point for sorting mods into solid but rather different experiences (and it is to this community's immense credit that you can install two almost completely different lists of mods and give yourself a very different but equally high quality experience). Moreover, while developing my lists I noted that using this metric as the starting point for separating the mods out into different lists also allowed me to achieve other positive ends. For one, the game is easier when using the vanilla-adjacent list than when using the non-adjacent one - better suited for a less experienced player who might very well have only played one campaign of vanilla Starsector before deciding to try out mods. The non-adjacent one, conversely, can be quite hard on a poorly-prepared player, generally featuring a greater proportion of aggressive, warlike factions. It is also an effective way to offer a greater proportion of more exotic gameplay experiences to those who choose to utilize the non-adjacent list (furthering the concept of the non-adjacent list being better suited for more experienced players), as less lore-friendly factions, I found, tend to also have gameplay that deviates more from vanilla. For example, even though it's a great mod that just about everyone should check out eventually, I would never suggest that a first-time mod user install Vayra's Sector right away, even if they care nothing for maintaining a vanilla-similar experience in principle.

In the end, whilst it started purely with the intention of separating things into "the vanilla-similar experience" and "a more exotic experience", over time repeated serendipity allowed my lists to provide several additional functions. It's purely good fortune that both lists are able to contain such things as a way to have pirate fights be less repetitive, a way for high-tech raiders to harass the player, a high-tech motive-focused fleet that uses mostly hybrid weapon mounds, additional end-game enemies, and other useful additions besides, but it is thanks to that good fortune that the modlists are (I believe) as robust and playable as they are.

You've divided mods between several different sub-headings. What does each sub-heading mean?
I'll just cover these briefly:

Overhaul mods: Make a significant number of gameplay alterations all in one convenient package to substantially expand upon and polish up the Starsector experience.
Ship packs: Mods primarily focuses on adding new ships to the game; usually (for the most part) for use by the vanilla factions.
Faction mods: Mods primarily focused on adding a new faction and its own unique crop of starships to the game.
Sub-faction mods: Mods primarily focused on expanding a vanilla faction or adding a new hostile-only faction ala-the Remnant.
Portrait Packs: Add more portraits to the game, giving the player more choice and causing NPCs to repeat less.
Quality of Life mods: Mods, typically small, that give the game better ease-of-use, provide you more information, or otherwise improve your experience without materially altering the actual gameplay.
Gameplay enhancers: Mods, typically small, that improve your experience by in some way materially altering how the game is played. May add new content or a new way to interact with existing content.

What if I disagree with something so strongly that I NEED you to change it?
That's what spirited discussion in the thread is for! Go ahead and give it a bash and, who knows, I might just agree with you.

Can I suggest mods you don't have in your guide yet?
Yup! That goes in the thread too. Even better if you can provide your own write-up for the detailed drop-down, or at least a brief, overall picture of the mod's strengths and drawbacks to make things easier for Trekkers when he comes to do the write-up (this also applies to mods that are in the guide, but don't have their detailed information filled in yet. I will endeavour to update these frequently, but after the amount of work the base guide has already taken, I make no promises!). You will, of course, be credited if you provide this.


It's a change log!
- Minor updates to the write-ups of Anvil Industries, Diable Avionics, Galaxy Tigers, Mayasuran Navy, and Vayra's Ship Pack to account for their most recent updates.
- Major update to the write-up of Sanguinary Anarchistic Defectors. Added Vesperon Combine to the sub-factions section of the non-adjacent modlist as Sanguinary's blueprint-farming aspect has been substantially nerfed.
- Major update to the write-up of Hazard Mining Incorporated. Mod is no longer vanilla-adjacent and is presently in a bit of a state of upheaval, so has for the moment been moved to the optional factions section of the non-adjacent modlist.
- Added entry and detailed write-up for Xhan Empire.
- Removed entry for Kipling Radiative, as the mod is defunct.
- Done some additional work on cleaning up FAQ wording.

- Added detailed write-up for Anvil Industries.
- Added entry and detailed write-up for Torchships and Deadly Armaments.

- Added detailed write-ups for Galaxy Tigers, Transponder Reminders, and Grand Sector.

- Added Starship Legends, which was missing from the initial release of the guide because I'm a dumb and didn't notice.
- Started work on cleaning up wording and formatting.


A big thankyou to Vayra for her support and excellent advice, to Scarlet-MagicianX26 for his assistance with editing and on the write-ups for ApproLight and Yuri Expedition, to Monarda for his assistance with editing, and to Avanitia for helping with proof-reading. More general thankyous also to Gwyvern, isaacssv552, Nia Tahl, Sozzer, MesoTroniK, lolghurt, and others besides. Without the support (and, occasionally, galvanizing derision) of the community, this mod guide wouldn't have been possible.

Bug Reports & Support (modded) / Fatal issue destroys the game slowly
« on: December 06, 2019, 04:51:42 AM »
In a classic case of "why me?" of the sort that seems to be a weekly occurrence within my cursed family, I've encountered a fatal issue that only one other person on the Discord, Morgan, professes to have encountered before.

What's happening is that I've realized that every time I load up the game, it loads up more slowly the next time, even with the exact same set of mods active. A modlist that once took less than a couple of minutes now takes over eight. There appears to be no way of halting or reversing this degradation, as Morgan reports that not even a complete reinstall fixes it. Morgan also reports that the issue can be transferred to a new PC by transferring across a save file from the old one. However, removing my save files on the current install did not resolve the issue.

It doesn't take a great deal of imagination to realize that, as this process continues, the game will eventually become unlaunchable. I guess this is my reward for working tirelessly to try and assist the modding community...

Without a solution to this issue, this is likely where my Starsector journey ends.

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