Modding:Modding Basics

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This article will show you the steps you need to take before you can start actually modding, and also the steps you can take after you are done modding, to pack and publish your mod.

You will need a text editor, and optionally, for easier packing and unpacking of mods and assets, ModPackHelper (available for Windows and Linux). Do not use a word processor such as MS Word instead of a text editor. Also do not use the basic notepad.exe, as it does not support UNIX line endings. Only UTF-8 is supported, other encodings are likely to cause crashes.

Step 1 - Unpacking Assets

Furious Koala introduced a .pak format which improves loading times and eases mod distribution. This means we need to unpack the assets before we can start modding.

Note - This step will not remove or change your packed.pak file, but simply extract its content for use as reference material. Changes you make to the unpacked assets will have no effect on your game.


Current as of Version 1.2.2, January 18th, 2017

  1. Open up the main directory folder for Starbound.
  2. Shift + right-click within the folder and select Open Command Prompt or equivalent (depends on Windows version).
  3. Type the following into Command Prompt: "win32\asset_unpacker.exe" "assets\packed.pak" "UnpackedAssets"
  4. Command Prompt will do nothing until asset_unpacker.exe has finished. There are no progress updates.
  5. Once Command Prompt displays a message equivalent to this, "Unpacked assets to UnpackedAssets in 250.063s," you can close the program and move on to creating mods.


  • If purchased from Steam, the location of the main Starbound directory folder typically looks like this: Steam\steamapps\common\Starbound
  • The text typed into Command Prompt are three directory locations:
    1. The location of asset_unpacker.exe, which is the program that does all of the unpacking.
    2. The location of Starbound assets, or Mod assets, to be unpacked.
    3. Where you want the unpacked assets to be dumped. This third string can be changed to whichever location or name you prefer.

It is advised to read the Unofficial Modding E-book instead, available on Chucklefish Forums.


Current as of version 1.3.0, June 13th, 2017

If you have purchased Starbound from Steam, then these instructions will work. Otherwise you will have to find your Starbound assets folder and apply the file paths to these instructions.

  1. Open in OS X (hopefully you have 10.7 or higher)
  2. Type cd ~/Library/Application\ Support/Steam/steamapps/common/Starbound/assets Now you are in the assets folder.
  3. You need to create a new folder here where you want your unpacked assets to end up. Type mkdir unpacked
  4. Now you need to navigate to the asset_unpacker. Type cd ../osx
  5. Type ./asset_unpacker ../assets/packed.pak ../assets/unpacked (The asset_unpacker should finish anywhere from 1 to 500 seconds depending on your computer, so let it work. If it takes longer than 20 minutes, quit and start over. If retrying doesn't work, then you have an issue external to the asset_unpacker.)
  6. In Finder browse to your unpacked folder by clicking on "Go" on the menu bar, holding the [alt/option] key on your keyboard (this will show Library, which is usually hidden), clicking on Library, then browsing to -> Application Support -> Steam -> steamapps -> common -> Starbound -> assets -> unpacked (sound familiar?).

It is highly recommended that you make a backup copy of your original, working packed.pak before you mod and pack.

To pack, do exactly the same steps as mentioned above (minus making a new folder 'unpacked'), but when you get to step 5, where you actually unpack the packed.pak file:

  • Type ./asset_packer ../assets/unpacked ../assets/packed.pak


Current as of version 1.2.3b, May 26th, 2017

  1. Open the main directory of starbound in your shell (i.e. /home/clate/.steam/steam/steamapps/common/Starbound if purchased on steam)
  2. Type the following into your shell: linux/asset_unpacker assets/packed.pak unpacked_assets
  3. linux/asset_unpacker is the path to the executable
  4. assets/packed.pak is the path to the packed assets
  5. unpacked_assets is the name of the directory, where it'll extract the files in. If the directory doesn't exist, it'll be created.
  6. There is no progress bar while unpacking, but after completion, it'll print something like this: Unpacked assets to unpacked_assets in 70.0567s
  7. After that message appears, you can close the shell (if you want to ;) ) and start creating mods.

Step 2 - Setting Up Your First Mod

_metadata file

This file is entirely optional.

Now that you have a file to tell the game that the mod will load the contents inside, the next step would be to add a _metadata file. The _metadata file is to tell the user who installed the mod the general information about the mod when they check the mod list on the Starbound title screen. This will list the username, the version of the mod, the link to the mod's page and a description of the mod along with who made it.

Inside where you put the .modinfo file, have a file called "_metadata", not "_metadata.txt"! Or else it wont work.

Open the file inside a text editor and paste this information in:

 "version" : "0.00",
 "friendlyName" : "MODNAMETITLE",
 "link" : "",
 "steamContentId" : "",
 "name" : "MODNAME",
 "description" : "This a cool mod!",
 "author" : "NAME"
Entry Description
version The version number of your mod.
friendlyname This is the name that will show up in the mod list menu.
link A URL that links to the mod.
steamContentId This is the unique id that steam uses, if you are not putting the mod up onto steam's workshop, leave this blank.
name (If anyone knows what this argument is for, please update this!)
description This is the description of the mod. type '\n' for a new line.
author The author of the mod, put in your name here.

Step 3 - Modding


Reference Pages

If you did everything right, Starbound should load your new mod the next time you run it. If the game crashes, or your changes are not found in the game, check your starbound.log file.

Step 4 - Packing your mod

Before publishing your mod, it is better to pack it as a single <modname>.modpak file. This process is recommended because it simplifies the installation (drop the file in the Starbound/mods/ folder). The alternative is to just put all the files into a zip archive.

To assemble your mod into a modpak, follow bartwe's post or use ModPackHelper:

Windows/Linux with ModPackHelper

  1. Follow what is described in #Step 1 - Unpacking Assets (Depending on your operating system).
  2. When script is launched, choose action 1].
  3. Then select the mod you want to pack (If your mod folder does not contain a .modinfo file, it will not show as a choice).
  4. Press Enter. The mod is available in the Starbound/giraffe_storage/mods/ folder as <modname>.modpak.

Step 5 - Publishing

Only one thing left to do - publish your mod! To do this, go to the official modding forums, select "add mod" in the upper right hand section, select the category of your mod, fill out the information form and hit save. It is that easy.

There are other places mods can be uploaded, or you can just share it with friends. What you do with your mod is up to you!

External links