12 days ago - SDGNelson - Direct link

Reflecting on ten (TEN!) years of Unturned.

I like to think I’m usually pretty good about not procrastinating. I typically get started on tasks as soon as possible. As a boring example, I have all of my taxes ready by early February – three or so months before they’re due.

In the case of Unturned’s 10th anniversary I started thinking about it all the way back in December of last year. At first I was imagining interviewing as many people from the game’s history as I could, or writing an account of everything that’s happened, or something to really cement the milestone, but I kept putting it off. It’s been on my mind at least multiple times per week, but I didn’t start taking any notes or setting gears in motion.

I think I held off because I knew the 10 year anniversary was going to be an emotional time and one of the most difficult posts I’ve ever written. I’m not sure I can fully put into words why, but I’ll do my best to “put thoughts to paper” as it were, albeit in a somewhat incoherent order.

Unturned is an inseparably huge part of who I am. When I’ve received offers to sell the game, I’ve declined. In part because I know they would attempt to monetize the game more than I could bear to witness, but in bigger part because it would be selling such a piece of myself. I’ve joked Unturned is my baby, and if it is, it’s the baby I had at sixteen when I didn’t know what I was doing as a “Dad”, and that I’ve done my best to nurture since 2014 while learning and growing into an adult myself. Unturned has taken care of me as well, being something I had control over in my life, and the community providing a safe space. Not to mention entrusting me with the incredibly fortunate position of full-time self-employed game developer. A position I hope I will always remain grateful for and never take for granted.

This past week I’ve had so many memories thinking back on what a wild, tumultuous, challenging, fun era it’s been with so many great people in the Unturned community. It’s happy to think of the good times, but also sad to think some of them will never happen again – or at least not in the same form with the same people. When I turned 10 my late Grandpa said something along the lines of “from now on you’re in the double digits!” and for whatever reason that really stuck with me – I think of it every birthday – and now it applies to the game, too.

When Unturned first released, I was in high school. I did my homework in the morning before classes and rushed home to work on the game late into the evenings. In retrospect I don’t know how I pulled it off or whether I could do it again now with all my present responsibilities. Perhaps this is an advantage young gamedevs have. Sneaking in a reminder here I believe you can do anything you set your mind to! I graduated the next summer (with modest grades), and soonafter learned to drive. Notably, this was after implementing Unturned’s car physics, so perhaps that explains why they were so questionable.

I loved releasing updates every Friday. It wasn’t sustainable, but it was a lot of fun. In particular, I loved watching videos about the updates, like from MeLikeBigBoom and 2RGames. They all gave me so much motivation and I really appreciated their time with the game. It was heartwarming reading comments from kids who were excited to get home from school on Fridays eager to see what was new for the weekend.

In 2017 I started dating my first girlfriend: One of my longstanding best friends since I was thirteen. We moved three times together, and I got to live with a cat for the first time, falling in love with my “stepson”-cat Jasper (RIP). Before long I proposed and she said yes! By complete coincidence, my proposal was on July 7th as well. I knew she had a favorite beach in PEI (IRL), and we were unlikely to be there again for a few years, so it was the perfect opportunity.

RocketMod and later OpenMod’s rise to popularity took me by surprise. I’d never planned for scripting support, but Sven “fr34kyn01535” and later Trojaner’s work opened the game up to all the cool server-side creativity we see today, and taught me a lot about writing code other people use. I didn’t really know the purpose of public vs private beforehand! (The repercussions of which have been a pain in the butt.) Sven has been a longtime friend ever since.

It was so exciting to get the front page Steam banner during the release from Early Access! I think it’s pretty much the only intentional marketing we’ve done. It came about when I asked Valve whether we could do one of those mid-size popups to notify our players of the release from EA, and instead they offered the main page takeover. I felt honored to have made something Valve believed earned their highest level of promotion. I was super lucky Unturned passed through Steam greenlight during its golden era, and I feel I owe Valve a debt of gratitude for the opportunities and possibilities I had available thanks to their democratization of Steam. On a semi-tangential note I’d like to slip a thanks to Riley Labrecque here as he was almost like a hybrid mentor-friend to me following the release, and welcomed and introduced me to his professional gamedev circles. (Though I was/am a little too introverted to capitalize on it.)

Despite years of work on an innovative sequel in Unreal Engine, I indefinitely paused development, perhaps irrevocably damaging the brand and my career. With hindsight I still believe it was the right decision for the time, as my mental health has improved drastically since then. In 2017 I was first prescribed an anti-depressant which helped for sure, but in 2022 when I consciously chose to focus on my mental health and go to therapy frequently, that’s when things really started noticeably changing. I’m happier and more content nowadays than I can ever remember, more so than in my entire life, and I’m confident this trend will continue. As of about a month ago we’ve even started decreasing my anti-depressant dosage a bit. With any luck I aim to prove it’s been a worthwhile detour, and validate the kind, generous, loyal support of so many of you throughout this time.

What began as a part time gig while attending college, MoltonMontro's Avatar MoltonMontro’s role with Unturned and SDG has become as intertwined as mine. It’s hard to recall a time from before he was deeply involved with the community, and we’re now approaching 5 years with him in an official position. I don’t think anyone could have done a better job growing and cultivating the Discord, forum, wiki, and docs than him, or the vast amount of social interactions he’s helped me with, or any other number of the one-off jobs he does. I consider us lucky to have him along for the voyage, and I hope to make it a worthy trip with great destinations.

Over time every method of direct messaging (e.g., email) started to overwhelm me because I (did my best to) reply to everything in-depth. A few years ago this was taking up half my day! Now I am getting better at setting firmer boundaries, and the support and docs sites have really helped to provide thorough information by default for most cases. My day now starts with a coffee, breakfast, and reading some favorite sites before doing a couple hours of customer support. Then into the meat of development work. A tea, lunch, and supper throughout the afternoon before wrapping up work for the day and relaxation later in the evening. I’m really glad to have a routine with relatively healthy work-life balance. It’s feeling more sustainable than ever.

We’ve only done a handful of third-party collabs this entire time. Quality over quantity I suppose? The Dying Light x Unturned crossover was awesome, and even still affects gameplay with the blue garbage bags and optional volatiles. The Makeship plushies are the sole merchandise we’ve produced, and actually today we’re launching the latest campaign: an SDGNelson plushie!

My fiancee and I got married, quietly eloping together during covid-19! We purchased a condo, and I’ve taken up a variety of related hobbies. Previously my hobbies were just videogames and Lego, but I’ve greatly enjoyed branching out with some painting, woodworking, homelab, etc. My personal taste in games has changed many times across these years – probably dragging Unturned in some unusual directions. I spent more time in a wider mix of games like Dota 2, Factorio, Sekiro, Crusader Kings, Divinity: Original Sin 2, Hearthstone, and Path of Exile than I could have predicted as a mostly FPS fan in 2012.

For many years I focused on very long-term goals rewriting foundational systems, the netcode, the devkit, etc. Unity pulling the rug out from gamedevs in late 2023 was the shock I needed to refocus those efforts on nearer-term changes – like vehicle physics – that improve the game for players in the moment. And nowadays I think there’s been more interest than ever in improvements to the base game. From time to time I’ve worried whether Unturned 3 (the current version) will be the last game I make. But I’m young with at least another couple decades of productive effort ahead of me, Unturned 3 is in a more stable state, and I’ve got big plans for the series.

That’s perhaps more of my personal thoughts than you bargained for. Now I’d like to fondly mention some highlights from over the years. It’s hardly a fraction of the incredible community interactions I’ve ruminated on from this period. I’ve tried to keep it relatively brief with a couple of items in each category:

paulsoaresjr’s GangZ series – and his other survival series – are so wholesome and enjoyable to watch. I was super proud of them despite having no hand in it, and suggested them to anyone who would listen:

Toothy Deerryte’s Tales of the Unturned is one of the only fully-fledged 3D rendered cinematics in the Unturned universe, and a clear precursor to her work on the Buak map, which broke new ground in storytelling with its in-game cutscenes. Many of her videos also show the gradual development of Buak in one way or the other, a fun peek behind the scenes!

It’s been a pleasure to have our very own composer – staswalle – in the community. Their music has found its was into a huge variety of projects including a few in the base game, and these songs help add to the unity and cohesion throughout.

Unturned Blackout by P9nda was one of the first mainstream total conversion mods. Around 2018 I’d been wondering about working to enable modders to use the game as a foundation for their own creations a la Half-Life, and then a few years later it seemingly happened in an unexpected way with Blackout. It’s tragic that it was sabotaged, but really cool to have experienced nevertheless.

Tales of Terror is an awesome mod that Spyjack’s continued updating for six years! I love returning to it at Halloween to see what’s new. Where Blackout was a total conversion using plugins, Spyjack somehow pulled it off using only vanilla features, so it’s fully playable in singleplayer as well.

Dogfood has created some of the game’s most iconic mods, and their work is quintessential to the roleplaying scene. It’s always a highlight of my day to see their new content and all of the little details they pack in. There’s a good chance you’ve already seen this one, but if you’re one of the rare few who haven’t, you’re in for a treat (kind of literally) when you check out More Farming!

SirAdy and TheKnightWriter’s lore analysis helped flesh out the game’s story, making it accessible for the average player when it was otherwise rather niche and difficult to piece together. They gave me a deeper appreciation for the responsibility I have (and importance of) planning out the future vanilla lore in advance. In fact brainstorming said lore has been top of mind for many months now.

I always looked forward to listening to The Unturned Podcast hosted by cucuycharles each week! It was entertaining and such a great way to learn a bit more about members of the community. Note: If you haven’t seen it before I’d recommend starting with a later episode once they found their stride.

The MapJams organized by Animatic encouraged and sparked so much creativity in the mapping community. We’re fortunate to have had them, as each event helped surface so much mapping talent, and went on to inspire many more creations after them.

Nylex is still advancing the quality and production value of in-game roleplay movies! It’s tempting to link to one of his classic cinematic like The Nuke, but that’d be a disservice to his newer work. (OK actually I just did but it doesn’t count because I’m not stopping there.) He’s continued fine-tuning and raising the bar for blending roleplay stories with gameplay:

I can’t link to any particular curated map because there are a whopping fantastic nineteen of them! It’s remarkable to me that so many young developers have made their first commercial projects in Unturned, and I’ve been honored to watch them grow and expand their skillsets. They’ve built on the game in more creative ways than I could’ve imagined. Gradually improving upon the quality, success, and popularity to an incalculable degree. And they’ve provided hundreds or even thousands of hours of free content to millions of players – it’s hard to believe lack of content was a common complaint not too long ago.

My heartfelt thanks go out to all of the players, moderators, forum posters, server hosts, plugin devs, modders, level designers, wiki writers, cinematrographers, musicians, artists, animators, bug reporters, event organizers, content creators, translators, and all-round friendly community members who’ve made it an amazing period of our lives! If you’re reading this you’re almost certainly one of them, so I’m going to go out on a limb and thank YOU, too!

Considering we have a vibrant international community, I regret that I’ve only learned the English language (so far?). This has naturally biased my experiences towards content and players who communicate in English. Global unity is one of the themes I aimed to include in Unturned’s story, and thanks to the diligent efforts of many bilingual players – from translating the files to explaining the latest updates – the game has been played by people of many backgrounds and cultures. My thanks and appreciation to everyone worldwide!

Special thanks as well to everyone credited in the game directly for their contributions:

Alex “Rain” Storanov
Amanda “Mooki2much” Hubler
Andrii “TheCubicNoobik” Vitiv
Ben “Paladin” Hoefer
Daniel “danaby2” Segboer
Denis “FlodotelitoKifo” Souza
Dmitriy “Potatoes” Usenko
Emily Barry
Ethan “Vilespring” Lossner
Great Hero J
Joao “L2” Vitor
Josh “Leprechan12” Hogan
Joshua “Storm_Epidemic” Rist
Justin “Gamez2much” Morton
Liya “Ms.Evrika” Bognat
Maciej “Renaxon” Maziarz
Mia “Myria” Brookman
Mitch “Sketches” Wheaton
Nathan “Wolf_Maniac” Zwerka
Nicolas “Putin3D” Arisi
Nolan “Azz” Ross
Oleksandr “BlackLion” Shcherba
Riley Labrecque
Sam “paper_walls84” Clerke
Steven “MeloCa” Nadeau
Sven Mawby
Terran “Spyjack” Orion
Thom “Spebby” Mott
Toothy Deerryte
Tyler “MoltonMontro” Pope
Vilaskis “BATTLEKOT” Shaleshev
Witness Protection

And a few more for good measure:


With love ❤ from Canada. 🇨🇦