My work week begins on Sunday. Write a columnI COULD write a column before this, but I don’t like to write too far ahead, because news can change and render the topic moot or my comments out-of-date., edit the Diecast, write the Sunday post. Generally in that order.
But for whatever reason, I was almost inert this Sunday. No column this week. The Diecast was late. I just… meh. I think I spent all my Ubisoft outrage in the Diecast and didn’t have any left for fueling a column. (Plus, it’s not like I haven’t done that rant before.)
So… can we talk about Minecraft?
If you’re not keeping up on the modpack scene, you might be surprised at just how far that hobby has come. The days of manually editing JAR files, resolving mod conflicts, or hacking your core Minecraft install are over. There are mod launchers these days that are completely turnkey. You fire up the launcher, pick a modpack from the list, and the launcher handles the rest. It downloads the package, and installs the mod its own directory so that each mod can have its own texture sets and saves.
The two mods I’m playing these days are MoonQuest (under Tekkit) and Feed the Beast Unstable. The latter is a sort of Alpha-build of upcoming mods. It’s supposedly unstable and unsupported, but it seems to be in pretty good shape right now.
MoonQuest is supposedly about building rockets to go to the moon. I’ve never touched that end of the mod. I actually have a low patience for mods that require complex resources for complex parts to build complex machines to process even more complex resources. I don’t mind complexity for the sake of game balance, but a lot of mods just add endless layers of busywork for its own sake. You spend half your time reading wikis and the other half juggling inventory to cope with the extreme proliferation of items. Sure, going to the moon ought to be pretty involved, but meticulously following a step-by-step wiki of recipes and maintaining a dozen chests of various crap is pretty far from the creative building stuff that keeps me coming back.
I actually installed MoonQuest just because it’s the most convenient way to get the shaders mod that gives you real-time shadows and the ability to carry light sources. I play FTB Unstable because it’s one of the precious few modpacks that’s been updated to Minecraft 1.7The vast majority of mods are still in 1.6. I strongly suspect that there’s some annoying hurdle to moving mods from 1.6 to 1.7 that’s holding the community back. and I like to use the map-framing features in 1.7 to make huge wall maps of the surrounding region.
The mods I find interesting these days:
- Tinkerer’s Construct: You build a giant smelting furnace (53 blocks) where you can smelt ore for double output and combine metals to form new alloys. You pour metal into casts to make parts and then combine parts to make better tools. So you can make a pickaxe with a bronze handle, an iron binding, and a [some fictional alloy] head, each of which affects how the tool performs and what it costs to maintain. When tools break, they don’t vanish. They just stop working, and you can go back to your shop and repair them.
Eventually you’ll get the ability to make advanced tools that will let you bash down 3×3 blocks in a swing, or cut down whole trees by breaking the base. This is a must-have for some of the crazy projects I take on.
- GLSL Shaders Mod: Yeah, this kind of breaks the intended lighting model of Minecraft. And you can get yourself into trouble with it. The game still uses the original Minecraft logic for Monster spawning. You might think you’re safe because the sun is entering through a window at a low angle to make it bright in the room, but as far as the game is concerned you’re standing in a black tunnel. Also, walls far outside your field of view don’t cast shadows (because the core game culls them from rendering) so shadows don’t work right inside of complex structures. You end up with shadows popping in and out as your turn your head.
But dangit, I just think it’s so pretty.
- ANY Minimap mod: I’m so used to having a minimap that I actually get confused when I boot up the core game and it isn’t there.
- Pam’s HarvestCraft: This one breaks the rule I gave above about not adding tons of items and recipes. But I think this is a case where it’s justified. The mod adds a ton of different crops and foods. I think the full list of fruits and veggies will almost take up a double-size storage chest. It also goes kind of overboard with kitchen utensils. (Do I REALLY need to maintain tools as distinct as “cooking pot” and “saucepan”? I can’t even be bothered to make that distinction in real life.) But it’s fun and makes farming and cooking more interesting.
This one does involve a lot of busywork, though. I expect once the charm wears off I’ll go back to ignoring it and just eating bread all the time.
- ALL THE INVENTORY MODS: The default Minecraft inventory system is atrocious, especially in survival mode. You can’t look up items. You can’t look up recipes. You can’t see what things are called, what their ID numbers are, or what devices (like the furnace) are needed to produce them. It’s a game that requires you to use the Wiki to do even the most basic things. The various inventory mods – and there are a lot of them – add tooltips, the ability to see the recipe for an item, the ability to see what recipes use the item, the ability to figure out which mod an item belongs toReally handy for those moments where you find something new and you have no idea what it’s for or if you might want or need it someday., and the ability to search for items by name.
- Iron Chest: Once you add on a bunch of mods, the default inventory and container system is no longer sufficient. There will be too much dang crap in the game and without a way to manage it all you’ll spend all your time shuffling stuff around in vast chest-rooms. The Iron Chest mod adds a bunch of tiers of new chests from iron to diamond, with increasing levels of capacity.
- Furniture: Another thing that is still astonishingly absent from core Minecraft. Given how many peopleMy kids, and basically all of their friends. treat Minecraft as a kind of first-person sims RPG, the omission of proper furniture is really puzzling. There are a couple of mods out there to (BiblioCraft is one) that add things like tables and chairs for you to build.
So that’s what I’m doing in Minecraft these days. Who else is still playing? What modpacks are you using?
 I COULD write a column before this, but I don’t like to write too far ahead, because news can change and render the topic moot or my comments out-of-date.
 The vast majority of mods are still in 1.6. I strongly suspect that there’s some annoying hurdle to moving mods from 1.6 to 1.7 that’s holding the community back.
 Really handy for those moments where you find something new and you have no idea what it’s for or if you might want or need it someday.
 My kids, and basically all of their friends.
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