Diecast #210: Mods

By Shamus Posted Monday May 14, 2018

Filed under: Diecast 70 comments

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Show notes:
00:00 Let’s talk about modding!

Spoiler: We don’t begin to scratch the surface of the topic here. We focus a lot on the PC modding scene and don’t talk much about ROM hacks and the like.

06:02 Game unplayable without mods?

I wish I’d thought of this answer during the show, but Garry’s Mod strikes me as being a game that exists as a platform for mods and would be more or less pointless without them.

11:00 Games that would be ruined by modding?
14:03 Games that would benefit from modding.

As promised, here is what the game looks like with a shaderpack installed:

I love it.
I love it.

To install this:

Get the Feed the Beast legacy launcher. Once you have it installed and running, find a modpack that sounds fun. I’m currently playing Direwolf20 for Minecraft 1.12.2Not sure if I’m into Direwolf yet. I just started.. Launch the game, make sure it works.

Exit the game and you’ll go back to the FTB launcher. Press the button that says “Open Modpack Folder”. That will open up an Explorer windowYeah, all of these directions are for Windows PC. If you’re on another platform you’ll have to figure this out for yourself. Good luck! that shows all of your mods. (There will be a lot.) Get a version of Optifine that matches the version of the modpack you’re running. If you’re playing Direwolf20, that’s 1.12.2. Download the file (you should get a .jar file) and place it in the folder you opened up a minute ago.

Fire up the game again. If you’re very lucky, it will work. If not… I have no idea. Sorry. It either means you downloaded the wrong version of Optifine, OR Optifine is randomly incompatible with one of the other dozens of mods.

Fire up the game again. Yes, it takes five minutes to launch. Yes, every time. Yes, that’s absurd and even allowing for the inefficiencies of Java that’s probably a good order of magnitude larger than it should be. Like Paul said on the show, the world REALLY needs a version of Minecraft with native mod support.

Once you’re in the game (like, go into a world, not just at the menu) go to options » Video Settings » Shaders. This will take you to a screen where you can choose which shader you want to use. You don’t have any yet. There are dozens. Some are fantastic. Some are silly. Some are really slow. Many are broken. I’m currently using Wisdom shaders, which has these wonderful moving clouds.

From this shader-selection screen in Minecraft you can open up the shader folder. Do so, then take the shader you downloaded and put it in there. At this point you should be able to switch to the shader without needing to restart the game. Sometimes changing shaders will force the game to dump and reload all texture data, which takes a good 30 seconds. It will feel like MC locked up, but it should still be good. Wait it out.

I don’t know if this will work for you, but that’s the procedure I follow. Good luck!

33:36 Mailbag: Programming

Dear Diecast,

my friends are fond of saying “the only good code is your code, and only if you’ve worked on that codebase continuously / from the beginning”. Do you agree with that sentiment?

And on a related note, is there one thing you just wish every programmer would do or stop doing, and if so, what is it?

Best regards,

47:57 Mailbag: Short games.

Minit?Other short games?
Short DL

Here is the review of Minit.

And here is Superflight:

Link (YouTube)



[1] Not sure if I’m into Direwolf yet. I just started.

[2] Yeah, all of these directions are for Windows PC. If you’re on another platform you’ll have to figure this out for yourself. Good luck!

From The Archives:

70 thoughts on “Diecast #210: Mods

  1. Olivier FAURE says:

    Re: “natively moddable Minecraft”, there’s always Minetest, which is one of Minecraft’s most prominent open-source knockoffs.

    Long story short: it has very little production value on every level, little creative vision, and the modding community kinda of revolves around “Here are 3000 slightly different ores, furniture cubes and zombie-shaped monsters! See how different from Minecraft we are?”.

    Good open-source games are rare.

    1. Ben Deutsch says:

      Ah, someone beat me to the Minetest post :-P

      Yeah, everytime I hear “Hey, what if Minecraft were written in C/C++ and had an official modding API?”, well … that’s Minetest in a nutshell. With Lua as modding language.

      Interesting observation: Minetest mods are not as powerful as Minecraft mods, since the latter are basically changing the Minecraft core engine, by necessity. Minetest mods are constrained to the API. On the other hand, that makes installation of MT mods trivial and (mostly) stable between version changes.

      1. Olivier FAURE says:

        Yeah, low production values aside, Minetest’s mod API and toolbox doesn’t really lend itself well to doing… well, anything except 3000 slightly different ores, furniture cubes and zombie-shaped monsters.

        I wanted to make a tower defense game at some point; I gave up on the idea when I realized there were no native mobs, the most popular mobs mod didn’t have pathfinding, and I really didn’t feel like implementing A* in lua.

        1. Ben Deutsch says:

          Ooh, too bad, that sounds really interesting!

          Yeah, the mob thing is odd – there are a few “unofficial standards” out there, but no one definite API. I think people are working on unifying something, but I haven’t been keeping up lately. Here’s hoping!

  2. Paul Spooner says:

    Wish I had remembered during recording, but the quintessential example of “Games that would be ruined by modding” is Calivinball.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Isnt calvinball essentially Modding:The game?With the only rule being that all the mods are mandatory.

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        Yep. Game design is the ultimate meta-game.

  3. Philadelphus says:

    Typo: “Exporer window”

    Ah yes, Minecraft shaders. I’ve played around with them a few times, but I never ended up sticking with them. Probably ’cause I could use that memory for another couple of gameplay mods, heh.

  4. Joe says:

    Some people have worked out how to mod Borderlands, but I’ve never touched those. The BL games are barely balanced as they stand, they don’t need OP weapons.

    I discovered mods during the Quake 2 days. A couple of good ones were wild west weapons, with all the regular weapons replaced by their rough equivalents. IIRC, the BFG was replaced by a cannon. I tried rocket jumping with it, but couldn’t get the timing down.

    The other highlight was one that brought Wolfenstein and Quake levels into the game. It wasn’t finished when it ran into legal trouble and got shut down. I saved the files, but not in their proper directories. I couldn’t reinstall it even if they worked with the modern version of Q2.

    Your talk of documenting code reminded me of a personal prose lowlight. I have one story I started where I loaded good old chekhov’s gun, but later forgot where I was aiming it. Basically, what the symbols on a person’s clothing meant. They were Norse runes. Was I just going for letters, or the runes meaning, or something else? I have no idea, and it’ll forever annoy me.

  5. Droid says:

    Of course Bethesda’s core gameplay loop is implemented through their modding system!
    Their game’s core gameplay loop IS modding and then playing those mods.

    What do you mean you can play the game before any mods are installed? You mean like a test mode? Running around in an empty level?

    1. DGM says:

      You joke, but I find vanilla Elder Scroll games intolerable. The only one I ever finished (or even came close to finishing) was Morrowind, and that only when I sped everyone and everything up and replaced the vanilla leveling system with one of my own design. I enjoyed the game a lot with those changes, but I never would have gotten far without them.

      1. Liessa says:

        I love Morrowind, even without mods, but I’d be the first to agree that it’s a really slow start. I almost gave up after the first few hours, but persevered and found myself getting more and more into the story and lore. Wasn’t very impressed by any of the other ES games, though I did manage to finish Oblivion.

        It’s weird how totally different all the Elder Scrolls games are from each other. I once heard someone theorise – and I tend to agree – that there’s no such thing as an ‘Elder Scrolls fan’ as such, just fans of one or more individual games. Even among the people who’ve played everything in the series, most of them seem to think that either the first or last couple of games are utter crap – I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone who actually likes all of them.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          When all the games are this dissimilar from each other, it’s pretty difficult to enjoy all of them. There’s nothing wrong with picking and choosing what entries in a series to enjoy – comic fans have been doing that for decades! :)

        2. Jennifer Snow says:

          I’ve liked all of the Elder Scrolls games that I’ve played: Daggerfall, Morrowind, Oblivion, Skyrim. I also enjoyed Fallout 3 and Fallout 4. But I generally find their jankiness endearing.

        3. DGM says:

          >> “I love Morrowind, even without mods, but I’d be the first to agree that it’s a really slow start.”

          I don’t mean that it has a slow start. I mean you crawl around the world like an ant. Even the Boots of Blinding Speed don’t do quite enough on their own. Greatly increasing my movement speed was vital to preserve my sanity (and I boosted everything else’s move rate proportionally to keep things fair).

  6. Rosseloh says:

    Those instructions are……about a million times easier than the last time I researched Minecraft shaders.

    Guess I might be getting back into it soon if that’s the case.

    1. CJK says:

      It’s actually much simpler than that if you don’t care about other mods and just want vanilla but pretty.

      Download and run the OptiFine installer. It patches everything and sets up the required launch options automatically. Drop your shaders into the right folder, run the game, and turn them on. Done.

  7. Ninety-Three says:

    Re: Game unplayable without mods, Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines, is literally unplayable without mods. They still sell it on Steam, but the game has a built-in check for how much free memory your computer has, and if you run it on a modern machine, memory has changed enough that it can no longer read correctly and this 2004 game will complain that you don’t have 80 megs free. You need to mod your way around this check just to make the game launch.

    1. Liessa says:

      The GOG version has one of the bugfix mods built in, IIRC.

    2. Ander says:

      That reminds me of paying Halo 1 on a modern system. It can’t recognize the graphics card, so it warns you that your graphics system is out of date.

      1. Boobah says:

        I was playing Wing Commander 3 shortly after it came out, and it told me there was an error when it tested the CD-ROM drive’s access time, because it was way faster than a 2x drive and that was as fast as they came.

        The drive was a brand new 4x CD-ROM.

        For folks pushing videogaming’s envelope, it still seems weird that Origins would drop the ball like that. Then again, maybe it was a kind of ego stroking, since the setup didn’t crash or anything and just asked whether you’d like the game to treat the drive as a single or double speed.

  8. John says:

    It’s funny you should mention mods. I was browsing Street Fighter IV costume mods just last night. Some of them are just texture or color changes, but others are much more ambitious. You can put some characters in Mass Effect costumes, for example. My favorite, however, has got to be the “Vanilla Sagat” mod. It turns Sagat–normally a large, angry-looking kick-boxer–into a soft-serve ice cream cone. I’d never install it myself, but it’s absolutely hilarious and I’m delighted that it exists.

    1. Nimrandir says:

      Huh. Is there an O. Sagat mod that turns him into a giant letter that launches punctuation marks at your opponent?

  9. Gordon says:

    Surely you at least had UI mods for those first play troughs of Skyrim and Oblivion

    1. somebodys_kid says:

      The default Skyrim UI is intolerable, unusable, and otherwise completely useless. I cannot imagine even attempting to play it without SkyUI.

      1. Droid says:

        Remember the vanilla Oblivion UI?

        Compared to that, Skyrim’s UI was a gift from the gods.

      2. Nimrandir says:

        See, I read statements like this, and I wonder if I am the world’s least discerning gamer. I’ve put more than five hundred hours into each of Oblivion and Skyrim, with a minimum of issue with either interface.

        Maybe it’s because I play both games on console, and the UI’s were designed for those?

        1. Droid says:

          Most definitely. Playing on PC (without a controller) is where you really feel the clunkiness, where it seems like you have to fight the UI for every little thing you want to do with it.

          Imagine if the only way to use the UI on your console were to use your d-pad (yup, not the stick, the d-pad) to point a mouse cursor at the thing you wanted to use, and then after each click, it resets the mouse to the upper left corner of the screen. Whenever you drink a potion, loot an item, switch a menu, etc.

          Oh, and dragging the map would be accomplished by pointing the cursor onto it, clicking, and then moving the cursor around (very, VERY slowly).

          And of course, every item in the menu is really, really small so that you have to be precise not to miss and accidentally equip or consume something you really didn’t want to.

          1. Nimrandir says:

            Funnily enough, I started playing Oblivion again recently on my Xbox, and map scrolling uses the right stick and is slow as molasses. I suppose Bethesda screwed that one up for everybody.

        2. Jennifer Snow says:

          Or the complainers are using wild hyperbole as usual.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Hyperbole on the internet?Inconceivable!

          2. Nimrandir says:

            That’s definitely a fair point, but I hear this particular piece of hyperbole from just about everyone. By the time I read/hear the sixth person whose opinion I respect describe SkyUI as essential, I tend to give the idea some credence.

          3. Hector says:

            Even if you didn’t initially think the default UI was bad, if you get an upgrade via mod you tend to suddenly realize jut how bad the vanilla design was. Skyrim, and even moreso Fallout 4, have *ridiculously* bad interfaces. Once you’ve tried out something like SkyUI, it’s almost impossible to go back. It’s also a huge time-saver, as these games tend to wind up with a silly amount of inventory management.

          4. modus0 says:

            IIRC, the default Skyrim UI has an issue with mouse selection in that the boxes for selecting anything in the menu are misaligned, resulting in you either getting a different item, or no response from the UI if you don’t click in just the right spot.

            1. Matt Downie says:

              Did they never fix that?

              I feel like I probably played Skyrim through unmodded. It becomes tolerable once you get comfortable with a ‘workflow’, like using the menus keyboard only, until you don’t even think about it any more.

  10. Droid says:

    Crepuscular Rays / Light Shafts.

  11. Gordon says:

    I’d love to see your dream Minecraft modpack. Your tastes sound a lot like mine and I’m looking for inspiration for my wife and I’s next play through.

    The things we look for are more progression in like everything to provide more direction to things.
    Stuff to make the world less empty (Biomes o Plenty and Harvestcraft are nice in that regard and Millénaire looks very promising).
    Decorative and furniture mods (Bibliocraft and Chisel are old staples)
    And a solid industry base that isn’t too OP (I particularly like mods where you essentially end up building bigger machines from multiple blocks, but not in a “multiblock” way, for example this Rotarycraft monster http://www.minecraftforum.net/forums/mapping-and-modding-java-edition/minecraft-mods/1291655-reikas-mods-tech-worldgen-civilization-and-more?comment=20252)

  12. Milo Christiansen says:

    Your technical term for “god rays” is “Crepuscular rays”.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Droid beat you to it, but thanks!
      After looking up the synonyms, I think my favorite is “sunbeams” for both concision and coziness.

      1. Milo Christiansen says:

        Ahh, darn. I scrolled down through the comments, and somehow missed that one. Oh well.

  13. evilmrhenry says:

    Creating a modpack is actually super-easy in the Twitch launcher. So easy, even I can do it.

    Quick version:
    * Hit the Create Custom Profile button.
    * Open the profile
    * Hit Get More Content
    * Select the mods you want.

    It’s pretty easy to upload it so that other people can play it as well.

  14. evilmrhenry says:

    With regards to Braid mods, I can see why nobody made anything. People play Braid for the story more than the mechanics, and adding to a story isn’t really accepted in the same way as adding to a mechanic. Braid doesn’t have mods for the same reason Gone Home doesn’t have mods.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Do either of those games have total conversions?

      1. evilmrhenry says:

        There are no mods for Gone Home whatsoever. (There’s a fake mod called Gun Home, but it’s just a video.) It turns out that there are Braid mods, though. They look to mostly be level packs.

  15. toadicus says:

    KSP is easily moddable not so much because of anything intrinsic about the language in which it was written, but because the developers intentionally built a mod loader into their game. It uses C#’s strong introspection features to find pluggable classes, loads them up as directed and feeds them into Unity. All you need to start modding KSP is a look over their [KSPAddon] attribute (and a .NET compiler).

    You can build this sort of functionality into any engine if you work at it, but C# does make it easier to do in a really structure-agnostic way.

  16. Daemian Lucifer says:

    You know which company is the weirdest when it comes to modding?Firaxis.Oh,not because they do something weird with mods,far from it.They are pretty open to it,and have even employed modders when making some expansions.Thats pretty standard.But firaxis is owned by 2k games,who arent that mod friendly.Heck,they arent even that single player friendly,and yet firaxis keeps doing their thing.Im always fascinated by the interactions between those two,especially when compared by some other similar entities like ea and bioware.

    1. John says:

      As long as Civilization continues to sell, Sid Meier has cart blanche.

  17. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I am still around.The game is stars in shadows .And while it does support modding,Im not into mods so I have not tried how well that feature works.I like the expansions though.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Yeah, this game definitely looks like the true successor to the throne of MOO2. :)

  18. turcurudin (Dave B.) says:

    I would agree that modding can be a bad choice for competitive multiplayer games, but some of the most popular competitive games now were born out of mods. Remember DOTA? It was a mod for Warcraft 3. How about Team Fortress? According to Wikipedia, it was originally a mod for Quake.

    Maybe we need to distinguish between mods that change a few things and break the game balance, and mods that essentially create a completely new game.

    1. Droid says:

      I think the distinction is better made between “games that are/were mods” and “games that allow modding”. One means they were built using an existing engine/ base game, the other one implies that they have no checks in place to disable or ban people who mod the program they published, be it a mod for another game or its own thing.

      There is a lot of overlap in that most games in the first category also belong to the second, but not necessarily.

      1. turcurudin (Dave B.) says:

        I was trying (and should have made this more clear) that I was responding to the hosts’ opinion that multiplayer games should not allow mods because they might split the player base. I wanted to offer a few counterexamples of mods that, while they probably did split the player bases, became hugely popular games in their own right.

        With that hopefully more clear, I’ll try to speak more directly to your comment. If I understand your point correctly, the distinction should be between a mod that adds a new map or tweaks some game rules, and one that is essentially a different game that uses the same engine. I think that’s a good distinction to make. It certainly clarifies some of the ambiguous ways that the word “mod” gets applied. Maybe we need a new word for total-conversion mods.

        1. Droid says:

          Heh, no, my point was different, but mainly because it was completely wrong. You pointed out DOTA as a Warcraft 3 mod, and as I had never played WC3 against someone else, I just couldn’t make the connection that it was (once) a competitive multiplayer game. Same thing for the original Quake.
          It just didn’t occur to me, so your point made little sense without that.

          1. turcurudin (Dave B.) says:

            Well, I have no idea if vanilla WC3 was ever popular as a multiplayer game, so maybe it was a bad example.

    2. Mike says:

      How about Team Fortress? According to Wikipedia, it was originally a mod for Quake.

      I love that you’re referencing Wikipedia like this, and I’m here thinking; “Yeah, that was my favourite Quake mod for years and is still my favourite version of Team Fortress ever

      I agree with the idea that a balance change is different than a total conversion. I guess the obvious thing with gameplay tweaks in competitive games is that if the tweaks make the game worse or don’t work well, then people aren’t going to play with that mod as a community.

      Unreal Tournament had all kinds of “mutators” (mods) which changed game balance and we typically only used the ones we felt worked well for those of us playing at any given time (LAN gaming FTW). I’m fairly sure I wouldn’t exclude mods based on it’s status as competitive or not. But I guess it depends on the particular game.
      In PUBG, for example, mods are called “cheats” and get you banned. I agree with this distinction, but I’m not sure I can articulate it in brief…

      1. turcurudin (Dave B.) says:

        I’m not trying to make you feel old, but I cited Wikipedia because I didn’t get into online multiplayer games until the Orange Box… It should have occurred to me that Shamus might have fans who played the Quake mod.

        1. Mike says:

          Haha, no worries. I am kinda old :)

          OrangeBox was a good time to get into it, of course. TF2 was a fun game. I suppose it still is… haven’t played it in ages.

    3. Fabled says:

      Maybe we need to distinguish between mods that change a few things and break the game balance, and mods that essentially create a completely new game.

      I briefly dabbled in the Civ 5 competitive multiplayer scene, and at least in the circles I was observing using a specific community multiplayer balance mod was considered mandatory. Due to how the game worked it was able to verify all players were running the same version of the mod to keep version mismatch / cheating under control.

      1. Droid says:

        It doesn’t so much check for matching versions of the mod as it just has a big tendency to crash whenever there is a version mismatch, which … I mean, yeah, that technically falls under your description since being able to play longer than 5 rounds means you probably all had the same version, but it’s the worst possible way to assert something like this.

        At least that’s what happened when I and my friends played and screwed up the installation/uninstallation a couple different ways.

  19. modus0 says:

    I don’t know if you’re aware, Shamus (it sounded like you weren’t), but both Xcom: Enemy Unknown and Xcom 2 have quite a few mods available. Xcom 2 even has an official mod interface included that makes adding mods more or less drag and drop.

    1. Shas'ui says:

      XCOM 2’s Mod support was quite impressive, with full steam-workshop support similar to Skyrim. In addition to balance/improvement mods, there is also an absurd amount of soldier customization mods.
      Why? Because while fighting aliens as a generic human resistance group is fun, fighting aliens with a squad composed of HK47, Garrus, Bob Ross, and Gordon Freeman (voiced by Freeman’s Mind) is a entirely new level of fun.

      Even more unusually, there are mods to add back in annoyances from Enemy Unknown, because some people couldn’t stand not having Dr Vahlen yell at them whenever they used grenades.

  20. Mopey bloke says:

    I’m a fan of 1990’s RPGs, and now most of the time I play one of those now I mod it to get some better UI, and possibly bug fixes and translation fixes.

    Romhacks have replaced a few vanilla games from the period. Even games that everyone loves like Super Metroid, when people actually play them, they decide they’d rather have some GBA physics instead.

  21. Chris says:


    Best space 4x since MoO2 and it has modding.

    I am not sure how familiar you are with Paradox grand strategy games (Crusader Kings, Europa Universalis, etc), Stellaris takes a lot of interface and basic game mechanics from those games and fuses them to classic space 4x, for example its not turn based but pausable realtime. Of those grand strategy titles it is by far the most accesible though.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Eeehhhh…..Its good,but Im not sure if its the best.Galactic civilizations are great,space empires are also good,endless spaces are nice,star ruler 2 has mechanics never seen before,but the original sword of the stars was really amazing.

  22. Echo Tango says:

    One short game I’ve played recently (albeit one without any story), is Mini Metro. It’s a game on Steam, where you basically make subway/train lines from stop to stop. The really cool part about it, is its graphics look exactly like a stylized metro map. Sharp colors, and straight lines everywhere! :)

  23. Galad says:

    Well, I’m gonna buy pretty soon Neverwinter Nights EE, solely on the hope that the Steam Workshop will make it worth it revisiting that old love.

  24. melted says:

    One of you mentioned The Sims and how it used to have a big modding community, with people putting up mods for free–it still does! Modthesims dot info is what I think of as the “main” modding site for The Sims 2-4, but there are others–communities, and people just hosting their own sites with their own mods and/or tutorials. Modthesims is entirely free (it runs off of donations and ads) and when I was in the community several years ago there was a bit of animosity towards paysites.

    And you can get all kinds of stuff. Cosmetic things like recolors, clothes, buyable items, ground textures, etc., as well as things that change the behavior of the game (both little fixes and major things). There are also a bunch of tutorials for making and editing items, making animations, and programming with Sims-specific tools.

  25. Malimar says:

    I’ve been playing The Sims 3 recently, and it’s literally unplayable (it gets to stopping every few seconds) without a mod or two to clean up bugs that slow the system down.

    For fun, I personally mod Crusader Kings 2 (my most ambitious mod involved an elaborate swath of different kinds of immortality including vampirism); I don’t play anybody else’s mods for it. Sometimes I’ll fiddle with Dwarf Fortress (made the dwarves willing to eat the flesh of goblins and carve their bones into decorations, back before the possibility to make that change was removed).

    Games that I play other people’s mods for include Civilization 4 (I play the Fall From Heaven 2 mod exclusively), and I used to use downloaded The Sims 2 mod content.

  26. EwgB says:

    I realize I am almost two years too late to the discussion, but I had to share it with somebody, so here goes. When Shamus talked about the JPEG decoder, I had Vietnam-style flashbacks to my previous job. I was working on a bug where our 3 millions lines of code backend would stumble on some random JPEGs with an error message that didn’t really make sense after a cursory check (it said “Progressive JPEG not supported”, which seems straightforward enough, but it would happily accept other progressive JPEGs). So I went on a long debugging session, to find that we used some fairly common Java library to parse JPEGs, but if it couldn’t read them, we would use a JPEG parser written years ago by someone no longer with the company (you see the similarities), which in fact did not support progressive JPEGs. And during that whole ordeal I tried to understand that parser and the JPEG format itself, which are as it turns out both works of madness, summoned from the pits of hell. So maybe every JPEG parser is crazy because JPEG itself is?

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