Making the simple way, way too complex: Modding Minecraft

Minecraft Space Station

Space Stations happen when you lose control modding a fairly straightforward video game like Minecraft.
Space Stations happen when you lose control modding a fairly straightforward video game like Minecraft.

Space Log, 7/22/2014

I had lost track of all time and was running low on air. The sun moves so achingly slow on the moon and the days so long that conventional time-telling was useless. I craft a few more capacitors, finalize shaping sealed glass into suitable vessels for oxygen. As I hastily stuff the oxygen collector module close to life-saving harvested leaves, I check the seals on freshly-installed doors which whoosh open and shut behind me. Finally the life-support system is online, my shaking hand fumbling with the hatch while removing my space helmet.

I can breathe in space. And it occurs to me that I am playing Minecraft at a level the creator never intended.

Minecraft was created in 2009 by a Swedish company called Mojang. After massive success, updates to the game became the norm. Some fan-created modifications became actual parts of the game after Notch (the creator) liked them enough. Pistons were a specialized machinery block which automatically moved blocks around, for example, and now the block is forever immortalized in Minecraft proper.

Notch has never so much as imagined that players would load refined fuel into a space rocket to blast to the moon. That Mars would be a playable dimension. That laser-etched circuitry created using solar power would be crafted into computer chips to power technologically-enriched stations.

In the beginning you cooked meat in a furnace and never had anything more complicated than a pickaxe. And don't get me wrong, we appreciated the simplicity.

Because modding PC games used to be impossible for the average user. Actually getting deep into a file structure and modifying files was daunting, and possibly dangerous if performed by an average computer user like myself.

But when we discovered ATLauncher, a sinfully simple program which automatically loaded us with 80+ mods styled after a renowned Youtubian Minecraft adventure that shall not be named, a massive quest to the stars was in our future.

There is no way to cover it all here. But I will cover the highlights of our adventure and the mods that made the quest possible for other's enjoyment.

Also, these are all free. I'm not going to list the mod creators here personally, but I give them all the most hearty of internet hugs for molding this game in such a huge way. Their hours of time are highly appreciated.

The core: Galacticraft

Galacticraft has to be the starting point. Everything space-related is shoved into this fully-realized pack of resources. The new planets you can travel to (Earth and Mars), spaceships, the air gear you wear, the air gear you set up for breathable environments, it's all thanks to Papa Galacticraft. They even include the option for multiple space stations, which are a happy medium between moon living and the standard world. Since the space stations contain little, they spark the most creativity for unique structures.

I'm not sure where the jet-packs came from, honestly. But we could never build in space without them. The armored version even covers for the one downside, that your chest armor has to be removed. We were also spoiled by legging replacements called Free Runners, little doodads that make getting hurt by falling a thing of the past and help walk over small obstacles.

The most notable features of both new planets are the dungeons. I don't want to spoil it, but there are new bosses and several new items, including schematics to build new space inventions.

Launching your first spaceship requires so much preparation and planning. But when you shoot into the sky and land on the moon, the feeling is like nothing Minecraft could offer in a more limited state.

Archimedes Ships

So this one was largely a distraction from our main goals, but had some function. We found that even with the inclusion of jet packs, getting anywhere quickly was out of the question and we would run out of fuel pretty quickly. Jetpacks lacked forward motion, you see. Minecraft includes sea-faring boats since very early on, but they're... tiny and limited. Not only will Archimedes let you create a boat of any style and nearly any size, the option exists for airships to fly the skies at high-speed.

We mostly played with the air travel option, though the bugs were numerous. . But we didn't care. Extra storage is nearly limitless the option to pop chests onto ship platforms. For making pilgrimages to other places, the ships were invaluable. This went hand in hand with plenty of biomes, which added terrain types to the randomly generated map. So much fun.

By the way, if you lower an air ship into water it hits speedboat status. So boats are less important than they seem.

A rather wonky "Airship"

Well, at least she was functional for space travel. My attempt at re-creating Dr. Manhattan's flying Mars fortress did not render well in block-world.
Well, at least she was functional for space travel. My attempt at re-creating Dr. Manhattan's flying Mars fortress did not render well in block-world.

Applied Energistics

This mod was not with us in the beginning. In fact, the moon was becoming a distant memory as we moved back to home base on our minecraftian psuedo-Earth. Soon enough, however, we could not exist without the extra function. We found that even with my cohorts' ridiculous sorting system, which pumped items through pipes and threw them in special chests, storing all these new items added in through mods was becoming a logistical problem.

So using AE, a computer network moved into our factory space. And this is not one ancient PC sitting on a dusty shelf: the different machines in this particular system work together via pipes. After supplying a controller with power, we attached an access terminal and began putting items in. Not surprisingly, making anything in this mod is several layers of abstraction from a standard item. After creating items, which are used inside of items to create a higher item, etc., etc., we created multiple storage drives. After pounding our heads off several nearby brick walls, the mini-drives were plugged into the main drive. The result was amazing beyond comprehension. Every one of our items was indexed into one, searchable location. Talking. Thousands. The implications were earth-shattering.

Plus everything in that pack looks damn sweet.

Universal Power

Power is important when working with mods that required machinery. Unlike normal Minecraft, you don't throw burning coal at a problem until it went away. So this one actually worked to make things easier by making one type of cable that carried different power types, joules and watts could flow together from different power generators. Because wind, the sun, lava, running water, nuclear fission, steam, explosions and so much more could all be used to power systems. But by existing in different mods you had to segment your base by arbitrary rules, and that ruined the immersion. Compatibility was much needed.

Thank you very much for standardizing electricity, Universal Electricity.

Modding is really fun

That's really the bottom line. I never had this much fun playing with the regular game, though it's still a favorite of mine. There are several honorable mentions, but I'll save them for later. You can download the launcher from the link below. Go! Play!

Quick Question:

Are games made better or worse through modding?

  • Vanilla all the way. Preserve the original.
  • I want my game super-cool, and I don't care how I get there.
  • Slight modifications that don't alter the main game much are OK.
See results without voting


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