Five Helpful Utility Mods For Any Minecraft Player
While Minecraft is a great game, its best aspect might be how relatively easy it is to modify. Its world lacks a solidified setting, which allows for fantasy, science fiction, and even anime-styled mods to fit in well, the required skill level with computer graphics is much lower than that of other popular mod-able games like Skyrim, and it can be altered to an absolutely amazing extent, with new additions as varied as tornadoes, wizardry, physics, and space travel. But while content-adding mods are great, powerful utility addons can often be taken for granted despite how important they can be. Some make inventory management easier, others give powerful commands to server operators, and there is even one that automatically backs up your world, saving it from the risk of corruption. They can solve issues common to mod users regardless what type of modpack they are using, and can even benefit those playing an otherwise unmodified game. For this reason, I have decided to compile a list of the five utility mods I see as most generally useful to players. These are in no particular order, and are certainly not all of the options out there, but are merely those that I feel are the most helpful to gamers, regardless of whether they are in single-player mode or online.
Not Enough Items
While utility mods may not be as "cool" as block-adding modifications, Not Enough Items, or NEI, is probably the most commonly used Minecraft mod of all. Even if you have never visited the mod's webpage, you have probably used NEI at some point, as it is included in almost all publicly available modpacks and has been practically since its release. It adds several important changes, but the one that most people think of is the searchable item and recipe menu. This feature allows players to simply look up items from Minecraft or any installed mods, and see what is required to build them and what each item builds into. It also allows players to search through all blocks and items that can exist in their Minecraft game whether or not they can be constructed by the player, and in creative or cheat mode, summon those items instantly. Finding items in the player's own inventory is also made easier by NEI, as players can use the same search engine to not only bring up all items that share a specific order of letters, but also darken anything in their inventory or chests that does not, allowing them to quickly find items no matter how awful their sorting habits may be.
But while the above options are usable by any players, server admins and those in single-player can access a number of helpful options by swapping to NEI's utility or cheat modes. Utility mode is aimed towards just adding a pair of useful options without changing the game too much, such as magnetizing the player, which causes all nearby dropped items to move towards them, or giving players the ability to delete items in their inventory with just a mouse click. Meanwhile cheat mode is for those who wish to access several administrator's powers through a GUI interface, rather than by typing commands in. It allows the player to swap between survival, creative, and adventure modes, cheat items in without being in creative mode, disable or enable rain and snow, fully heal themselves, or swap to dawn, noon, dusk, or midnight, all with just a button click. It also allows the player to save the current state of their inventory in one of seven slots, and by loading an inventory save it deletes any new items and adds back any old items into the player's inventory without moving them or undoing any changes they have made to the world.
While NEI is a great mod on its own, there is an addon for it that is almost as popular, WAILA. What Am I Looking At, or WAILA, is a mod that adds a series of useful tooltips for both the inventory and for the main game screen. The primary upgrade it adds is that it shows what mod a block, item, or creature is from, and allows you to just type in a plugin's name to bring up all items from that mod in NEI's search engine. It also has a rudimentary health meter for creatures, and while the bar used can be a little odd with extremely tough monsters, and is not as pretty as that used by Damage Indicators or other specialized user interface mods, it is still quite adequate for most player's needs. The mod can also reveal at what percentage of growth a crop is at, an object's identification number, and it can be adjusted to see through liquids or not. All of this can be disabled with a button press and the in-game tooltip's location can be moved to anywhere on the screen, so if you have NEI, there is little reason not to have WAILA installed as well.
Map mods are one of the most commonly installed types of addons for Minecraft, and while Voxel Map is the lightest choice, and Journey Map is the prettiest, Opis has several nice utilities the other two mods lack. As a map, it is fully functional and not only has most of the important features of the other options, but a few nice tricks of its own. It can be set to show the path that players have traveled, allowing them to quickly find places they have visited or plan a new route back to their base. The full-screen map can also be zoomed out much farther than that of either Voxel or Journey Map, which is great for dealing with larger worlds like those common on multiplayer servers. In addition, waypoints are mark-able by groups instead of as just single points, and the visibility of each of these sets can be cycled through on both the full-screen and mini-map by just tapping a button, which like the zoom setting, can be incredibly important on larger worlds.
But while the individual player's options are great, it is what this mod does for server admins that earns it a spot on this list. By just loading up the Opis command menu, a server owner can see various important statistics related to how much strain their server is under, such as how much data it is sending and receiving every second, and how long it takes for the server to generate each "tick" of data. The admin can also see the amount of pressure each chunk of land or type of entity is putting on the server, and if a problem is found they have a few simple tools that might help fix it. There is also an excellent set of useful movement options available to operators, allowing them to teleport to other players, beam people to the admin's position, move to the location of an important entity such as a mob spawner, or use the map to chose a specific point to warp to, all without typing in a long command chain. There is a lot of options and the system is a bit confusing at first, but thankfully there is a small, yet solid wiki dedicated to the mod that explains how to use most of Opis's features.
Minecraft is a great game, and it is surprisingly stable on its own, but occasionally it does crash, and when this happens it can corrupt or outright destroy worlds. Adding a lot of mods to the game generally makes this much more likely to occur, but if you add in Aroma Backup the risk of crashes becomes far less important. Aroma Backup saves a copy of the player's world into a separate folder whenever they enter the backup command, load a world up, and after a configurable amount of time has passed. It keeps a number of these backup saves before automatically deleting the oldest ones, and players can chose the folder it is saved into, the number of backups kept, and the compression level of the .zip files the saves are kept in. There is a slight amount of lag upon saving, the length of which depends on the quality of the player's system and the size of their world, but this is often light enough to play through comfortably, and unless a save is absolutely enormous, backups rarely take more than a second or two. It also works just fine on servers, and can be configured so that every player can backup the world whenever they see the need, or have that command be an admin-only power. With Aroma Backup installed, if the game crashes the player might have to redo several minutes of game play, but this a far better option than losing a world that might have had hundreds of hours put into it.
And finally there is Inventory Tweaks, a mod that attempts to make player's often cluttered inventories more manageable. The main way it does this is by instantly sorting items by type in the inventory or chest screens whenever the player presses the R or middle mouse buttons. Due to the player inventory's small size the mod only sorts it in one long string, but chests can be sorted by columns, rows, or the same string format that inventory sorting uses. Inventory Tweaks also includes some nice item-swapping features, such as automatically replacing armor if the equipment the player is wearing becomes damaged, an auto-refill option that moves new tools, weapons, and items to the player's hot-bar if their current one breaks or is used up, and it can be set to unequip items right before they are destroyed in case the player wishes to repair them. These settings can be quickly enabled or disabled through an in-game menu accessible through the inventory or chest screens, and all of the options are not only clearly labeled, but have text explaining what they do and whether server admins might object to their usage, such as with the option to auto-reequip broken armor and weaponry on player-vs-player servers.
All of these utilities should be considered for any playthrough of Minecraft, regardless of what other mods are installed. They are all incredibly useful, helping with everything from inventory management to the stability of the world itself, and for the most part are light enough on player's systems to not affect the gameplay in any negative ways. They can can work with other mods to help make them more accessible to players, or add in a few nice tweaks to aid those playing otherwise vanilla Minecraft. So whether you enjoy heavily modifying your world, or just want to make your time in Minecraft a little more comfortable, you are unlikely to regret using any or all of these mods.