Minecraft Mod Examination: Streams Mod Alpha
Minecraft's terrain generation allows for all kinds of wondrous natural structures, such as beautiful Mesas, massive cave systems, and enormous mountains. But there is one very common type of terrain that's current implementation in the game is rather lacking, rivers. While Minecraft does have rivers in the original game, they are as stagnant as lakes, as narrow as creeks, and sometimes have large stretches within the "river" that completely lack water. There are several overall terrain generation mods such as Realistic World Generation that partially solve the last two of these problems, but until recently there has been no good way to get flowing rivers in Minecraft without somehow creating them yourself. Now though, there is a mod out that adds brand-new flowing rivers to the game's world generation, and while it is still in public alpha, the Streams mod is well worth checking out for anyone who wishes to add more interesting rivers to their world.
When these rivers are first generated they will start out as several small streams about one or two blocks wide. They will then extend out a fair distance and merge with other little streams, each time growing in size and slowly forming a decently wide river. These streams and rivers will drop in elevation every twenty or so blocks, and eventually the river will end in some kind of sea-level water source, which might be the ocean, a lake, or even one of the Minecraft's old rivers. There is a lot of variety in the total shape of the rivers, some are nearly straight, others bend enough to almost merge with themselves, a few are almost as flat as the old rivers, and there are even some absolutely ridiculous waterfalls in the more mountainous areas of the game. Unlike player-built rivers, these streams will stay at full height and flow regardless of their length or any changes in elevation, and the water will always curve correctly so that floating objects will eventually drift down to wherever the river ends.
These rivers work by generating areas with special water blocks that are already flowing in one of seventeen different directions. This allows the mod to overcome Minecraft's pre-existing water system, which prevents water from flowing more than eight blocks on the same level. This potentially allows for infinitely long flowing rivers, though while the current streams can cover half a biome or so, extremely long rivers are not yet implemented. You can safely ride down these rivers, and as long as you do not try to control your boat you will usually follow the river all the way to its end without catching on terrain for more than a second or two. And for those concerned about the water being new blocks, they still have all of the functionality of normal water and can be used for irrigation or picked up in buckets, though it will be turned into normal, non-flowing water when you place it back down. Currently creative-mode players cannot access these flowing water blocks, but users of Not Enough Items can, and I can see quite a lot of interesting things map-makers might do with them.
But as cool as these rivers are, there are a number of issues in the mods current state. Most of the rivers are quite small, and while you might run into a decent sized one on occasion, many only cover a couple of hundred blocks. They can also seem a little odd around Biomes O' Plenty's Alps or Canyons, or any other extremely high types of terrain. In those areas Streams quickly drops the water's elevation from near the top of the mountain to almost sea-level, and while the waterfalls that this creates can be great, the canyon walls are often as flat as if they got caught in a chunk error. There is also no configuration file and you cannot tweak the mod in-game, so you cannot choose which biomes can have streams in them, modify river width, or otherwise adjust the mod in any way. And while this mod has less world-generation lag than many, it does add tiny amount to your game, so it might need to get left out of more intensive mod setups. However, keep in mind that this mod is only in alpha, and so any problems are likely to be fixed before the developer considers it complete.
So if you want to add a bit of fun and pretty terrain to a new world, you should consider the Streams mod. It adds the the first randomly-generated flowing rivers to Minecraft, and whether you want massive waterfalls, tiny creeks, or rough rapids, you will now be able to find them in your world. The new rivers are also compatible with almost any terrain or biome mods, from Climate Control to Biomes O Plenty, and even intensive terrain overhaul mods like Realistic World Generation or Alternate Terrain Generation. And while the mod is still in alpha and does have its problems, stability does not seem to be one of them, as this writer did not encounter a single crash in over fifty hours of playtime. Streams isn't the type of mod that will change your world, but it adds a very nice effect that you cannot find elsewhere.