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Minecraft Mod Examination: Smart Moving
Exploration and survival are two of the most valued parts of the Minecraft experience, and movement is the key to them both. But without tweaks, the player's ability to move about is limited and sometimes quite ridiculous-looking. Climbing hills involves hopping up slopes, swimming requires the player to bob up and down in the water, and one can even climb up ladders and vines backwards, without ever touching their hands to the rungs. Furthermore, unless the player is sneaking, their in-game model will stand straight up at all times, without moving their arms in any way unless the player uses a second action, such as digging. There are a handful of mods that improve upon some of these flaws, but most of them do so as part of a larger project, and do nothing to enhance the game's laughable animations. Thankfully, there is Smart Moving, a mod not only improves the way that players move, but also adds in and animates almost every type of movement one can possibly perform.
Many of these extra ways to move greatly enhance player's options in the game. For instance, one can now lie flat on the ground and crawl through single-block tall openings, allowing for crawlspaces to be built that most monsters cannot enter. Players can also prepare themselves for a moment and jump twice as high as they normally could, then grab and crawl up onto a ledge above them, allowing one to potentially climb up to four meters without using any ladders. Or they could build their home in the side of a cliff, make a small indent in the wall between it and another ledge, then hang from that and sidle along it to get to and from their house. A player can even dangle their character from the bottom of iron bars and have them move along the cieling, allowing for some unique "bridges" that cannot be crossed by any monster that lacks the ability to fly or teleport.
But specialized travel is not the only addition to the game, there have also been a few tweaks and additions to more common types of movement. Swimming now controls rather differently, as players move up and down as well as forward depending on where their crosshair is pointing, and they no longer need to hold the jump key to prevent themselves from sinking to the bottom. Both creative mode and magical flight have received a similar change, and movement is much more natural and comfortable for adventurous types. And players can now sprint at high speeds instead of just sneaking, walking, and running, and by holding the same sprint key, they can climb up blocks that are at head height or lower, making travel much faster and meaning that they no longer have to jump up every tiny rise in the landscape.
Most of the animations that the mod touches have been made from scratch, and each of these looks excellent. When in the water, players will use the breaststroke while below the surface and the crawl whenever their head is above water. On land they can worm their way through the grass, or catch themselves on the edge of a cliff and slowly drag the rest of their body up. New animations for ascending ladders have also been included, and players now appear to use the rungs while climbing and will fall if they face in the opposite direction. Those flying about in creative mode or through mods will do their best Superman impersonation, with their arms stretched out in front and their legs straight behind. While not all animations have been replaced, and some of the mod's actions such as climbing single-block rises use a few of the old animations, in general players move through the world in much more believable ways.
Even though Smart Moving does not require the player to find special items or build anything to access their new powers, it can gate the player's actions through a new and optional stamina system, represented as a series of lightning bolts above the food bar. Most of the new types of actions such as sprinting or climbing will deplete this bar, preventing them from using the more impressive actions for a few seconds. Stamina regenerates slowly while not performing exhausting movements, and almost instantly while standing still, so even though players will often need to pause and catch their breath, it never significantly slows the gameplay. And while running out of stamina may lead to unpleasant situations such as if one is caught out at night, on normal movement mode it only drops one's capabilities back to almost what they would be without this mod installed, so most players will not be seriously hindered by exhaustion.
There are a lot of great tricks added by Smart Moving, and it certainly deserves to be tried at least once, however there are a handful of problems that might prevent players from using it. While outright conflicts between Smart Moving and other addons are rare, most mods that add new graphics to player's appearance will create weird situations due to the adjusted player model. Generally mod-added armors will look just fine if they have a similar build to the game's original ones, but sheathed swords, hats, robes, and other objects that add to the player model will not correctly connect to the character. While none of these graphical issues have any actual effect on gameplay, and are only visible by other players or in third person, it can be highly distracting to see that your friend's shield is lodged in their belly or their hat is floating above their shoulder. Another problem is that while the new swimming and flight controls look and feel great in survival, they are not as accurate as the original options in creative mode, and certain situations such as backing up while flying can feel much less intuitive. And finally, even though all the new forms of movement work regardless of perspective, there are no new animations added to first-person view, so players will appear to float up cliffs and still swim with their right hand stretched out in front of them.
While there are several mods that enhance movement in some way, Smart Moving is by far the most fully-featured and commonly updated option of all. Its enhancements to the way that players handle terrain are all great additions, and the new animations bring characters to life in a way that looks like it could have been part of the game from the beginning. It functions just fine with almost all other mods, and the new styles of movement lend themselves well to multiplayer adventures. Currently there are versions of it for all Minecraft patches from release all the way to version 1.8, and there is no sign that the developer ever plans to put a stop to Smart Moving.