Block By Block: Modding Minecraft, Part 1

By Craig Pearson on April 21st, 2012 at 4:00 pm.

My cat and wolf are beeeeeest fwiends
Minecraft inspires you to make of it what you will, so on top of the game’s blocky rebuildingness there’s a mod-scene that does everything from minor tweaks to major overhauls. It seems like there’s a mod for every block that the game generates, and picking through them is like trying to hunt for Herobrine. So I’ve once again delved into the mod community, into the shuffling, groaning, hissing depths of Minecraft’s mods and mined for the handiest, silliest, and most dramatic. First up I’m looking at the fundamentals of the base game, and what can be done to improve the inventory, framerate, and world.

I’m modding version 1.2.5 and I run this texture pack. Before you do anything, right click your Minecraft.jar (found in .minecraft folder – use Everything to find it. In fact, use Everything for all your PC search needs) and copy and paste it. You can restore your game by deleting the original and using the copy if things go wrong. Modding Minecraft isn’t particularly intuitive. You need to mine into the game’s .jar file and cut and paste files into it. Much better to use a mod tool: SK’s Launcher takes care of the fiddly bits, allowing you to install then enable and disable mods within the .jar when you like. It does more, supporting multiple accounts, giving you access to servers you play, and letting you configure Java memory options. First thing you should use it to slam into the .jar is Modloader , which stops conflicts between other mods. Lots of mods use it as a matter of course. Once you squeeze it in you might as well forget you have it.

Forgotten it? Make sure you hit your head an odd number of times or you’ll de-amnesiac yourself. If you’re an admin on a server, you have more power than a single player does in their own game. That seems just wrong to me. Admins have slash commands that allow them to set the time of day, noclip, etc. Single Player Commands is a mod that adds access to those similar commands, plus a whole lot more. It is fairly cheaty, but while you can turn off fall damage and heal yourself, you can also stop fire from spreading and destroying a carefully planned wooden masterpiece, or enjoy setting up creeper vs zombie battles. There are tonnes of fiddles that really are useful and listing them here would use up precious joke space.

There’s a lot of overlap with SPC and TooManyItems: its GUI lets you pick and choose from the game’s items (so very cheaty), as well as allowing you to select time of day and fiddle with the weather states. I’m including it here because it also allows you to save inventory states. You can make builds for adventuring, for building, and for… hmm, what else is there? Oh god, please don’t make griefing builds!

If you promise to not cheat or grief, then I’ll allow you to use Inventory Tweaks. Think of it as an auto-sorting robot working away behind the scenes of your backpack: it’ll stack items together in your pack and replace items in your hotbar when you use them up. The more advanced tweaks will allow you to define exactly where in the hotbar items are located, so if you want all your coal in the fourth box you can have it that way. Why you’d want to is a mystery and a bad example, but when I thought up an item to place in there, my brain could only think of coal. Coal coal coal!

Segue klaxon: if you want more that just coal, then there’s Buildcraft. Actually, it doesn’t add more blocks, but it does improve on your ability to mine the existing ones and automate the smelting process. It adds pipes and engines. Pipes that can, say, be hooked up to a chest full of coal and another than can be hooked up to a chest of iron ore. Now you add the engines to those to carry both to a furnace. Where will the iron ingots go when they’re smelted? Why another pipe and engine combo can carry it to another chest. Now that’s the most basic of all the set-ups, but already you’re smiling and think ‘yes, I have a use for such a system’. So you can automate a boring grind and instead head off and play with your cat and a laser pointer. Next step: buy a cat and a laser pointer. But you can do so much more: you can even automate mining, and have the mined minerals diverted according to their minerality. I’m calling that my made up word of the day. It also has gates, wires, lasers. It’s a fairly major overhaul.

With your custom mine all up-and-running, you’re free to head off and adventure. Wow there, I’ll bet you thought you could just head-off into the unknown without any provisions. Not even a map. Here, take Rei’s Minimap with you. It’s a clear, delightfully handy minimap that sits in the top right corner of the screen. You can use it to look ahead to see the make up of the world: the differences in biomes, temperature, cave-openings. I like the ‘death point’ mode that shows where you died, because I rage hard when I die in Minecraft. So so hard.

But I’m calmed slightly by the extra biomes. Remember back when Notch was talking about adding diversity to the world the game creates? It seemed unreal and wonderful. Here’s a big chunk of more wonder aimed right at your game face: ExtraBiomesXL adds 28 new biomes, all subtly remixed from the current crop so they don’t feel out of place. For the minecraft player who just has to have forested islands, or mountain ridges, it’s a world of extra world.

And what then? If there’s more world, why not more animals? Sorry, “Mo’ Creatures“? It adds a load of creatures and associated bits of fun. Players carrying birds, for example, can use them to attack snakes. Let me get my checklist of all the fowl and fauna: Snakes? Yup. MantaRays? Yup. Stingrays? Yup. JellyFish? Yup. Goats? Yup. Crocodiles? Yup. Turtles? Yup. Scorpions? Yup. Kitties? Yup. Mice? Yup. Rats? Yup. Deer? Yup. BigCats? Yup. Lil’ Fish? Yup. Dolphins? Yup. Sharks? Yup. Werewolves? Yup. Bear? Wolf? Yup. Polar Bears? Yup. Wraith? Yup. Flame Wraiths? Yup. Ogres? Yup. Fire Ogres? Yup. Cave Ogres? Yup. Ducks? Yup. Boars? Bunnies? Birds? Foxes? Yup. Horses? Yup.

That’s a lot of creatures alright. I like that modders are happy to carry on their own tack, even if Minecraft adds a similar features. I’m not including Millenaire as a must have, but I’m glad it exists. As its remit was to make the world a bit more lived in by adding villages, and Minecraft now encompasses it, that goal is now fulfilled by More Villages it enables villages to spawn in all the biomes, and ups the percentage as well. There are three flavours, from a 25% increase, to 50%, then a whopping 75% more often. At the highest level, you basically just made Neighbours The Game.

With all that going on, you might want to help the game grab a few frames back. But how, you’re asking and shrugging and straining in a futile attempt to understand. There there, it’s okay: I only found out about Optifine today as well. It’s an optimised Minecraft, with multiple downloadable configs all with the goal of hopping on the framerate horse and spurring it, while smoothing out performance. It claims you can get up to 200% increase, which sounds suspiciously like herbal ‘potency’ tablets, but that’s from the votes from the users on the forum, so it’s at least not just the developer spouting impressive sounding stats.

Next time: Awesome utilities.

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62 Comments »

  1. mjig says:

    I just use Yogbox. Uses pretty much all those mods except for Buildcraft and more, and self installs.

    • Phantoon says:

      I just use Tekkit.

    • Craig Pearson says:

      Yeah, there’s a lot of crossover (now that I look at it). I’d rather give people mods one at a time, but Yogbox is a good add on if you’re happy to cram loads in.

    • Stromko says:

      Don’t forget the TechnicLauncher, the little wonder that makes Yogbox and all so easy to install.

      I was able to add buildcraft and its modules inside the Yogbox and it ran fine, no more crashes than unusual (and hardly any crashes since I updated to Java 7). Sometimes textures do go a bit screwy on mobs though. Ultimately though I found it a bit unnecessary, since Thaumcraft 2 and Minecolony have components that serve most of the same ends. It was an educational (and frustrating) progress to try to mod things myself, but ultimately I found the Technic, Tekkit, and Yogbox packs are separate for a reason, each more-or-less a complete experience on its own, and the launcher really saves me a lot of headaches.

    • jamezds says:

      Tablet PC phone causes a surge of panic buying after it listed!
      http://d.nynu.net/156

  2. DickSocrates says:

    Block By Block: Modding Minecraft, Part 1: Making it less crap.

    Next week, part 2: There is no part 2.

    • Chmilz says:

      Option 1: Install minecraft. Install dozens of mods to give the game purpose. Spend 100 hours on your map. Update comes out. Start again.

      Option 2: Install Dwarf Fortress. Feel ripped off that Minecraft cost you $20 and DF is free. Never play Minecraft again.

      • Joshua IX says:

        Such truth lies above.

      • Torgen says:

        When did DF saves become backward-compatible with old saves?

        • Chmilz says:

          Three answers: When DF was designed to not auto-update. When DF got to the point long ago where you didn’t have to install the latest version to get new content that makes the game have purpose. And lastly, DF ends frequently, so it’s easy to upgrade at that time and you lose nothing.

          Minecraft’s persistence is a huge flaw when so much is done at worldgen and can’t be simply added in with an update. Not that it matters, in the 16 months or so I’ve been playing Minecraft (although significantly less now) they haven’t added in one thing that made the game more fun. Enders? Ooooh, lame. Mods do more. You’d think with the many millions they’ve made, they’d buy some mod code or hire some of the best modders to incorporate added content into the game proper (Aether? Industrialcraft? I’d take something that added a couple more ores so there’s something to “mine”).

          • Universal Quitter says:

            Notch can code. What they need, what all indie gaming companies need, are good writers. People that can come up with ideas and understand how to manipulate or engage human emotion. I’m not suggesting a scripting process, but make them creative consultants, or something. I assume large companies have something to fill that role, though I can’t imagine what form it takes.

          • Phantoon says:

            Actually, the Bukkit team is now a part of the Minecraft Team, officially.

            So there has been work on that. Eventually. When they get around to finally finish fixing up Notch’s kludgeony code.

      • Boosterh says:

        Option 1: Download DF. Donate a few bucks, to support the dev. Spend 2 hours learning how to issue commands. Spend 4 hours trying to mentally adjust to the ascii map. Spend 12 on the wiki trying to figure out how to set up a basic survival economy. Restart game because dwarves ignore your commands and their own bodily needs, and then die. Finally begin to enjoy playing the game.

        Option 2: Purchase and download MC. Discover that left clicking accomplishes 90% of what you want to happen in the game. Take 10 min with the wiki to learn the dozen or so critical recipies you need. Take 15 min to set up a simple shelter, obtain some food and get some basic tools. Begin mining/farming/exploring/building a scale model Deathstar/enjoying the game.

        Not saying that DF is a bad game, but you can’t honestly try to claim that it’s better because it’s easier to get started.

      • JB says:

        Minecraft does not equal DF. DF does not equal Minecraft.

        You may has well have used CODBLOPS as an example for all the sense your example makes.

      • pertusaria says:

        Maybe there could be an RPS Let’s Play-style thing of Dwarf Fortress, then? I’ve never given it a go and am curious; I imagine that applies to others, too. I’m thinking of something a little like “A Smurf in Terraria”, coupled perhaps with more technical articles like this one.

      • Everyone says:

        OMG MY FAVOURITE GAME IS BETTER THAN YOUR FAVOURITE GAME!

    • hello_mr.Trout says:

      dwarf fortress kinda disappointed me – with all the emphasis on proceedural generation, and epic legends and passing epochs/ages, and like huge player orientated narrative and mythology kinda world building… crippled by this horrible user interface that is daunting to the uninitiated – i really wanted to like it, and get why other people love it so much, but it was just to confusing – is there any reason why the dev refuses to make it more accessible for the less leet gamers?

      • alseT says:

        Well Toady makes the game mostly for himself, then for others, so as long as his donations don’t dry up, he’ll only work on what he’s interested in. Like bodily fluids or skin and muscle tissue.

      • Dingsey says:

        Download a graphics set and dwarf therapist.

        Honestly I’ve played DF since the 40d version which must be over 2 years ago now, I can’t play without a graphics set or dwarf therapist, therapist lets you assign jobs and manage your dwarfs happiness etc without using the horrible ingame ui, building and mining is easy enough even with the ui but making a military is overly complicated.

        Its hard, but simply having a graphics set makes it many times easier as you can actually see whats happening!

      • MasterDex says:

        Download the Lazy Newb Pack and use the Lazy Newb control settings and one of the tilesets – I like Ironhand but Mayday is good as well. The control settings don’t make everything much simpler but they make a few things more sensible. Also in the Lazy Newb Pack is soundsense and Dwarf Therapist. The first plays lots of new sounds and music in accordance to what’s happening in-game and the second allows you to easily control your ragtag band of dwarves.

        http://www.bay12forums.com/smf/index.php?topic=59026.0

  3. Epsilon says:

    Argueably the best or even most impressive mod currently available for Minecraft would be Thaumcraft 2 http://www.minecraftforum.net/topic/838839-125-thaumcraft-213-updated-on-2142012/

    It just baffles the mind how well put together and balanced this mod is compared to some other mods that are considered to be the best such as Redpower 2 or Industrial Craft 2. That said they complement eachother nicely.

    • LimEJET says:

      Except that it’s annoying and unintuitive to use.

    • mjig says:

      It doesn’t really seem to have much use, though, considering how complex it is and how much work it takes to see results.

      • TehTR says:

        Figuring out thaumcraft and what it does IS the purpose of it, It is really more of an adventure mode than similar mods like IC2 or BC

        It does nothing you can’t already do with IC2 outside some fancy artifacts and the rune system, but that’s not really the point of the mod.

        If all you want is a building that spews out four blocks of diamond every second, you might as well just cheat

  4. senritsu says:

    I just had to register and leave that here:
    Magic Launcher
    Because modding minecraft really doesn’t have to be all that complicated. Just add any mods as .zip to the modlist in the launcher, activate or deactivate them as you like, and it adds them on the fly without ever modifying the original .jar or anything else.

  5. Dingsey says:

    Anyone else miss the weekly article dedicated to pc modding? Honestly moddings one of the best part of pc gaming, I’d much prefer a general modding article rather than just one every now and then dedicated to the most popular games….

    • grundus says:

      I may get more entertainment from seeing what cars I can add to rFactor than I do using said cars, but that’s probably because my sim seat isn’t finished yet.

  6. Andy_Panthro says:

    The modding API they’re working on for version 1.3 might make things easier still.

    I’ll also take this moment to pimp my texture pack (based on Ultima) http://inspired.ultimacodex.com/andy-panthros-ultima-textures-for-minecraft/

    and there’s even another, based on Ultima 6: http://inspired.ultimacodex.com/zephs-ultima-textures-for-minecraft/

  7. Yosharian says:

    No mention of Technic pack?

  8. Blackcompany says:

    The following is NOT intended to be condescending or insulting or to belittle. Just a concern I have after years of modded games:

    Question about ModLoader:

    Does it stop conflicts like Bash and NMM “stop conflicts” for mods in Skyrim and other Bethesda games? Or does ModLoader actually work/stop conflicts?

    Just wondering, because people often tend to thing that applications intended to stop mod conflicts do a lot more than they really do.

    Minecraft interests me more and more these days, as I look (in sheer desperation, now) for something different in gaming. But the sheer scope of the modding scene is titanic.

    • Shark says:

      ModLoader is an API kind of thing.
      It stops conflicts in that mods that just add some blocks or items don’t have to edit the base classes, but rather add new ones.

  9. Chaos5061 says:

    Tried installing the Inventory Tweaks mod but didn’t work :( Even went and looked around on the forum to see about a fix and tried a suggestion. It didn’t work. So your kilometers may vary.

  10. Eldmor says:

    Technic is so much easier and takes care of so much headache when modding. You can even customize it to block some mods you don’t want in the pack.

  11. rustybroomhandle says:

    The assortment of shader mods are quite fun too, like Sonic Ether’s Shader Mod. Adding real shadows and proper lighting. They have little respect for one’s framerate though.

  12. Koozer says:

    Are there any physics mods? Particularly ones that make fluids act like fluids?

  13. KDR_11k says:

    What do I pick if I want more action and combat in my game? More reason to build fortifications?

    • soldant says:

      You play Terraria, because the Creative players didn’t want things to be blown up in a Survival game of all things…

    • Stromko says:

      I believe there’s a Siege mod or something to that effect that makes night time much more dangerous. There’s also Battle Towers and Better Dungeons which give more difficult and interesting places to fight through.

  14. The Tupper says:

    I love seeing a new Minecraft article on RPS. I discovered the site around the time of the big diary series (autumn 2010-ish?), subsequently bought the game and have haunted here ever since. I feel as if RPS and the whole gestalt embodied by Minecraft go together very well.

    Apologies for gratuitous use of the word ‘gestalt’.

  15. The Tupper says:

    Fortuitous that Craig should link to a search tool, considering that (this very evening) Microsoft Search has humped me rather roughly. Will try this new suitor – hopefully he’s more gentle.

    Addition: ‘Everything’ is, indeed, the search tool I’ve been looking for. Thanks, Craig. A useful link (to Microsoft) on the developers’ site even told me how to change the file format of one of my drives without data loss. Brilliant.

  16. DrZhark says:

    I’m glad to see my Mod Mo’Creatures made it to the list. I read RPS daily.

    • Stromko says:

      Kudos on the mod, I’ve been using it a few weeks and it’s a solid improvement. Tigers are real bastards as they should be, and werewolves are such a pain to deal with (I’m not in the habit of carrying the proper weapon to take them on) that I fear to tangle with them.

  17. maktacular says:

    I love these kind of in-depth features but I do wish you lot would stop starting them and abandoning them. Hopefully this one will not go the same way.

  18. terry says:

    Probably beyond the scope of the article, but RedPower (http://www.eloraam.com/) updated yesterday. There’s an extensive video showing its new toys at http://youtu.be/kRv2shv-yq4 . Pipes! Grates!

  19. TsunamiWombat says:

    Next step: buy a cat and a laser pointer.

  20. amisysally says:

    I find it is really useful for me. Thank you so much for sharing.Pellet Plant, I will recommend your posts to my friends. Hope more people will appreciate your posts.

  21. InsanityBringer says:

    I’ve been slightly liberated from the MC modding scene as of late — not much really interests me.

    I think I’m just losing interest in MC. I’ve been playing it for over a year, and I’ll be honest, not much has happened in that time. We were given a firey dimension with little to it, a few contraptions, slightly revised combat mechanics, though I am pretty happy we finally got more than four monsters in some of the later updates.

    I don’t think I’m entirely turned off from sandbox survival games, though, and I eventually might give modding another spin, and actually produce something I want to play, heh.

  22. Agaetis181 says:

    It’s going to be hilarious once people find out that Mods will start costing money once the API is in… ha… hahahah… AHHH HA

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