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Block By Block: Modding Minecraft, Part 1

Minecraft Mod Menagerie

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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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Craig Pearson

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