Minecraft In 2014: Your Guide To Mods and Modpacks

Minecraft gets more popular every day, but we don’t talk about it much anymore. To find out what the game is like in 2014, we asked Duncan Geere to impart his wisdom. The result is a three-part series which will run across this week. To start, a look at the game’s modding scene.

It’s been an eventful few years for Markus Persson, the Swedish programmer known to the world as Notch. After building a game in his bedroom, he watched as it slowly took over the world, rising to become the third best-selling videogame of all time – behind only Wii Sports and Tetris.

But Minecraft in 2014 bears only a superficial resemblance to the Minecraft of just a few years ago. The PC version of the game today is less about building a dirt shed to cower in overnight, and more about space exploration, magical dueling or building enormous factories controlled by banks of computers and powered by nuclear reactors. Minecraft’s ongoing popularity is largely thanks to its mods, and more recently, modpacks – collections of several mods together.

It can be overwhelming, but chances are there’s more to do in Minecraft than you realised.

Tools to help
Back in the early days of Minecraft, installing mods involved digging around in the guts of Java packages. But today that’s no longer the case – there’s a bunch of easy-to-use tools to help you. The Curse client, for example, which was originally designed to help players keep track of World of Warcraft addons, lets players browse and install almost 1,500 Minecraft mods through a web interface.

Then there’s the FeedTheBeast (FTB) and the Technic Platform launchers. Both offer various different modpacks built by both the launcher teams and third parties, and bundled in software that’s super-easy for novices to use. These solve a problem that materialised very early on in the mod scene – with so many available, how do you choose between them? The teams at FeedTheBeast and Technic, as well as an increasing number of independent modpack creators, carefully choose groups of mods that work well together and provide an experience that can be very different from vanilla Minecraft.

Originally, these packs consisted a small group of well-made ‘tech’-themed mods, most notably Minefactory, Buildcraft, Forestry, IndustrialCraft, Redpower and Railcraft – all of which provide different ways to automate your world with machinery. “For a long time, tech mods really dominated the modded landscape,” says Canvox, who builds modpacks for the Technic Platform. Modpack curator JadedCat explains that these rose to the top simply due to the influence of early YouTube Minecrafters like the Yogscast crew and Direwolf20. “They had a huge influence on what mods were played by the average user,” she says.

Essential mods
Many mods come with their own new blocks and items, in some cases hundreds, so players soon needed a better way to find out what was available and how to build it. A mod named Not Enough Items, popularly known as “NEI”, quickly filled that gap, becoming vital in most modpacks. It offers an interface for players to search through the library of available items in the mods they’re using, and — more importantly — access recipes. That means that players no longer need to alt-tab from the game and hunt through obscure wikis to find out how to build something.

Another essential component of nearly every modpack is Forge – an API that allows mod creators to interface with Minecraft’s code without editing it directly. “Without Forge, if two mods both wanted to make a change to glass panes, you would only be able to use one because both would have to edit the same file,” explains JadedCat. “Its creator, LexManos, spends ungodly amounts of time updating Forge and providing that buffer for mods to work together.”

Community infighting
In mid-2013 there was a notable split in the community – caused by a rift between two rival modders, Greg of Gregtech and mDiyo of Tinker’s Construct. Tinker’s Construct expands Minecraft’s tech tree – using its tools, you can accelerate your production of basic resources, making the game easier. Gregtech, on the other hand, is all about making Minecraft harder – going as far as to alter recipes from the original game. In Gregtech, you only get two wood planks from a log, for example, rather than the standard four – unless you build a special machine.

mDiyo, whose mod uses a lot of wood early on, didn’t think this change was well-balanced, so he added a new recipe to make one log equal four planks again when both mods were installed. Outraged by this sidestep, Greg tweaked Gregtech to deliberately *crash the game* if any other mod overwrote his recipes, outputting error messages to the console that instructed players to contact mod devs and tell them to change their code to fit “industry standards”. The community split into two factions – one which supported Greg’s right to make the game more difficult, and one which saw his actions as divisive and toxic. Today, the developers have mostly resolved their differences, but the split had an unintended consequence – increasing the diversity of modpacks on offer.

Minetweaker was another essential part of this shift. It allows pack creators to change the recipes in the included mods through the use of scripts and config files. “Previously a pack creator was limited to packs that all ended up feeling the same,” says JadedCat. “Minetweaker allowed pack creators to blend the mods together in unprecedented ways, making gamepacks feel more like a cohesive game instead of a mix of files.”

JadedCat is the creator of the Magic Farm and Agrarian Skies modpacks, which have both proved very influential. “For a lot of us, playing Agrarian Skies was kind of a revelation, and I think it represents the shape of things to come,” says Canvox. In it, you spawn in a house floating on an island in the sky, with not much more more than a dirt block, some bonemeal and a stack of saplings. From those beginnings, you’re tasked with rebuilding the planet while facing the very real risk of starving to death. It’s far tougher than the original game, and requires strict discipline. Most guides, for example, stress the importance of never running and jumping unless absolutely necessary – as the energy saved can be the difference between life and death.

The backbone of Agrarian Skies is a mod called Hardcore Questing Mode. Normally in a ‘hardcore’ mod, a single death means your save gets wiped. But this mod figured out a way of giving players additional lives that they can earn through in-game quests, as well as reward bags and other RPG-like features. You can also see it in action in the recently-released Material Energy3, where you wake up on an abandoned space station. You’ll explore different wings of the base, lighting up dark areas, establishing a secure food supply and eventually restoring the station to its original functionality.

Into the future
These mods, JadedCat says, are representative of a new trend in modpack making. “Instead of the focus being on a collection of powerhouse mods, the focus is now on creating a new experience by combining mods with selective tweaks and even maps,” she explains. “While there will always be a place for more traditional factory modpacks, themed gamepacks are now more popular and last longer for players. Minecraft has become a game engine.”

Canvox agrees: “Modpackers and server owners are building constructed play experiences using mods as building blocks and making something entirely new with them,” he says. “In my mind, this is the big thing to watch out for.”

For many Minecraft players, the vanilla game is a quaint relic of the old days. By contrast, the mod scene is vibrant, diverse and fascinating – and the creativity on offer is accelerating exponentially. “Witchery, Pixelmon, and Ancient Warfare are all getting to be kind of a big deal,” says Canvox. “I think we’re going to see more diversity in how you can play modded Minecraft over the next year.”

“Modding is more approachable,” adds JadedCat. “With packs looking for smaller modular mods its even easier for new modders to find something small to sink their teeth into, and with multiple launchers, and multiple modpack and gamepack creators, there are packs for everyone. The community is more open and more inclusive than ever. And I think that’s awesome.”

Get started
For those who want to explore the diversity of mods on offer in Minecraft, a great place to start is the Feed The Beast launcher. This tool lets you access a wide variety of curated packs of mods which work elegantly together without incompatibilities or messing around inside Java archives. Or, if you prefer to explore a little on your own, Here are some of our suggestions to investigate. Note that they definitely won’t all work well together, and won’t all work on the same versions of the game. Good luck, and remember: always read the readme.txt.

Big Dig, Hack/Mine, Voltz, Blood n Bones, The Fellowship, Crazy Craft, FTB Unleashed, Mind Crack, Hexxit, Attack of the B-Team, Magic Farm 2, Agrarian Skies, Life In The Woods, Material Energy3.

Aether, Applied Energistics 2, Arcane Scrolls, BetterChests, Better Dungeons ,BiblioCraft, Biomes O’ Plenty, Blood Magic: Alchemical Wizardry, Botania, BuildCraft, Carpenter’s Blocks, Chisel, Computronics, ComputerCraft, Death Chest, DungeonPack, Ender IO, Ex Nihilo, Extra Utilities, Factorization, Falling Meteors, Forestry for Minecraft, GraveStone, Hydraulicraft, IndustrialCraft 2, Iron Chest, Jabba, Malisis’ Doors, MapWriter, Mariculture, Matmos, Minefactory Reloaded, Mo’ Creatures, MrCrayfish’s Furniture Mod, Mystcraft, Natura, Necromancy, Not Enough Items, OpenComputers, Optifine, Pam’s HarvestCraft, Pixelmon, PneumaticCraft, Progressive Automationm, Railcraft, Rei’s Minimap, Roguelike Dungeons, Skyblock, Soul Shards, Statues, Thaumcraft, The Twilight Forest, Thermal Expansion, Tinkers’ Construct, Treecapitator, Underground Biomes, Waila, Witchery.

On Wednesday, the series will continue with a look at Minecraft servers.


  1. Hex says:

    Wait where’s Chris.

  2. balinor says:

    I loved Big Dig, unfortunately it’s pretty buggy and has been in need of an update for a long time now.

  3. waltC says:

    I still cannot fathom the fascination of playing Lego blocks in a computer–even the clouds are made of blocks. Ugh. Well, maybe pre-schoolers, of course…I can see that, certainly….

    • durns says:

      Poor trolling effort, one star, would not react to again.

      • waltC says:

        Simply because an opinion differs from yours does not mean it is a “troll.” A “troll” consists of negative remarks which cannot be justified or else are not justified. Nothing in what I posted as my opinion here qualifies as a troll. All opinions need not be expressions of adoration for the subject matter…;)

        • durns says:

          Weak attempt to incite semantic debate. Disappointed in quality of product, asked for refund. Half a star.

    • puffinmcpuffs says:

      1/10 Best comment on this website
      – IGN

    • MadTinkerer says:

      What’s really crazy is these games where everything is made of triangles. I mean, kids like tangrams and they’re educational, but an adult playing a game where all the objects in the world are triangular faceted polyhedrons? I just can’t see the appeal.

      • PopeRatzo says:

        I only play games where everything is made of tiny dots.

      • Alberto says:

        We Dwarf Fortress players can’t fathom the need of that modern devious invention called ‘graphics’, be it hexahedrpns, polyedrons, lines or dots.

        I want a mod that turns all Minecraft into ASCII characters, so the game can be played properly.

        • alms says:

          Make those green scrolling characters and you have TheMatrixCraft.

      • rcguitarist says:

        I know alot of people who love Minecraft….but the oldest of them is 12. This is primarily a kids game, but with a few adults who seem to like it as well. I bet 75% of the minecraft players out there are children 12 and under.

  4. Chuckleluck says:

    I wish people would see the beauty of vanilla Minecraft. Modpacks are great, but there’s so many great things to do in the original game. I have some friends that refuse to play the game unless it’s modded. Maybe they just aren’t creative.

    • Arglebargle says:

      I’ve got a friend who doesn’t play any more because of all the additions and adaptions. Is there an easy way for him to get a more vanilla setup, or at least more choice on setting up something like that? I don’t play personally, not my sort of thing. But with such a moving target, it can be difficult to find your personal sweet spot.

      • Saaz says:

        If I understand correctly, your friend wants to go back to the good old days when Minecraft was simpler.

        Fairly recently (1.7, within the last year or so?) they released a launcher that lets you pick what version to play, all the way back to Alpha.

    • poetfoxpaul says:

      It’s less to do with a lack of creativity but more to do with boredom. Vanilla Minecraft as a creative medium lost it’s grip on me at some point before 1.0. I have been playing since alpha and I simply lost patience for the block-touching that represents a majority of your gameplay. Tech mods provided more than just an end-game, they revolutionized the way I understood the Minecraft world. I felt like an industrial entrepreneur, carving out chunks of the planet and demolishing rainforests all the while manufacturing various technological gadgets.

      Vanilla Minecraft is actually a very poorly designed game. Not to say the mechanics are poor, but instead the various tech trees and gadgets you can create are all fairly shallow and uninteresting. Redstone is an exception, but not everyone has fun playing engineer. And even if the game is more about creating a cute house and living in it, mods such as microblocks allow infinitely more creative designs.

      I argue that vanilla minecraft is like your first box of 24 crayons, while modded minecraft represents a trip to the art store with money in your pocket.

    • Adrastos42 says:

      I dispute the idea that enjoying and using mods means you can’t see the beauty in vanilla minecraft. I like and use both, and each has their own merits. And, frankly, I have played so much vanilla minecraft now that it’s not a surprise that I now quickly get bored of it. Moving on to an new (or just a) modpack is to me like moving on to a new game. You appreciate the old game, but you’ve played a lot of it, and now you want something new.

    • DodgyG33za says:

      Minecraft has been my go-to game for a few years now.

      I am a big fan of vanilla, especially when there are weekly development updates going on.

      Modpacks can be fun for a change. I am playing a Feed The Beast hardcore survival modpack called Crash Landed at the moment. It is brutally hard (teleporting creepers anyone) and makes a nice change from my sanitised vanilla world in which I am pretty much invincible.

    • whorhay says:

      To each their own. Myself I’ve only ever installed mods when it was required for a texture pack, early on it was the only way to get some of the higher definition texture packs. I’ve been playing since Alpha but not constantly. I play for a few months here and there.

    • BlacKHeaDSg1 says:

      I got bored vanilla MC after 3 months playing it so i must say, when you master the vanilla part of MC it’s really boring (i didn’t find anything interesting to do in vanilla MC). That was about 2 – 3 years ago. Now, that FTB/Tekkit AT Launcher make modpack (they made installing MC with mod much easier), i am playing a lot more MC than ever before.

      But for 1.7.10 FTB are changing modpacks in i way i don’t like, so i will probably move to Tekkit platform.

      • FriendlyFire says:

        Due to the delays with 1.7.10 packs and thanks to 1.7.10’s removal of block/item IDs, I actually went ahead and built my own private pack. Surprisingly got it working in a few days and now I’m playing the mods I want with the balance I desired. It’s really not as hard as you might think and it allows for unprecedented control.

        The Technic platform and launcher even allow you to build the modpack and redistribute it through that, which is pretty useful for small private server packs.

  5. zeekthegeek says:

    Don’t use Curse client, they’ve distributed spyware (like, the company intentionally put it in there) in the past.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Oh, so that’s why there’s so much mad about Kerbal Spaceport being replaced with Curse.

      (Thankfully most of the good mods for that are open source and on GitHub anyway.)

  6. FriendlyFire says:

    I’m only glad that Greg pretty much lost the battle. His arrogance and attitude were so toxic they’d have probably burned out a lot of people, modders included. Now instead his mod is pretty much ignored by most mod packs and his influence has caused IndustrialCraft 2, once the dominant tech mod, to slip down the ranks severely, and you know what? Good riddance.

    • poetfoxpaul says:

      As someone who desperately loved the difficulty of Gregtech I wholeheartedly disagree, but I won’t bring up that drama again. I just wanted others to note that the war was real, and the casualties were people like me who just wanted more depth and breadth ;_;

      • aepervius says:

        i am not sure gregtech is adding depth. It adds grinding (as in : it takes longer to do stuff) but the gameplay did not feel any different. On the other hand stuff like ME which not only standardize energy inputs and outputs, but also allowed a much more deep interfacing with mods added depth. Heck compare some of the magic mods like ars magicka 2 or witrchery to greg tech, then it is obvious greg tech has not much depth. What it does OTOH is make everything pretty damn harder.

        • SquareWheel says:

          The Gregtech of today is very different than the Gregtech of 1.4. Before it just added late-game machines, but now it is nearly a total-conversion mod, affecting early, mid, and late-game. It’s closer to TerraFirmaCraft than it is to IC2. Take another look at it if you haven’t in a while.

      • PopeRatzo says:

        Cubes are nothing but depth and breadth. And height, but you didn’t mention height. More cubes!

  7. McGee says:

    Kinda weird to leave out AT Launcher; Technic and FTB are the classic big platforms, but AT Launcher should be notable enough to mention – at least because it serves the current iteration of the Yogscast modpack.

    • tehfish says:

      Indeed, i’ll second this one.

      Especially weird as they mentioned yogscast in the article too.

    • brucethemoose says:

      +1. You can’t write an article about modded Minecraft in 2014 without mentioning ATLauncher or Yogscast Complete… Maybe the author just discoveredinto modded MC, and hasn’t really explored it yet.

    • Kal says:

      I logged in to post this myself. Mentions FTB and technics, but not ATLauncher? Sorry Duncan, that was the state of modding in 2012. 2014 has been all about ATLauncher, Resonant Rise, and Yogscast Complete.

  8. Orillion says:

    Hundreds of mods out there, and yet the one thing I want changed is the one big thing that’s pretty much completely hardcoded: a limited map size a la the old free demo.

    Sure, there’s hacks that prevent you from walking beyond a certain point, but it’s not the same as reaching the edge of the world for the first time and staring across eternal nothingness.

    • Hex says:

      You could try turning your monitor off.

    • ModeratelyMotivated says:

      Do the weird terrain generation bugs still happen near the map edges or have those been fixed (broken)?

    • poetfoxpaul says:

      My man! After the update that removed the island-generation the game lost some of the magical feel that had been present. I’m not sure why, but it might have been the sheer magnitude of the resulting worlds removed some of the fairy-tale survival feel that was originally there. Whereas before you could master your domain and come to terms with what you had access to and what you lacked, the infinite world makes me always feel uncomfortably inadequate. There might be a better house location just over that next ridge, or maybe just down this river. I can never feel settled when there might be someplace cooler just down the road.

      I have never seen this mentioned before so I wanted to say that I know that feeling.

      • RedViv says:

        I don’t think anything stands in your way of making your own Waterworld with the customisable world generation they have now.

    • Adrastos42 says:

      It’s not quite what you want, as it doesn’t remove the terrain past the border that I’m aware of, but the ability to set an impassible world border of a certain size was recently added in: link to minecraft.gamepedia.com

    • DodgyG33za says:

      I had to read this several times before I understood that you are complaining because the game world ISN’T constrained. Really?

      Why not use a seed that places you on a medium sized island surrounded by oceans of, well, ocean. Hell you don’t even need to do the leg work yourself. Just Google ‘minecraft island seeds’

      You could even use MC edit to surround a fixed space world with a wall or void full of lava if you wanted to.

      • MadTinkerer says:

        There’s a difference of intent here. In Indev you can explore the entire world. In Infdev and later you can’t explore the whole world. Exploring a medium to large island and pretending there’s nothing beyond it is not as satisfying as discovering a void beyond which you know there will be no naturally occurring blocks, and then finding the other four edges of the world so you can eventually explore everything in it.

        You can “complete” a world if it is finite. You cannot if it is infinite.

        • Orillion says:

          There’s that, sure. Mostly, I just have terrible frame rate on an infinite world, even when it’s not creating new chunks.

          Edit: Oh yes, and I never saw caves running off the edge of the map. If they weren’t coded not to, they at least tended to be fairly self-contained.

    • eggy toast says:

      You could load up a new world and have it render out some distance and then use the map editor to crop the world along a set area, then go explore and eventually find it.

  9. Richard Jones says:

    Awesome article!

    As someone who’s played Minecraft since the very first release, the mod pack scene has me still playing it after all these years.

    Personally, I play using the Yogscast Complete pack that forms the basis of their current videos. It’s based on Resonant Rise, and has over 240 mods (an astounding achievement, with very few problems). An amazing variety of gameplay is enabled, with four different magic systems, more industrial avenues to explore. The game is still very much what you make of it, but with more variety.

    It might also be worth noting that you can support mod authors these days through systems like Patreon, which is pretty cool.

  10. HyenaGrin says:

    Was a little surprised/disappointed to not see TerrafirmaCraft getting a mention here. But I suppose it probably makes up a pretty tiny portion of the overall Minecraft mod-userbase.

    It’s easily my personal favorite. There are plenty of interesting mods for Minecraft, of course, but of all the ones I’ve played with, TFC more than any other lends a sense of purpose to what you are doing in the game. It makes the game quite a bit harder, but it adds in a lot of really fleshed-out mechanics that give you an excuse to build structures rather than simply building for the sake of it – not that there is anything wrong with creativity for creativity’s sake. I just prefer when my creativity is justified by functionality.

    Anyway, just wanted to toss a shout-out to Bioxx, Dunk, and the rest of the hard-working crew at TFC.

    • Jhoosier says:

      I was surprised to not see TerraFirmaCraft. Also, Millenaire, which I wish played nicer with other mods. There’s nothing like watching a village take shape and grow. At least you can get it in the New World modpack on FTB, I believe.

    • Martel says:

      Thanks for posting this, that one looks really interesting. I haven’t really used mods since the game first came out but this one has me very intrigued.

  11. SubparFiddle says:

    Better than Wolves.

    • Katarra says:

      Glad to see at least one person mentioned BTW! And, speaking of which.. Lex is most certainly *not* the creator of Forge. Granted, none of the original creators (Spacetoad, Flowerchild, and Eloraam) have touched it in years.

    • RedViv says:

      If only the dev hadn’t become so absolutely crabby once Notch left, or even before…

      • SubparFiddle says:

        Flowerchild is one of the most genuinely cool guys on the internet. The BTW forums is chock full of some really great insights and opinions, especially if you’re interested in game design at all.

        Minecraft drama paints him in a bad light for most people, but most of that just comes from how focused and passionate he is about his project. That and he just doesn’t really give a fuck about what people think of him or his creative process :)

  12. bill says:

    As a PC gamer I am totally befuddled by Minecraft. I’ve wanted to play it for several years now, so I’ve been waiting for the sale. But there has been no sale! There has been no price drop! Weird.

    Maybe one day I’ll give up and buy it at full price.. but that just feels dirty and wrong. Still, it might be a good game to play with the kids.

    • FriendlyFire says:

      Honestly, the game might look cutesy and child-like, but once you start adding mods in it turns into this OCD mechanical contraption generator. You’ll want to tweak your reactors just so in order to get the maximum power per tick, and try to optimize your processing chain to increase ingot production from ore and so on and so forth. Most of those mods would probably befuddle young children.

      • bill says:

        I doubt I’d mess with the mods, I’d just use it as a sandbox for them to make things. I’ve read quite a few parents saying that they play minecraft with their kids, but mine have been too young so far.

        If there is ever a sale..

        • Katarra says:

          Closest thing to a sale was when it was cheaper before it’s full release. I don’t think you’re going to see it in a humble bundle anytime soon…

      • Elethio says:

        Wrong to buy a game at full price?

        Don’t get me wrong I look out for steam sales too, but you need to be realistic, millions of people play minecraft, and its popularity has only grown. so they have no reason to put it on sale.

        Maybe it will get a sale one day but I wouldn’t hold your breath.

  13. rexx.sabotage says:

    Looking to get in on some of the latest 1.8 Minecraft action with an RPS friendly crowd. Put this in your gawk-sockets:

    link to rockpapershotgun.com


  14. The Colonel says:

    This is the only mod I ever cared about. I just can’t look at water in minecraft anymore.

    link to minecraftforum.net


  15. Gemberkoekje says:

    I’m playing ATLauncher’s SkyFactory right now.

  16. oyog says:

    All I want is to go back and play Biome/Phoenix Terrain Mod again. I just don’t feel like I have the time to tinker in order to get old Minecraft versions running. I know there are ways to roll back Minecraft and I have the mod (and all the fun terrain generation scripts people made in that thread) backed up on my external but I just can’t find the time.

    Oh also, the weird shader that made the world warp and twist. My video card couldn’t deal with anything like that when it came out and now that I have a PC that could easily handle it I have no idea where to find it.

  17. Wowbagger says:

    I suppose this just goes to show how long it has been since I played Minecraft, I played the vanilla game on release and enjoyed it immensely but have not been tempted to go back really. On the other hand looking at these quite complicated mods here it might be time for a revisit.

  18. dan200 says:

    As a mod developer who’s been in the game a long time (I developed the mods ComputerCraft and qCraft), I was asked to contribute to this article. Unfortunately, I didn’t get my reply to Duncan before the print deadline!

    So that my effort wasn’t for nothing, here’s the reply I sent to Duncan giving my thoughts on the “golden age” of Minecraft modding that I remember best:
    link to pastebin.com

  19. thhowl says:

    Thanks, Dan!

  20. LogicalDash says:

    Is there perhaps a version of Not Enough Items that does away with the crafting grid altogether, in favor of a menu driven interface like Minecraft Pocket Edition? I’ve never cared for the grid.

  21. IstanaAngin says:

    Anyone here interested in trying out this game

    link to istanaangin.itch.io

    It’s a free early build… a purchase option is there to support it

  22. Sn0wShepherd says:

    I want to nominate Sn0wSong and Sn0wZ0ne for one of the best Resource Packs ever for Minecraft. It replaces all music, Sound FX and Textures in the Sn0wZ0ne Total Conversion pack with 100% original everything from Alecia Shepherd. There’s over 250,000 downloads on Sn0wSong and no one ever does a review on Sound and Music Resource Packs because there are so VERY few and most are ridiculously incomplete. Sn0wSong is complete, 100% and compatible with all MODs and versions of Minecraft all the way up to the very latest 1.8 release.

    No ads ever on the downloads. Here it is for your review:

    link to dropbox.com
    link to dropbox.com
    link to dropbox.com
    link to dropbox.com