This week’s game obsession is a Minecraft modpack that blends Terrafirmacraft, a heavily simulationist mod conversion for Minecraft, with all things fantastical and steampunk.
I’d tried Terrafirmacraft alone before, on and off.
While I was impressed at how elaborately it changed vanilla Minecraft towards something more akin to Wurm Online or Unreal World or A Tale in the Desert – that is, along the lines that longer, more complicated and realism-simulating something is, the more rewarding and desirable it is – I was always lacking that little bit of oomph to get me over the initial learning curve of hardcore wiki reading.
Ultimately, no matter how interesting the individual systems of chopping trees, making fires or preparing meat and food might have been to read about, the actual grind tended to be a mite too slow-paced for me and there was rarely anything to look forward to in these simulationist survival games of “everyday life in a wilderness, where farming and making shelter is a full time job.”
TerrafirmaPUNK (emphasis mine) neatly sidesteps the unending tedium of survival simulation by sprinkling with a generous hand a heavy helping of the fantastical across the countryside.
Ruins dot the landscape, oftentimes filled with highly dangerous monsters beyond one’s capacity to conquer at present, but brave and sneaky plundering of them can yield rich reward. It’s not just the chests that are desirable in such a stark world, but I’ve happily plundered wooden -fences- with which to defend the perimeter of my home and -cobblestone- made of an igneous rock not present naturally around my base, just so I could make a brick oven out of the right kind of rock.
Yes, Terrafirmacraft has 21 types of rock, classified into sedimentary, metamorphic, igneous intrusive and igneous extrusive ones.
The definitions of which I have to admit were handed back to my geography teacher decades ago – all I recall is that some types of rock are formed by many little rocks squishing together, and some from volcanoes and the last type I couldn’t tell you offhand if you held me up at gunpoint, but a more leisurely skim of Wikipedia says they are pre-existing rocks that have undergone -changes-, which more brings to my mind the image of rebellious adolescent/teenage rocks than layers of rock changing under tremendous heat and pressure.
Bottom line, in Terrafirmacraft, some rocks can be used for some things and other rocks can’t.
Pretty much all rocks can be used for knapping into stone tools, which is good because these tools are one’s very first stepping stones to better technology.
Yep, we’re recapitulating the Stone and Metal Ages in Terrafirmacraft (and Terrafirmapunk.)
Right-click on two rocks held in the hand, and you bring up a knapping UI of 5 x 5 small stone squares. Clicking on each small square removes it.
The idea, fairly reminiscent of smithing in A Tale in the Desert, is to take away all those bits that isn’t the thing you want and shape it into something as similar as it can get, given a pixelated 5 x 5 square.
In practice, it usually means a lot of wiki reading and memorizing of the correct shapes so that you don’t waste rocks with random experimentation that leads to nothing whatsoever.
Over time, some of the movements become almost natural, as making stacks of axe heads and knifes is very useful in fending off the multitude of monsters that want to eat your face.
Yep, Terrafirmapunk keeps life -very- interesting, as compared to Terrafirmacraft with a slew of fantastic creatures.
Apparently, the devs of this modpack programmed all these various mobs with different behaviors and preferences and tendencies that one can learn. I’m certainly nowhere near that stage yet.
All I know is that while chopping trees, the leaf decay can generate Ents that can give you a nasty shock, but that they die fairly easily to axe slashing damage, which is conveniently the tool you’re most likely to have on hand while chopping trees.
Most of the time, one tries to give them a wide wide berth while one’s technology level is still at the “sticks and stones” tier.
(Note the many many red hostile mobs that come out at night. It is a really bad bad idea to be wandering around in the dark. Half the time, this leads to a gravestone containing that life’s belongings, and the other half is spent in a frenzied fearful run, away from half a dozen red icons on the minimap, clambering up hills and plunging into freshwater lakes with the wild hope of slowing down and throwing off pursuers.)
The risk-reward of taking on mobs is quite well done in Terrafirmapunk though.
This pack of swarm spiders simply would not get off my tail, and it led to an epic battle treading water and running circles in a freshwater pond, with wild knife stabs doing piercing damage (I ran out of slashing axes, and had no hammers for crushing damage, and frankly I have no idea what spiders are most vulnerable to.)
The fight ate a considerable amount of valuable daylight time (pretty much all of it) but I ended up walking away (barely) alive and with a bunch of string that the spiders dropped.
String I would not have been able to get elsewhere at my current tech level. Two string went towards a fishing pole, and the rest was put away for safekeeping to eventually work towards an Ex Nihilo sieve (which seemed to be one way of eventually transitioning away from the cruel scarcity of Terrafirmacraft.)
The plains biome that I’ve set up shop in has a tendency to produce no monsters, a horde of minotaurs, a horde of zombies, or a bunch of goblin warriors per night, but I have no clue what prompts or causes this – if lighting up the area or being under a sheltered roof has any effect on mob spawns and so on.
There is apparently spawn protection that turns on and reduces the frequency of spawns if you hang out for Minecraft hours in an area – which mercifully makes home base slightly safer than the wilderness – but it can be hard to tell, especially after returning from long cross-country journeys to get resources.
Because I can’t let well enough alone, I sunk a little pit trap for zombies and minotaurs and other two-block high critters into one corner of my underground base. I had the vague hope of setting up some kind of mob trap to collect mob drops, but unfortunately there are no convenient punji sticks to inflict damage in this modpack, and creating a falling mob trap is beyond my ken at this time (perhaps in the future, with glass.)
This leads to the necessity of flailing away at zombie legs with some 4-5 stone axes every night with dawn helpfully setting them on fire (assuming it’s not raining) but well, tradeoffs. There’s also a HQM quest that offers a random reward after taking out 20 zombies, so that’s a bonus.
Mind you, an underground base and tunneling and mining is -not- easy in Terrafirmacraft.
A number of blocks are subject to gravity, including the standard cheap Minecraft building materials of dirt and cobblestone. Stacking them up in Terrafirmacraft merely results in them falling sideways and not cooperating. Wood is the usual initial building material, and -that- can light on fire when you’re working with pit kilns and firepits.
The little cheat that most Terrafirmapunk players starting out seem to use is to look for a field of Goldenrod flowers (which indicates a deposit of clay underneath.)
Clay holds its shape, so leaving a block of clay as the roof allows one to tunnel out a shallow but cozy little den that will withstand indoor pit kilns and firepits.
Mining deeper is a whole different story. Apparently cave-ins can take place while mining through rock. There are ways to put up support beams that might or might not prevent most but not all cave-ins, and finding veins of ore is a whole minigame in itself.
Like in A Tale in the Desert, it’s something I’m quite content to put off learning till later, after one is much more set up.
I already have my hands full working out pottery and the beginnings of metal, aka copper tools.
Clay is first molded into various shapes in a similar minigame and UI as stone knapping.
But clay is useless unless fired. So we must make a pit kiln (aka a one-block hole in the ground), place our unfired pottery inside, cover it with 8 layers of straw (cut tall grass with a knife), cover it with 8 wood logs (chop trees, lots of trees), then light it with a firestarter constructed from two sticks rubbing together.
If you’re having difficulty lighting it, tossing a piece of straw as tinder onto the pile seems to help. (Or maybe that’s just my imagination. It works for firepits, not sure on pit kilns.)
The merry fire burns for 8 Minecraft hours, after which, you can retrieve your pottery for use.
Getting your first copper tool is an even more elaborate process.
1. Find 100 units of copper. At low tech levels, this usually means picking up loose bits of ore each containing 10 units over large stretches of territory.
One also marks the area that the ore was found in with a waypoint, because this is apparently an indicator of an ore vein below.
2. The copper ore bits go into a clay vessel (oh, did you have one already made and fired? if not, do so.)
3. The clay vessel goes into a pit kiln. Repeat straw and log piling, and lighting of the fire.
4. If done correctly, the clay vessel at the end of the firing should hold 100 units of melted copper. Don’t leave it to cool too long or you’ll have to melt it again.
5. Place your clay mold of the shape you want into the clay vessel UI slot to simulate pouring the melted copper into the clay mold.
Oh yeah, you did already -have- a fired clay mold of whatever shape you wanted, right?
Pre-planning upon pre-planning. Of course, it would be much less wasteful of a fire’s resources if you put in more than 100 units of copper. That does assume, however, that one -has- more than 100 units of copper in ore to begin with.
Going further up the metal tech tree is mindboggling. There are anvils and hammers, the making of charcoal in firepits, forges that require chimney ventilation, bloomerys to handle iron… I honestly don’t know how to go about starting to learn about it, but I think my plan for now is to stock up more on pottery, wood and copper stuff first before moving on.
The procedurally spawning world in Terrafirmacraft (and punk) can be cruel with resource placement.
I ended up choosing a not-100% ideal location on the plains that had clay, was near to fresh water so that thirst would not be too much of an issue, but had very little food and the nearest trees about a half-day’s walk away in Minecraft time.
Fortunately, it is not possible to starve to death in Terrafirmacraft, or else I would be having an even more impossible time, but I spent quite a few weeks wandering around slowed with fatigue and mining weakness debuffs from starvation.
Moving some trees closer to home was a Project in itself. With a capital P.
Hell, even collecting logs from the semi-distant forests means a planned journey. I brought 2 clay jugs filled with water for thirst, and some wood planks to erect a temporary tiny shelter because I was tired of the midnight runs in the dark back home.
Now I overnight by the forest, watching mountain trolls outside, having at least a half-day or three-quarters of daylight to chop wood before returning.
The thing about chopping wood in Terrafirmacraft is that there are no weird Minecraft physics of floating logs if you hit the base of a tree, nor is there the kindness of a Minecraft mod with lumber axe or Treecapitator where hitting the base of the tree gives you all the logs and all the saplings that would drop.
No, if you hit the base of a tree in Terrafirmacraft, you hack away at it for some time under the indicator goes to 100%, and you get the logs. No saplings from leaves.
So if you want saplings, you end up punching leaves, which gets you sticks and maybe a sapling or two if you’re lucky.
In the metal age, you can use a scythe to go through more leaf blocks at once, but the tradeoff is that less sticks and saplings will drop. (I actually lucked into a wrought iron scythe from a zombie mob drop, which was pretty durned cool.)
After completing the Collect Saplings Project, it is time to plant the saplings where desired.
Mercifully, it is just a matter of right-clicking them into the ground like normal Minecraft, BUT these Terrafirma trees take days to grow. Literal Minecraft days. You can hover your cursor over a sapling and see how many more days before they sprout into trees. Usually it’s 7-10 days.
I suppose an eventual tree farm would involve staggered, controlled planting each day, so that each tree plot would take turns sprouting. That’s for another time. So far, it’s just stab them into the ground, walk away and do other things and be surprised when they grow.
Oh, and fruit trees? They take Minecraftian months…
When I first planted this tree, there was just the thin trunk in the ground. I had to google to make sure it wasn’t bugged.
After a couple days, the little crown of leaves grew and it started to look more like a proper sapling.
I assume it’s going to be another Minecraftian year before this lemon tree fruits, because it’s supposed to bloom around spring and harvest late summer.
Talk about a long term investment. I suppose I’m going to feel every one of those days, because I’m not playing on a server, so I can’t log off and let time pass without me. (On the bright side, it also means food doesn’t decay while I’m not there, I guess.)
And yes, there are seasons in Terrafirmacraft. I am not really looking forward to discovering what Winter is like.
I hope it’s nowhere near as fatal and game-changing as Don’t Starve’s Winter. Trees change color and crops may not grow or mature, apparently. I’m not sure if all my crops will -die- when exposed to Winter, but I guess we’ll find out.
Oh, and domestication of livestock? Another elaborate minigame activity/system all by itself. Domestic-able animals in Terrafirmacraft do not respawn. That means if you kill a cow today, no cow tomorrow.
So I’ve been mostly leaving the sheep, cows and pigs in the vicinity to free roam for now until I have enough resources to pen them in and figure out how to get them breeding.
The Steampunk part of Terrafirmapunk? A long long way off in the distance. I have Havea trees nearby that apparently give latex. For rubber or something. I see fountains of Buildcraft or Railcraft oil in my wanderings. Those are for way way later.
But you know, it’s nice to have them around as part of the modpack.
Because that was the little oomph of motivation that plain Terrafirmacraft lacked for me. The ambition of reaching a steampunk age of fantastic machinery from literally the stone age.
And raiding a few shortcuts here and there from long lost ruins and zombies carrying post-apocalyptic magical relics doesn’t hurt either.