Modded Minecraft – Shader Shenanigans

I got a mite bored with the slow pace of my Terrafirmapunk world the other day and idly decided to install a whole new random modpack to play around with.

Granted, this was using my very old Feed the Beast standalone launcher (since I absolutely refuse to use the Curse client, and will eventually have to learn how to use alternative launcher options like ATLauncher or MultiMC) so new offerings that I haven’t already tried were somewhat limited.

The current winner is Space Astronomy, a tech-focused modpack which promises the ability to blast off into space and explore other planets.

It all sounded very different from the sticks n’ stones survival existence I was busy eking out in Terrafirmapunk, struggling to accumulate enough resources to not die and maybe just maybe build unnecessarily complicated brass-based steamtech, provided I had the patience to figure out how the multiblock structures of an entirely new and unfamiliar mod fit together.

A couple hours later, after the excited buzz of “oh, how FAST I can mine through stuff in regular Minecraft, not Terrafirmacraft” and “OMG look at all these metal veins lying around -everywhere-” had worn off, I realized I had fallen back into my old modpack routine.

Hobbit hole in the ground, surrounded by chests and furnaces and basic Tinker’s Construct workbenches. Check.

Small Tinker’s Smeltery, labour-intensive and still manually operated, for lack of resources and the will to get around to automating it. Check.

Floundering around trying to decide which mod to progress through, that didn’t include stuff I didn’t like to do (eg. venture into the Nether, build mob spawner traps in order to get sufficient resources, figure out how to get ender pearls) and winding up blocked, with a HQM quest book that wasn’t any help because the author had assumed a Minecraft player with much faster progression than moi… Check.

Everything felt same old, same old.

Somehow, I got it into my head that I wanted to change around the feel of Minecraft and make it look a bit more like the awesome scenery I’d seen some Youtubers sporting.

(Except those Youtubers had an -awful- taste in texture packs where I was concerned, overly ornate and ornamental and forcing 128x or 256x textures onto the poor innocent Minecraft cube in the name of “realism.”)

Ah, but as Pixar would tell you, there is one magical thing that gives still (as in, not animated) computer graphics a lot more soul and atmosphere.

Light.

I have been forever fascinated by how Pixar’s lighting artists can take a uniformly lit 3D image and place light sources that throw shadows and highlights and color in various directions, and suddenly, the image goes from lifeless and sterile to emanating warmth and conveying a mood.

It was time to get off my arse and stop accepting pre-packaged modpacks as is, and learn how to mod Minecraft with the fantastic shaders that others had been developing for years.

It turned out to be more and less trouble than I had been expecting.

Finding the shaders was merely a matter of Google searching, and I found a couple that seemed promising: Sonic Ether’s Unbelievable Shaders (SEUS), Sildur’s Shaders which were apparently more customizable and less hard on the CPU/GPU, and Continuum Shaders which were the complete opposite and would crush lesser computers.

Installation was trickier.

Downloading the shaders meant navigating through ad-infested waters and left me feeling like I both needed a stronger ad-blocker and that I needed to virus scan my computer afterwards.

Vanilla Minecraft has leapfrogged on to version 1.11, including strange new things I haven’t gotten around to learning, and while certain mods have kept up and improved alongside it, others have fallen behind.

Meanwhile, I haven’t moved on from Minecraft version 1.7.10 because I’m still in love with the mods of that era and haven’t explored them all yet. So it meant following a rabbit trail of “old and outdated” markers, locating the most appropriate version of each shader for the version of Minecraft I’m playing.

Certain instructions bamboozled me and led me up wrong alleys. Sildur’s Shaders firmly instructed that Optifine 1.7.10 HD U D7 -must- be used for Minecraft 1.7.10, as it was the only version that had the shaders mod integrated.

Which was all very well, but Optifine D7 refused to play well with the Space Astronomy modpack and crashed it on startup.

Going back one version to Optifine D6 and everything was great, Space Astronomy started up… but it had no integrated shaders mod. -What- shaders mod was he even referring to?

More research revealed a Shaders Mod (updated by karyonix) that built on the GLSL Shaders mod by daxnitro, which Optifine had apparently subsumed in D7 and included in its own mod for higher Minecraft versions.

Well. No harm in trying to install it on top of Optifine D6, and seeing what happened.

Turns out it puts a teeny tiny Shaders button option in Minecraft that helps you swap between shaders and tweak a few basic settings.

Excellent. With that in place, I could now start checking out the shaders themselves.


Here’s our control: Basic Minecraft, with its own integrated shader, 16×16 default textures.

mc-noshaders

(Ignore the Pam’s Harvestcraft beehive floating in thin air for now. It used to be in a birch tree, which I chopped down in a “I need wood” rampage.)

Somewhere along the shader adventure, I was also experimenting with various texture packs.

Some people really like re-skins – Soartex and Chroma Hills were two names I kept stumbling across. I look at the screenshots and I can’t even bring myself to download them because they just change the look of Minecraft so much that I don’t think I can even recognize it and have to re-learn everything again. They look nice, certainly, in their own way, but they just don’t look “Minecraft” to me. Personal taste and all that.

I found myself attracted to the ones that promised an “improved” default look, and yet didn’t deviate too much.

mc-faitfhultexture.jpg

Vattic’s Faithful 32×32 took a slight bit of getting used to (I’m -that- used to the default 16×16 textures) but they grew on me.

mc-noshaders32 This is super-subtle, and you can see the difference mostly in the tall grass texture.  The pixelation of the 16×16 textures have juuuust been smoothed out a touch, but it still looks very characteristically Minecraft.

We layer a shader on top. In this case, Sonic Ether’s Unbelievable Shaders:

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Well, fuck me.

Light is magical, after all.

Sildur’s Vibrant Shaders Medium:

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Continuum Shaders:

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They all look good, in their own way.

Sildur’s Shaders, for example, which I do not personally prefer, reminds me of the sort of colored fantasy light landscape of World of Warcraft. It’s more given to vivid, saturated colors. With the right texture pack (maybe Chroma Hills, since its byline is “RPG, with a cartoon twist?”) I suspect, it might look fantastic.

I really like the photoreal look of SEUS, though others might find it a little washed out, or too artificially faux realistic.

The next two pictures are older, non-artificial camera angle-controlled screenshots from my first excited exploration of this newly shaded Minecraft world:

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(The beehive in the birch tree is still intact in this one.)

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The water is unbelievable.

Oh, would that I could just stop there and consider this shader as perfect and actually start playing Minecraft in awesome mode.

Unfortunately, I ran into a couple flaws with default SEUS.

The sun had a tendency to be too bright. When facing in certain directions, I had a tendency to act like a vampire and go “Augh, my eyes! I’m burning!” and try to run underground.

Speaking of underground, this was where nearly all the shaders failed me.

-Apparently- most normal people playing Minecraft build fantastic structures aboveground to be lit up by the sunlight, and only go underground to mine and have scary, exciting adventures.

I, on the other hand, have some kind of dwarf blood in me and like to tunnel through the stone to build underground bases.

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I am used to the default Minecraft shader, which lights everything with an ambient white light.

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My underground bases are very comfortably lit up with the default shader, providing a built-in fluorescent daylight lamp that makes pottering about sorting inventory and processing resources pleasant, while remaining safe from wandering monsters.

To all the modded shaders, the underground is dark and shadowy, and torchlight is yellow or orange.

SEUS:mc-ug-seus

Sildur’s:

mc-ug-sildur

Continuum:

mc-ug-continuum

I admit this makes for both more realistic lighting and a sense of scary adventure moving underground… but YOU try living in this sort of yellow-orange half-light while trying to work out which machine to build next.

SEUS (night):

mc-ug2-seus

Sildurs (night):

mc-ug2-sildur

One thing I tried was mining out some skylights. It was kinda fun to see how the daylight filtering in changed the quality of the light in different shaders.

Sildurs (day):

mc-ug2-sildur-day

SEUS (day):

mc-ug2-seus-day

The problem though was that nearly half of the time, it was going to be night, unless I kept sleeping the night away.

Not to mention, all that work digging skylights. What if I wanted to burrow even further down into the earth? Was I doomed to a goblin-esque existence of scrabbling around in yellow sodium torchlight? *gollum*

It got depressing. I wanted some blue light to mix in with all that orange.

I found a very helpful Youtuber called Past Life Pro, who made videos about how to tweak shader settings and customize them to your liking.

It turns out that, yes, you can reduce the sun’s brightness in SEUS (hoorah, no more vampirism) and you can change the color of torchlight.

It’s kind of amazing how the feeling of the night changes with changing torchlight colors.

Unfortunately, but enlighteningly, I learned that Minecraft is coded in such a way as to only have one light color for torchlight (and all other lights like glowstone or lights included by mods.) You can vary the brightness given off by different blocks, but not the color.

(Though there are work-in-progress mods working on a way to create RGB light channels to produced colored light sources soon(TM) but not available now.)

A lot of tweaking and waffling around later, I settled on a dim whiter light for torchlight.

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The dimness still implied “underground,” but at least the cones in my eyes weren’t getting seared by orange.

Sadly, I had to give up on the SEUS shader due to one issue I couldn’t quite figure out if it was a bug due to the version, or just something with how the shader worked with light.

The problem’s visible in the screenshot above. A good half or more of the items being kept in Storage Drawers turned into black silhouettes. This, as you might imagine, makes sorting and retrieval of a desired item a giant pain in the ass.

Try as I might to tweak things, nothing seemed to work. I even brought out a storage drawer in bright daylight and the icons still registered as black.

I eventually figured out that SEUS was the issue when I swapped to Sildur’s and the icons came out fine. Sildur’s was way too yellow, so that was right out. My only hope was trying out Continuum, which was adapted with permission as a continuation of SEUS.

mc-ug2-continuum-day

mc-ug2-continuum

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the icons were fine.

There’s still a bit of that yellow light problem, but for whatever reason, maybe the higher contrast, it doesn’t seem to bother me as much, or I’m getting used to it.

Perhaps in the future, I’ll tweak it and push a tiny bit more blue light into the mix.

As a second best option, Continuum isn’t too shabby, mind you. Not by half. It’s more taxing on the GPU, apparently, but hell, I splurged on a good video card for a reason:

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The nights are really dark nights.

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Yet still with moments of beauty, as seen in this boat ride.

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(The moon may need a bit of tweaking, it looked a bit odd as it was rising, but that’s for another time.)

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The rain blows my mind. The floor is wet (if a mite super-reflective – yet another future tweak.)

The one thing I don’t really like is how Continuum treats water.

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On the whole, it’s generally choppier and with more waves than SEUS. The wind blows stronger than in SEUS too.

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Some shallower bodies of water look okay, so maybe it’s some kind of calculation as to how strong the waves should be, given the depth and quantity of the water at hand.

Definitely something I’ll be searching for and tweaking down if at all possible.

But on the whole, Continuum is the shader that I’ve chosen to accompany me on my Minecraft journey into SPAAAACE. (One day.)

The Elephants in the Room: Microtransactions and Mindshare

poeadvert

Four days ago, Path of Exile hypes up the coming 3.0 expansion (due earliest in June/July) and a day later, they post information about the next Legacy League coming in a fortnight that promises nostalgia revisiting old leagues and the faint dangling hope that maybe, just maybe, one will strike it lottery rich and pop a valuable legacy item that cannot ever be obtained by normal means.

They also post on their website Legacy Supporter Pack bundles of $30 and $60 USD to complement the usual $5, $10, $20 for points offerings, and if you were -really- happy, the Atlas of Worlds supporter packs in the $50, $110, $220 and $440 USD ranges have always been available.

Oh, and you can combine microtransaction point purchases within a certain period towards these packs, so if you bought stuff at $20 and$20 before, you just need to top up $10 and qualify for the first tier…

And if you were like me and bought a $50 pack previously, the “Upgrade for $60” button stares at you in the face until you can’t resist clicking it, raking in a bunch of cosmetics for $5 and the 550 points that you wanted in the first place for storage and additional cosmetics and lockboxes.

Oh, and if you don’t believe in transatlantic or transpacific shipping of free advertisement T-shirts, you can have additional points to bling out your digital avatar.

Did I mention that all stash tabs are now on sale for this weekend?

ffadvert

Three days ago, I sit and stare at the Steam store page where they advertise in large colorful banner headlines that Square Enix is having a 75% off sale and that Final Fantasy is celebrating its 30th anniversary with most games at 50% off.

And as much as I really like buying games at only 75% off, for the Final Fantasy series, 50% off is pretty much as low as it’s going to go, barring really aged games and the odd one or two day rock bottom sale offer.

I hem and I haw.

I look up reviews and try to decide between the better of one odd number or another. I’ve lost track of the franchise since playing through three quarters of 7 and a third of 8.

I have the sudden ambitious surge of an urge to attempt a marathon of Final Fantasy all the way from the original and up…

…except Steam doesn’t offer anything lower than 7 in my region, and it may make more sense to buy 6 and under for Android or IOS, since I’m always carrying phone and iPad around these days. Those aren’t on sale yet though.

I also kind of want to see improvements in what’s changed in the newer versions. Maybe I should attempt the marathon in reverse order!

There are THREE Final Fantasy 13s – the hell, that’s expensive, even at 50% off. Reviews for volume 2 are not great, claiming a bad port. Reviews for volume 3 are -very- good, but add that one should actually experience 1 and 2 for the story before playing 3. Reviews for 1 are mixed, some liking it, some disliking the linearity.

Ohh, this is confusing.

Reviews for Final Fantasy 10 are -very- very good. That seems like a good place to start.

Ha, maybe we should do it in descending order starting from 10 then.

But but if I don’t buy 13 now, it will probably be Christmas before it hits 50 or 75% off again…

Oh, what the heck, I haven’t spent anything on games lately. I can afford the equivalent of a collector’s box edition. Final Fantasy games are classics, after all, and offer tons of gameplay.

Long story short, I end up buying everything from FF8 to FF13, without 12 and the MMO in between (11). Local price $71, or $50 USD.

Given how little free time I actually have, this marathon will take me the better part of forever.

pokedex2

Two days ago, a family member interrupts my morning ritual with excited shrieks over unrecognized Pokemon appearing all over the place.

Oh. Looks like Pokemon Go has finally released the anticipated Gen 2 Pokemon.

I grab my own phone, braving the risk of cubital tunnel syndrome (“keep my arm straight” is a thing I chant to myself now) and have an immense amount of fun watching new silhouettes resolve into cute critters I’ve never seen before.

You know me, novelty is a big deal for me.

Overnight, the phenomenon of locals starting to carry their phones in their palms, stop and make odd flicking motions is visible once more. Less than at launch, but still more than previously.

Oh, and Pokemon trainers? Niantic would like you to know that Pokemon storage upgrades are 50% off, so you have enough space to hold all the extra Gen 2 Pokemon, for a mere 100 coins!

*twitches*

I’d bought storage upgrades some time before, in anticipation of the Gen 2 launch, but that was a very long time ago – a month or two – and I’d been taking full advantage of the extra space, packing in Gen 1 Pokemon to the tune of 550 of them until the last Valentine’s festival, which offered double candy to clean out the Pokemon.

Suspecting that this was my last chance to do so and get extra candy to boot before Gen 2, I forced myself one night to sit down and do inventory management, tidying everything up.

(Glad I did, because sure enough, it happened.)

But I did have firsthand experience in just how HANDY these pokemon storage upgrades were…

*twitches again at the temptation*

100 coins!

I grabbed one from the free coins I had from fighting and sitting in gyms, but but surely one cannot go wrong with MORE storage?

7 local dollars (or $5 USD) gets you 550 coins. That’s a LOT of pokemons that can be stored – 5 x 50 = 250 – at the current discounted offer.

*twitches*

I have until Feb 26 to think about it.

Less than a Starbucks coffee, y’know. *twitch*

gw2advert

Over in Guild Wars 2, ArenaNet would like you to know that Episode 4 of Living World Season 3 is called the Head of the Snake; that there’s a new raid called Bastion of the Penitent, and that And More includes one legendary rifle in the shape of a ship with a giant cannon on it….

…and here, have some screenshots and a wallpaper.

Our watchword: The less said the better!

Oh, and Evon Gnashblade would like to sell you a $5 USD mini of Demmi Beetlestone (who will never make it back to his office to collect), a $5 USD set of recolored white and pink wings and a $6.56 USD outfit of Gwen’s clothing.

The less said the better, indeed.

Path of Exile: Acts 5-10 Coming

I am 15 hours late into realizing this.

I blame work and living on the other side of the world.

I have no wall of text for this.

My brain just exploded.

Here, have some links to everyone celebrating this announcement instead:

http://massivelyop.com/2017/02/14/path-of-exile-the-fall-of-oriath-reveal/

Oh fuck it, just read the whole reddit while you’re at it.

https://www.reddit.com/r/pathofexile/

I will be nowhere else when this update comes, and probably so will many others, so all other MMOs better watch out for a population drop.

Now -this- is hype.