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.

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(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:

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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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mc-ug2-modseus

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.)

Minecraft TFP: The House

The plan was to play through the story episodes in Guild Wars 2 today, but when I sat down at the computer, I realized that what I really wanted to do was putter around in peace and quiet, working bit by bit on my Minecraft: Terrafirmapunk house.

So I did.

Terrafirmacraft variants really extend the time it takes to accomplish stuff in Minecraft, opting for a more ‘realistic’ simulation over gameplay convenience.

As a result, house building is less of an hour or two affair and more extended across time.

It reminds me a bit of the pace of Wurm Online, in that there’s going to be a lot of open walls just sitting there for a while, incrementing by degrees, but much less aggravating in that you’re not necessarily starving to death and really really needing a shelter to begin with.

foundations

Maybe some two real life weeks ago, I started working on the ‘foundations’ of the house, or at least the ground floor flooring.

This was deliberately a big departure from my regular functional but ugly rectangular house styles that conserved materials and produced a roof over one’s head super-quickly.

A Youtube video I’d watched suggested that starting with an irregular shape would make the house more aesthetically pleasing to look at later.

So I crafted stone shovels and dug all the dirt out of the area in a semi-random pattern of rectangles.

The smooth stone blocks have to be chiseled out from raw stone, and then mined out. The type of stone determines the color. This rough light greyish flooring is gneiss, the stone around my home locale. I figured I’d be spending most of my time on the ground floor, sorting items into various chests, so it had to be something light and netural on the eyes.

Chisels require metal to make, so first I’d have to smelt the metal alloy in the forge and crucible, and hammer out the necessary tools on the anvil.

Armed with hammer and chisel and pick, I traveled over to the nearest pile of raw stone to chisel smooth blocks out of them (feeling a bit like an ancient Egyptian or some other rock quarrier – fortunately these are pretty small blocks and the game is kind enough to let you just carry them in your inventory and not have to roll them on logs or float them downriver in rafts in order to move them.)

The floor was laid in.

The straw thatch forming the outline was a whimsical decision on my part, mostly intended to save on raw material (that’s a lot of rocks to chisel out for something that will remain hidden from view.)

I thought it was rather clever though, as using some other cheap material like dirt or cobblestone or gravel would be risky later if I decided to dig a basement and end up with a small cave-in. Dirt also had the disadvantage of getting overgrown by grass and blending in, rather than forming a clear boundary.

I also liked the pretend simulation aspect of using the thatch as a kind of building insulation. Granted, a better simulation of insulation would be putting thatch in between two walls, but that would be one massively thick wall and be hard on materials cost to boot. Not that desperate for verisimilitude.

housemap

The result some time later: one pretty layer of floor, visible on the map.

Enter another game session, and it was time for the walls. This took more experimental time deciding on a nice color of brick, from relatively nearby stone biomes.

I knew I wanted them out of stone. I’m scared of flammable houses.

Eventually, I settled on chert.

One has to mine the raw stone with a pickaxe, yielding small rocks of chert.

One then crafts these small chert rocks with a chisel in the crafting grid, to form lone chert bricks.

These chert bricks are then crafted with another item, mortar, made from soaking sand in a barrel of limewater over time, to form the final buildable-with chert bricks block.

chertwalls1

After making a sizeable quantity of bricks, I start laying in the walls, making building decisions on the go.

I like looking out of any house, so I leave room for big window panes to be put in later, assuming I ever figure out glass. (The compound is all fenced up anyway, so it’s pretty safe, even minus the glass.)

chertwalls2

I’d already gotten the first floor of walls set up and a set of simple stairs leading up to the next floor, when I came in this afternoon to work on the house again.

The second floor was being problematic.

I hadn’t decided on an appropriate color of flooring for the second floor.

The outside join between the first and second floor had to be worked out, since I didn’t want just a straight flat brick surface like I’d usually just resort to.

I had a number of false starts experimenting with small quantities of slate and claystone bricks, thinking a different lighter color might offer some variety of look. I tried chiseling them into microblocks – Terrafirmacraft’s microblocks are really annoying as you cannot retrieve the material once chiseled. I tried different shapes with Carpenter’s Blocks, that let you make sloped surfaces.

No go. They just wound up looking bad or just not nice.

I ended up taking a break to work on another project. I wanted to make a controlled tree farm on a raised, fenced platform keeping dirt in, and high enough to make a nice flat surface.

treefarmscaffold

I had to search for cheap gravity defying materials.

The oak scaffolding was interesting, relatively cheaply made from a lot of sticks, but in an episode of hilarity, the moment I dropped the first dirt block on it, the dirt block sank right through, caving-in that particular scaffolding block it was placed on.

Oops, apparently it couldn’t support the weight of gravity-affected blocks, even though it would support a player standing on it and gravity-defying blocks could be placed on it.

roguedungeontower

Well, I’d always intended to attack the rogue dungeon next to my house and break it down for spare parts. Maybe some of the blocks could be repurposed.

towerroof

Enter a Minecraft night or two of shimmying up to the top and demolishing every layer with an axe.

It yielded a surprisingly respectable amount of treated wood stairs, and white cedar paneled blocks.

The white cedar panels were what I was after to form the base of my gravity-defying tree farm platform, but what was I going to do with all these treated wood stairs? The staircase to the tree farm only needs to go up so high.

Hmm…

wootawoodframe

Hey, this doesn’t look half bad.

So all I need to do now is continue with the same color chert bricks to make a second floor, and it should still look somewhat-aesthetically-together.

insideroof

A look at the inside while under construction.

On the right is one of my false starts with slate bricks. Just doesn’t color coordinate and looks flat and ugly.

I’m especially tickled that this plan lets me stack yet another layer of thatch. More “insulation.”

The inside of the thatch will be hidden by the stone floor, whatever color I decide it to be eventually.

The outside of the thatch is the treated wooden stairs frame.

Then I’ll stack chert bricks on top of the thatch, and no one but me will be the wiser that there’s thatch inside.

And so the house progresses, little by little, session after session.

Minecraft TFP: Singleplayer Sandbox Journeys

The newest survival game on the block is Conan Exiles, and apparently, everyone’s talking about it. Or at least, it’s burning up in popularity on Twitch, and why not?

I plan to watch a few streams too, so that the professionals can do all the suffering through bugs and early access and random player kills that I would rather not experience.

UltrViolet’s got a nice early impressions post of Conan Exiles, so head over to Endgame Viable if you want to read more about it.

While leaving a comment there though, the burning question that struck me was, “Besides prettier graphics, just what can these survival sandbox games offer that Minecraft, armed with a good modpack, does not already have, gameplay-wise?”

Mind you, pretty graphics are a thing. It gives any game a massive leg up in popularity and accessibility. That’s why MMOs took over MUDs, after all. Judging book by covers and all that.

But if we want to drill down to gameplay and variety of it, MUDs in their heyday offered a lot more game variants than the MMO clones of yesteryear (and today). There were MUDs with experience levels, MUDs with skills that leveled up as you practiced, MUDs that let you play as White Wolf vampires and werewolves, MUDs that had 12 or 99 fantasy races and then some, MUDs made up of text-only rooms linked by cardinal directions, MUDs with ASCII wilderness maps, and so on.

Rogue-likes, Dwarf Fortress and text-only interactive fiction offer a depth and variety of genre and gameplay possibilties that more elaborate graphical games struggle to match, simply because it takes a much longer time to produce content that has to have voice-over work and 3d models and animation, than a 2D sprite or an ASCII character.

And along the same “limited resources” lines of thought. developer man-hours is a limited resource. Any vaguely-popular game that supports player mods will have far more stuff created for it by player fans than an in-house developer team can produce.

The only real question is quality, and the related problem of finding quality amidst the quantity of stuff produced.

Then again, the lines can get super-blurry, since more and more games are being released by developers as “early access” aka “don’t expect quality control at this stage.” (And quite a few games never make it out of early access either, before shuttering) while certain amateur mod developers tirelessly churn out multiple improved versions, based on dedicated beta tester friends, a large pool of ordinary players offering feedback on forums and their own vision for where their mod is going.

.—

So here I am, doing my own part to show off just how fantastically “survival” Minecraft modpacks can get.

(Mind you,  there’s no cruel starvation in this particular modpack . You’d want one that includes Hunger Overhaul for that. Try Minecraft: Crash Landing, it’s pretty evil, lethality-wise.)

What Terrafirmapunk -does- have, is a fairly crazy amount of enemy mobs and exploration possibilities.

This, my friends, is my known world at present, using the seed “Shards of Silver”

shardsofsilverOne of the big driving factors for exploring in Terrafirmapunk (and Terrafirmacraft variants) is the large variety of rock and ore/mineral resources that are spread out over a vast land area. If you want them, you -must- travel. Staying in one location limits your resource collection.

Not to mention, I think one of the over-arcing goals is to figure out how to move these resources back to where you want them, hence the presence of mods like Railcraft and Steve’s Carts 2, which super-charge minecarts into really sophisticated programmable machines.

The nice thing about playing singleplayer though, is the kind of autonomy and control you have over your own experience. It’s being your own server op, in other words.

If you want to, you -can- cheat.

How much you do so and spoil your own experience, well, that’s up to you. With great power comes great responsibility and all that.

Maybe some people can’t trust themselves. Me, I prefer to play -my- way.

Cheating in all the resources you want would miss the point of playing Minecraft in survival mode. There’s creative mode and going peaceful with no mobs for building to your heart’s content, after all.

I did however, decide that I hated the “back again” part of a “There and Back Again” exploratory journey. (A little Fed-Ex questy for me. It’s interesting to go from A to B. Much less interesting on the return journey from B to A.)

JourneyMap is a Minecraft mod that significantly expands vanilla Minecraft mapping capabilities. I couldn’t live without it in most modpacks these days. It offers a minimap, an overland map, a web browser map if you enable it, and most importantly for the exploration-obsessed, the capacity to set your own named waypoints.

I mark up my maps like crazy, dumping annotations for every resource and landmark I find significant.

The best thing is, you can teleport back to those waypoints (with the right settings configured) at will.

The center portion is home ground and relatively familiar territory.

knownworld1

We have to zoom in to see my home base.

zoomedworld

The neat thing about JourneyMap is that it really tracks stuff on a fine detailed level. You might be able to make out little orange pixels in the central fenced compound. Those are Jack O’ Lantern pumpkins serving as lights.

The light green and pink clumps of pixels are wildflowers. Trees all clumped together really look like forests.

Terrafirmacraft, as mentioned in earlier posts, really pays attention to geographical versimilitude, hence the many undulating contoured hills that reflect a topographical map… and make it nigh impossible to find a big flat piece of land to build on.

Even on home ground, there are cool things to see.

localdungeon

The building in the distance marks the entrance to the local mini-roguelike dungeon. I’m building my planned future home pretty close to it, so I’m going to have to keep it controlled and “domesticated.”

I’ve already ventured in and broken quite a lot of mob spawners, and looted some chests of treasure.

The second basement level is proving quite a massive pain with never-ending goblin warriors that spawn in crazy amounts. I blocked the stairs they use to come up with a couple stone blocks for now, but it also makes it impossible for me to go in and loot stuff.

I may have to resort to some highly creative measures of getting light in there, like tunneling -under- the dungeon and coming up under the spawner or something, or setting up a safe barricaded walkway or some other construction-based strategy.

spiderspawner

This is on the first level, and “domesticated.” This handy dandy mob spawner produces itty bitty swarm spiders, that are about a 1 x 1 block high. They’re fairly easy to kill and drop string, which I was finding quite tricky to locate in Terrafirmapunk.

Some hasty and creative fence-building yielded an arrangement that blocked off most avenues of the spiders’ approach. At first, they were fitting through the 1 block gap, but I discovered another fence post one block behind seems to screw with their pathing and AI.

They bump into the fence post, feel a barrier and immediately want to start to climb to get over it. As they climb, they can’t quite figure out how to fit through the fence because the fence acts as a 1.5 block tall entity for them. They continue straight upward to the ceiling where they stay stuck and bite harmlessly on the fence, and not at me.

The gap in the fence meanwhile lets me stick a sword in there and semi-randomly flail around hitting spiders, knocking them off the fence post, them picking themselves up and climbing again and unsoweiter until they die and drop string.

Voila. Crude string farm. Not at all automated, really low-tech, but it works.

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Surprisingly near the Sycamore forest I was deforesting is a humble little wooden shack with a very big secret. A spawner that makes Giant Miners.

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These things gave me the fright of my life.

They use the same skin as the player who sees them, so it’s only my own fault that I used a skeleton skin when I was playing Minecraft: Hexxit and never bothered to change it after that.

They also one shot an unsuspecting, unarmored player from up to 4 blocks away.

There were several corpse retrieval deaths after the first bad surprise, and I had to resort to watching a Youtube video on a Giant Miner mob farm to figure out how to retrieve my belongings from my graves.

(Solution: Fences. Lots of them. Hit-and-run fence building, so that you build a few feet before they spawn and you run away to live and build more fences another day.)

Unfortunately, I lacked the materials to make a Giant Miner trapdoor (they used spectral glass) so the Giant Miner mob farm will have to wait for yet another day. They apparently drop a Giant Pickaxe, so I’m looking forward to that day to figure out what those pickaxes can do for me.

observatory

This was in the local BIG LAKE. It felt like an ocean, it was that big, but apparently it’s mostly freshwater and not seawater, so I can only call it a lake.

There are mob spawners in the wooden ship, I think they made redcap scavengers and goblin warriors, and I don’t think I cleared this particular ship yet.

I only had eyes for the weird observatory structure.

I forgot to take screenshots but it was pretty wild inside. A lot of copper piping from a mod made it feel very steampunky. There were bookcases that I went nuts chopping up to loot books from. At the very top, I looked up from my looting spree and came face to face with a glowing mob spawner that spawned some kind of Arcane Tome, ie. a floating book thing.

It was day and all was quiet, so I thought I’d sneakily edge out of there before anything nasty showed up. I exited out the side of the observatory, squee’ed in delight at the white aspen fences and started to chop them up and loot them…

…then evening started falling, it got dark enough that SOMETHING popped up outside the observatory with me.

Turns out, flying spellbooks shoot magic missile / fireball things.

I shrieked in horror, tried to chop a few up into bits of paper, realized I was fighting a losing battle versus a spawner as it got darker and darker…

…then an Infernal Mobs-buffed spellbook showed up. This mod adds Diablo-style modifiers to mobs, so they get all kinds of special effects and attacks, like fireball spewing and poison and blinding darkness.

I barely looked at the modifiers, just at its massive health bar and noped right out of there, hurling myself off the observatory battlements and into the water.

The wooden ship was crawling with red markers on my minimap, meaning lots of enemies had spawned in there too.

So I beelined away from anything solid and swam right on out of there without looking back.

Someday, I’ll go back to loot those copper pipes. But not today.

exploreloop1

There were three main exploration journeys I made.

This eastern loop was an honest one.

I literally walked every bit of this loop. When it got dark, I put up a dinky little wood shelter with a door and huddled inside till morning.

There were some stone ruins, and more entrances to rogue dungeons.

stoneruin

Streams,

streams

rivercave

and rivers that curved their way into caves. (Ignore the big blocky splotch. That shows I’m starving and debuffed.)

And then I saw it.

gianttree

A giant tree, lit up with glowstone lamps, and a hedge-like maze in front of it.

I went “wow,” and started to approach…

naga

Then I saw this green snake-like creature traveling at a fantastic speed around the vicinity, seemingly chewing up blocks, and when I put my crosshairs over in its direction, there was a giant boss health meter labeled “Naga.”

Cue more “NOPE”ing right on out of there.

Need armor. Need a shit ton more weapons.

skyscraper

Now and then, you see the skeletal ruins of something that reminds you that this is a steampunk world. Or was.

What calamity befell and let the wilderness reclaim much of its civilization? We might never know.

One thing modded Minecraft doesn’t do terribly well is lore or narrative. Maybe I haven’t quite found the right mod yet, or maybe writing stories is hard for technologically mod-inclined programmers.

pipes

One thing procedurally generated ruins with no story beyond what’s in them are good for… lots of materials to loot when I’m ready for this level of tech.

exploreloop2

The westward-ho journey was similar, except this time I’d gotten tired of the return loop and resolved to just waypoint back when I was done exploring.

hydra

I found more scary shit that I wouldn’t dream of going near without being more fully prepared and armored to the gills.

towerofsauron

This was terribly amusing.

I saw it in the distance, went “lol, tower of Sauron! Should I? Dare I?” and kept creeping up ever closer and closer.

Nothing happened.

So I went in and found some pretty cool sulfur ore blocks and bubbling pits of lava. I was thinking, “great! New resource place when I need this stuff!”

Further exploration revealed two mob spawners, which were supposed to spawn mini-ghasts, which I quickly broke before giving them a chance to spawn. *shudder*

Circling and circling the place, it all seemed safe sans spawners now.

Then for whatever reason, I got it into my head that I wanted to practice the Smart Movement mod – a recent discovery, this mod lets you crawl and fit into 1 block gaps by holding down a special ‘grab’ key along with the usual ‘sneak’ key, and also lets you climb naturally by jumping up to 2-3 block high cliffs and holding down the ‘grab’ key, simulating your ability to grab onto and shimmy up onto a slightly higher platform.

So I started shimmying up the Tower of Sauron-lookalike with my bare hands, only using a stacking block or three when there were no more handholds.

Just as I’d almost reached the top, and was looking down messing with stepping blocks, I looked up and this looked back at me.

urghast

I’m not sure who shrieked first.

I shrieked. It shrieked.

And if you know Minecraft ghasts, their shriek is literally ghast-ly, and comes with fireballs that sets things on fire.

I didn’t -quite- tumble off the tower, or else there would be another hectic gravestone retrieval, but it was a close thing, plummeting 3-4 blocks at a time, fleeing as if all the hounds of hell were after me. (It kinda was.)

The darnest thing was, it kept shrieking over the horizon, even as I continued around, giving that tower a wide wide berth. It was like I’d literally woken it up. (Or caused it to spawn by getting close to the top.)

It might be still there to this day. I’m not going back until I have a ton of high quality arrows and a good bow.

airship

More cool steampunk shit. Or ship.

pirate

It was, unfortunately, occupied. And I didn’t feel like messing with well-armored steampunk pirates quite then.

sunset

There are ways to add shaders and higher-resolution textures to mod Minecraft further graphics-wise. But I’ve rarely been able to make myself take the effort when the base (modded) game can already produce stuff that looks as good as the above.

The western side of the continent is filled with mostly white rock – chalk and so on.

It is also, apparently, Easter Island.

easterisland1

easterisland2

Then there was this confluence of three ruins I marked for future exploration.

threeruins

I am still not sure if this was an intentional set piece that is going to have monsters inside it, or just part of the randomness of procedural generation.

floatingisland

There’s ore up in them dar floating basalt hills though, so I’ll find out one day.

This, though, takes the breath away.

floatingcastle

And it’s not until I look at the screenshot now, that I see there’s also something oddly cross-shaped and almost depth-charge-like in the water.

(It bears further exploration. Maybe it’s a submarine, just head on.)

Yes, there are things in the water too.

submarine

Which, by the way, I fell totally in love with.

subinterior

I jumped into one, cleaned out the engine room of a few nasties, and then totally didn’t want to leave, ever.

I really wanted to drive it around as a personal ship, but unfortunately, after some cheaty experimentation with Archimedes Ships – a mod that apparently lets you build and pilot your own ships – the submarine was made up of too many blocks for it to handle.

*sad face*

So I eventually had to say goodbye to my submarine.

seamonsters

The sea monsters are fortunately quite benign and seemingly content to live and let live. I didn’t dare hurt one though. Just in case.

The last journey was the cheatiest.

By now, I was armed with a bed, woven with silk cloth from the string from the spider spawner.

So I was sleeping away nights while on the move, and fully prepared to JourneyMap waypoint teleport back home when done.

But it was quest-like in its intensity all the same.

This is the story of the Great Northern Boat Trip.

greatnorthernjourney

Some background: I’d been watching a few Youtube Terrafirmacraft players who complained that they were living in a place too cold for crops to grow, especially in the winter, and that they were going to move south to warmer climes to build a new base there.

I absolutely could not relate, because my home base temperatures sat at 26-30 degrees Celcius in spring, summer and autumn and seemed to barely go to 20 degrees Celcius in winter. (I do still have seeds popping out of the ground in autumn and winter though.)

While this perhaps is great for agriculture and crops, this does a number on my food stores because they are prone to decay in the warm climate. I’d built a cellar, but the special ice bunker block that controls and lowers temperatures in the cellar to refrigerator temperatures requires harvested ice to work.

I SEE NO ICE IN WINTER.

Or at least, I don’t remember seeing anything on my ponds in the first winter, and I wasn’t sure my second winter was going to produce any ice, given that the average temperature around my home base is 26 degree Celcius.

So I was going to go NORTH.

The plan was to lay down a few convenient waypoints near ponds, so that I could teleport over once it was Winter and I’d go carve out some ice.

One thing led to another, I was watching the temperature on the debug screen drop ever so steadily lower as I went further and further north.

temperature

And then it became a question of curiosity that had to be sated.

Even though it was Autumn, was it possible to go north ENOUGH that the average biome temperature would drop below 0 degree Celcius and hit a kind of permafrost tundra?

Turns out, it was a LOT of going north.

I was crossing Ocean, then Deep Ocean in a dinky little boat.

island1

The odd island would come into view.

island2

I skirted most of them, especially at night. Zombie/skeleton/creeper spawns are thick and dense when that’s the only land to spawn on.

It was quite fascinating to see the tree types change as the biome got colder.

I started with oak forests, and then they started changing to spruce and pine and douglas pines.

snow

Eventually, I did reach that mythical land where the average temperature was in the negative Celcius readings, and the current temperature dropped to below zero.

There was snow on the tops of the trees, and the ponds literally started freezing in front of my eyes. (I suppose my presence in them started the chunk loading and all the processes that were supposed to happen began to happen.)

Sadly, there wasn’t thick snow anywhere. A little reading up suggested that snow only collected in layers when it “rains” – which converts to “snowing” in cold climates, and that Terrafirmacraft can only produce 1-2 deep layers of snow and nothing deeper than that. Perhaps in another version. Or another modpack.

Still, it was a wild adventure.

I gleefully took out the ice saw that I’d been carting around in my inventory, sawed up 18 or so ice blocks and teleported home to equatorial climes to try out the ice in my cellar.

A little bit cheaty?

Just a bit.

But it was fun.

Maybe some day, I’ll have a real railway line that can travel the distance and bring the ice the slow way around.

But until then, I’ll be fine with magical teleporting. It’s my game and my time, after all.