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Crafting Minecraft Mine

I'm sick with a bit of a cold and anticipating a major schedule change in a couple weeks that should facilitate a stronger separation of my time between home and work.  This was all the excuse I needed to procrastinate this weekend, although the cold robbed me of enough energy that I spent about 12 hours just laying down watching the entirety of the Yogscast Voltz series.
Episode 12 of the Yogscast Voltz series is undoubtedly the episode most worth watching.

Having learned that Tekkit has updated to Minecraft 1.6.4, I gave it a bit of a spin this weekend.  When I last used Tekkit, I ran into some kind of bug that prevented me from hearing any sounds, but that appears to have been resolved, so let the fun times begin!


Well, actually, after my first full day of playing with Tekkit, I think the fun times are over.   I accomplished building a Buildcraft Quarry powered by a combustion engine, a Galacticraft Coal Engine, a Thermal Expansion Pulverizer, a MineFactory Reloaded Sludge Boiler, and a large storage area... 
Surrounding chests with stone does not exactly make them creeper-proof, but it does improve their odds.
...but then I was out of gold ore and everything ground to a halt.  I was fed up with mining manually, the quarry was more likely to produce cobblestone than anything else and, if I cheated to produce gold, then that would just defeat the whole point of doing anything manually.

It would seem that some of the the people behind Technic acknowledge this is a problem, and that's why they came out with the Big Dig mod pack, which was basically Tekkit with easier-to-obtain ores, but that mod pack has not been updated since Minecraft 1.5.2.

In all honesty, my laundry list of complaints with Tekkit should read more like a list of personal preferences, but it goes something like this:
  • There's simply too many cooks in the kitchen, spoiling the broth of the gameplay by introducing several different means to achieve the same end without a whole lot of balance between the difficulty:reward ratio between them.  (Granted, this is nothing new to Tekkit, and rare is the giant mod compilation pack that could hope to avoid this.)
  • They've taken universal electricity mods (such as Galacticraft) and mixed them with non-universal electricity ones (that run on Buildcraft MJ).  Yes, there are go-between mods that try to make them compatible, and some mods (like Minefactory Reloaded or Steves Carts) can work fine with either types of energy, but it's still a bit of a headache to deal with multiple power generation methods.
  • So much world clutter!  Honestly, why do so many mod authors think it's necessary to introduce their own ores when Minecraft already gives us more block types than we can find a good use for?  It doesn't help that several of these mod packs added ore with the same name, and you end up needing a particular color of tin or copper to craft something.  Fortunately, the inventory issue is somewhat mitigated by the inclusion of backpacks in the Tekkit pack, and a lot of work that went into Tekkit was in making ores cross-compatible, but all this world clutter is still a drag on gameplay.
  • No Tinker's Construct?  That's sort of a shame.  It does more than let you form personal attachments to your favorite tools: once you've used a Tinker's Construct smeltery, you won't want to go back.
  • No ICBM?  While the Yogscast Voltz coverage really showed me why blowing things up can be fun, I still think I'm mostly into this mod for the automated defense turrets: I'll happily invest some resources in things that eliminate those pesky, pesky hostile monsters.
  • No Somnia?  Okay, so that mod isn't perfect, but I've gotta say that not simulating the world of Minecraft while you sleep just gets all the more poignant when you've got some cool machines set up to work while you're sleeping.
Perhaps my lead complaint with the Tekkit pack is that, while they've added a great deal of mods around the idea of enhancing your player character's productivity, they only added one mod that gives you a reason why you need that productivity: Galacticraft, a mod about building a rocket to go to space!  Granted, there's not much to do once you get there, but hey, isn't being able to leave this planet one of humanity's major cool goals in real life?
Buildcraft's quarries are certainly a double-edged sword.  While they make digging easy, they produce very dangerous holes (in this screenshot I am looking down) and the trouble with grabbing a big square of resources like this is you're mostly going to end up with cobblestone.
You know, this is my central problem with Minecraft: for all I produce in-game, I just want a good reason why I'm producing it.  Essentially the problem is that there's no goals, per se.  Not even going multiplayer resolves that problem, because then you're just producing uselessly as a social activity.

Minecraft comes with a relatively weak central motivation for the player to produce things.
  • At first, it's to survive against all those pesky monsters that come out at night, but you will find the overworld to be largely safe once you get a decent set of iron armor, some stout walls to cower behind at night, and a bed to make the night end instantly.
  • The Nether is more dangerous, which would justify the need for better gear, ideally enchanted, and maybe some potions - that gives you a reason to build, sure.  But why bother going to The Nether at all?  It's just a dangerous place that has a few unique resources you might need to craft better potions and get to The End in order to kill the Ender Dragon, and what has the Ender Dragon ever done to you?  
  • Consequently, players will just hang around The Overworld, that's where all the fun stuff is... right up to the point where you run out of motivation to continue playing because now you need to invent your own goals and you can only build so many castles or cobblestone statues until that gets boring.
It's really no wonder that ICBM and Galacticraft made such a splash: building nuclear weapons or going to the moon was much more interesting than what Minecraft gave players by default.

The only other mods I've seen that provided this essential reason to produce are Millenaire and Minecolony.  In both mods, you can funnel your resources to supporting the growth of villages.  Now that's something because you can feel like you're part of building something larger than yourself.   Unfortunately, I really can't play either mod anymore, Millenaire because the last time it broke my game and Minecolony because it hasn't been updated since Minecraft 1.2.5.

I'm not aware of any good alternatives right now.  I've tried lording over Minecraft villagers, but it's just not the same because they're just not smart enough to be worth helping.  Although version 1.8 introduces a few changes that may help, villagers would seem to me to have a long way to go until they actually seem like something more than dumb mobs.

Speaking of which, there is a mod called Minecraft Comes Alive that actually completely converts villagers into something a bit more interesting.  However, I feel just a bit iffy about a major focus of the mod being to build up my relationship with villagers in order to marry them.  Sounds more like a dating sim.  Still, I have to admit, pretending you have an in-game wife and kids is potentially one effective way to make the events in Minecraft seem a lot more significant!

*sigh* Anyway, it looks like in order to craft Minecraft into something I'd be willing to stick with playing, I've essentially three major mod methods I'm looking at:
  • Go high tech: Galacticraft with a Universal Energy centric mod pack.  In this situation, I could see Modular Power Suits as being a really nice addition to have, as it will enable you to look the part.
  • Go contemporary tech: Buildcraft has a great deal of effective sister mods, such as Railcraft, Forestry, and so on.  That certainly gives you a lot to do, from building elaborate railroads to breeding bees, but you still have to come up with some other reasons why you're producing this stuff.  I think villagers would likely be appreciative of your efforts.
  • Go fantasy tech: Thaumcraft offers a whole other way to play which is really quite cool - you're basically a wizard thaumaturge.  Again, if you need a reason why, perhaps the villagers would appreciate your efforts.  To some extent, I think Thaumcraft might introduce a goal about safeguarding the environment, but the main goal is in unlocking more Thaumcraft to do.  Millenaire and Mystcraft can mix well in a fantasy setting, but each thing you add on top of Thaumcraft detracts from the immersion a bit because a central tenant of Thaumcraft is you can identify the magical properties of anything in the world, and things from outside of stock Minecraft and Thaumcraft may not have had magical properties assigned to them.
A major division between these three methods is that they all have unique methods of powering their machines and routing items.  Universal Energy has a universal power system that accepts power from Buildcraft, Industrial Craft, and Thermal Expansion's redstone flux, while items are moved via assembly line conveyor belts if you install the resonant induction mod.  Buildcraft has the aforementioned Minecraft Joules and pipes.  Thaumcraft has vis and golems.  Many large modpacks will mix these, but I propose that it's better to keep them separate because it's both awkward and immersion-breaking to have all these separate power methods.

Of course, there's actually quite a few awesome 1.6.4 mods out right now, and these are the major productivity mods I'm aware of.  There are other batches of mods that can turn Minecraft into an RPG, if that's what you're into, and this is what Hexxit and Hack/Mine are about.  I'm hoping some Minecraft mod will come along that introduces some more meaningful goals.  As we're now progressing into seeing some Minecraft 1.7.2 versions of major mods, it seems there will be plenty of opportunity for that to happen.
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