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Doing The Minecraft Mod Shuffle

I had four whole days off, back to back, and what did I spend them doing?  Minecraft!  What sub-par nerdening is this?  I should have spent at least a little of that time in Unity.

But what makes this worse is that I ended up restarting my Minecraft game several times, so I didn't even make progress within the game... unless you count learning a bit about the mod mixes...

Mod Mix #1, "Not Quite Steampunk Adventurer":

On Tuesday, I first created what I eventually deemed a "steampunkish" mod-build:
  • Buildcraft, one of the original mods in automating mining and factorization, still going strong.
  • Thermal Expansion, which provides ore processing and a nice universal energy interface, among other things.
  • Applied Energistics, which primarily adds a really powerful means of item storage and transfer, among other things.
  • Thaumcraft... I don't even know where I can stop or start with describing this mod!  Suffice to say, it does what other mods do in a more fantasy-appropriate manner, adds a sense of genuine magic to the world, and has an awesome overall presentation.
  • Steve's Carts, sort of a long-standby mod for me because it goes well with anything due to lack of dependencies.  Steve's Carts facilitates the creation of custom mine carts that do almost anything you need.
  • Chocolate Quest adds a bunch of fancy randomly generated cool dungeons, weapons, tools, enemies, even furniture. 
  • Battle Towers, simpler custom dungeons that are basically tall towers of doom to clear out.
  • Infernal Mobs, randomly spawns the rare monster with Diablo Monster traits to Minecraft monsters.  In practice, I found the name to be a bit misnomer: not even Hell itself has mobs this vicious.
Overall, a bit of contemporary technology combined with a bit of fantasy adventure?  I guess the buildcraft pipes and engines look vaguely steampunkish, right? 

One of Chocolate Quest's dungeons are these interesting adjacent cubes that are basically underwater fortresses full of "Tritons," unique squiddy humanoid monsters.
Well, this mod mix lasted all of 2 hours before I ended up getting killed ten times straight by a spider with about ten traits before finishing it off, whereupon it dropped 3 or 4 pieces of enchanted diamond gear. So the only mod I ended up using was Infernal Mobs, where I learned that there's really no balancing factor to stop it from spawning one with every single nasty trait.  That's all very well when you can choose your fights, but not when you're trying to defend your home or clear out a dungeon.

Mod Mix #2, "Interplanetary Infiltrator Adventure":

It was time to start over with a second mix for the day.   No Infernal Mobs nor Battle Towers: AtomicStryker's stuff just kicks my ass.   While I was as it, no Thermal Expansion or Buildcraft, they won't be necessary.  Instead:
  • Mekanism, which expertly does most of what Buildcraft and Thermal Expansion does (and more) while looking a little more high tech and often featuring a slicker implementation.
  • Tinkers' Construct is all about smelting ore into permanent custom tools and weapons.  (I did not install Mekanism's "tools" module this time, thinking Tinker's Construct would handle that end of things.)
  • Galacticraft, the mod all about going to another planet in a rocketship.  Hey, a man needs a goal, alright?  Earlier, I mentioned I think Galacticraft will gel well with Mekanism's parts, power routing, and oil pumping/storage blocks.
I was still mixing Thaumcraft with Applied Energistics and much of the other stuff above, so this felt a bit thematically off-kilter.  Sure, I could just ignore that, but on some level I wanted to know how I was going to justify magic with all this high technology around.

I decided that I was going to be a member of some Interstellar scouting party who came to this planet to uncover the mysteries of this planet's strange thaumaturgical energies.  Of course, I would have knowledge of all this high technology (via Mekanism and Galacticraft), but I would have to hide it from the primitive locals, using only Tinkers' Construct and Thaumcraft where they could see me.  After my Thaumcraft research was complete, I could then build a rocket and go off-planet to simulate returning to my superiors to report my findings.
Curses, where are the villages?  Wait, that's this?!  Villagers being held captive in yon building!
A decent enough plan, but once again I stumbled on the first mod to get in my way.  This time, it was Chocolate's Quest that stole the show.

After spending about an hour and a half doing a very fruitful mining run, and another hour just trying to locate a village to "infiltrate," I gave up trying to find a village after the 4th village location reported by ADMIST turned out to be a dud.  Instead, I happened to spot some villagers captured inside of a dungeon and I decided I would try to take that place over and convert it to a village.

Big mistake.  It turns out this tower was swarming with nasty squid-men known as, "Tritons," that proved more than challenging even to me, a fair Minecraft veteran.  After 3 hours straight of trying to take out that dungeon, I managed to clear 2 out of 4 of the towers, but lost three loads of gear in such a way that it despawned before I was able to recover it.  I decided to throw in the towel in the face of excessive adversity.

For some reason, several entire floors of Tritons would aggro, swarming me, maybe 20 of them at a time.  The swarm would be composed of a combination of melee and ranged units that made avoiding damage impossible while causing me to backpedal desperately.  If I accidentally backpedaled into a dead end, it was over: too much damage coming at me to survive digging my way out, and the knockback from the swarm would prevent me from shouldering me way through the mob.  Sometimes, death was not a matter of blundering into a dead end, I simply accrued too much damage.  Even going "easy" mode didn't help: Tritons simply don't play fair, especially the archers, who can chain-knockback a player caught in a crossfire.

Not defeating the tower meant no village.  No village meant my "Interplanetary infiltrator" plan was a bust.  Now it was Tuesday night, and I mulled over what to do next.  I decided to take another run at a "high technology" build.

Mod Mix #3, "Tech Conveniences":

At this point, I took a greater interest in architecture.  This base comes up from inside a cliff-side, culminating in a nifty medieval-style turret.  Inside, I went for a "Dwarven Hall" sort of thing: a long hall hewn from the raw rock.
There was nothing too complicated this time, just Mekanism (including the tool and generator modules) and Galacticraft, keeping Minefactory Reloaded, Steve's Carts, and Applied Energistics because why not?   I also added three more mods to the mix:
  • Computercraft - Yo dawg, we heard you like computer games, so we put computers in your game so you can play computer games while you play your computer games.

    Seriously, though, Computercraft computers are handy for nifty things like custom redstone timing, communication, and you can even program little turtle bots to do chores and stuff for you.
  • Deconstruction Table - Sometimes, I was annoyed because I accidentally crafted something and I wanted the resources back.  Other times, I recovered a bunch of armor and weapons from mobs and fully repaired it, knowing I'll never need that gear because I had better, but I respected the materials that went into them and wished I could get at them.  This table could potentially fix both those problems by allowing me to render items into their components.
  • XACT - Xhamolk's Advanced Crafting Tables upgrade the vanilla crafting tables to hold your stuff rather than spitting it out when you close the interface, and provides a remarkable system for recalling previous things crafted, craft them automatically, or craft them on the go.  A really nice mod that deserves a bigger spotlight.
I called this build, "Tech Conveniences," because that's literally what it was: just a bunch of technological conveniences.   A pretty friendly build, nothing should go wrong.

Indeed, nothing went wrong, at least for nearly the entirety of Wednesday.  I rebuilt the tier 2 ore processing I had in the previous high tech game build.  I routed an electric pump with pneumatic tubes to supply both my ore processing and a hydrogen generator, and it worked beautifully.  I set up a separate solar power generator to power the pump and the electrolytic separator in order to give the hydrogen generator a rest, thereby allowing the accumulation of hydrogen and oxygen into tanks.  I even set up a cool logical sorter setup.
A good Mekanism setup uses a Logistical Sorter set to route everything to the appropriate machine.  It works relatively well, but two words of advice.  First, have an overflow chest behind a restrictive tube so the machine doesn't jam, instead showing what it can't sort by what ends up in the overflow chest.  Second, know that the ore dictionary filters are iffy things, so you'll probably have to set up some individual item filters for a lot of things.
Everything seemed to be going well with Mekanism, and I was about to get into Steve's Carts again... but then I realized the balance was kaput:
  • Mekanism's tool and armor balance is actually adjustable in a configuration file but, by default, it's actually quite out of whack with Minecraft and Galacticraft. 

    You can easily obtain a bit of bronze ingots by combining copper ingots with tin dust - common minerals, both.  Reading the config file and comparing it to the Minecraft wiki, bronze armor is equal to iron in protection, maybe a bit more durable (contrary to what the Mekanism wiki says).  However, bronze tools and weapons are much better than diamond, the bronze pick digging up obsidian with little difficulty, and the bronze sword doing almost twice as much damage.   Yes, with a plain (not enchanted) bronze sword, I was critical hitting monsters for an unprecedented 15 points of damage, enough to one-shot many of them.   (I kinda wish I had brought one of these to that Triton tower: those snakes would have had a very bad day!)

    Mekanism also offers another tier above bronze: obsidian, made from ground up obsidian and diamonds.  According to the .cfg files, a full suit of obsidian armor offers 30 points of resistance, versus diamond armor's 20 points.  The Modular Powersuits mod I was griping about in the last entry for being too powerful had been configured to have 24 points (6 points per piece), and presumably obsidian can be enchanted, too (because I know bronze can).  Obsidian weapons hit even harder than bronze!

    Put in comparison with Galacticraft, there is "desh" material that is much harder to obtain than bronze (you basically have to perform an epic space quest that ends on Mars to get it) but desh is only barely more effective than diamond.
  • Monsters very frequently have equipped Mekanism armor and weapons.  Fortunately, not bronze or obsidian.  However, the osmium, glowstone, and steel they often wore was a significant upgrade from what they had.
  • I was using the Nether Ores mod.  Nether ores are so beneficial that they are hard to resist getting, especially with an ore processing mod such as Mekanism.   However, harvesting Nether Ores will anger nearby Zombie Pigmen.  
  • Zombie Pigmen are dangerous, even in stock minecraft, because they'll swarm you and are faster than you.
  • Now that Zombie Pigmen will spawn equipped with Mekanism armor and weapons, players can be swarmed with mobs that do a lot more damage and take a lot more hits to kill.
This situation derailed my whole game.  I was getting killed constantly when I visited The Nether, even on "easy" difficulty, even wearing full bronze armor and using bronze weaponry that had been enchanted.

Was abandoning the game necessary at this point?  I checked the mekanism .cfg files to see if there was a flag to prevent the mobs from spawning with Mekanism equipment.  Not as far as I could tell.  Of course, I could remove the Mekanism tools component completely, but I was sort of banking on having those tools since I was not running any other mod with a tool improvement.  I could have tweaked the armor values in the .cfg files, but the main problem was that the zombie pigmen were wearing armor at all - normally, you'd only have to worry about gold swords (which, due to a nod at the malleable nature of gold, were actually only as effective as wooden swords).  I could just run the game on "peaceful" difficulty, which despawns hostile mobs completely, but that's sort of cheap.  I decided this was a no-win situation.
A Chocolate Quest dungeon is pretty much designed to get you into a protracted combat situation.  Better outline an escape route, or be ready to place blocks between you and the mob.  (Of course, some mobs know how to dig...)
I had now been bullied by infernal mobs, Tritons, and zombie pigmen that had been augmented with enhanced weaponry and armor.  As I went to bed that night, I had come to an important realization: your effectiveness in combat in Minecraft is capped, and it doesn't take much modding to push it over the edge into breaking my game.

The self-limiting nature of Minecraft's combat can be summed up in this basic mechanic problem:
  • Mobs have barely less reach than you do (and some even have ranged attacks) so expect to get hit frequently, especially by swarms of fast-moving mobs.
  • If you're going to get hit, the nature of the damage model encourages that some damage will be taken (although I have seen damage shrugged off entirely sometimes... it can probably be rounded down to 0 points of damage in cases).
  • When you lose health, it is regenerated naturally over time, but only if you have a full (or nearly full) food bar.  (There are also healing potions.)  However, restoring health in this way makes you hungrier.  Consequently, you'll lose your regeneration quickly.
  • To restore that regeneration, you'll need to eat something.  However, you can't eat (or drink potions) in combat because getting hit will interrupt you.  (Of course, this is situational: you might be able to get away with scarfing down a bite if you're up against slow mobs like standard zombies, and even speedy zombie pigmen might give you breathing room if you find a convenient wall or cliff.)
Put that all together, and it means that, in Minecraft, protracted engagements will inevitably kill you.  The only way to win is to kill the mob quickly or get away from them so you can eat and recover your health.  In the case of the Triton swarms, zombie pigmen swarms, and infernal mobs, I could neither kill them all before the inevitability of death kicked in, nor escape.  Ergo: death.

Maybe I shouldn't have cared so much that Modular Powersuits or Obsidian Armor could make combat overly trivial: in the face of challenges like these, that kind of overkill is necessary.  Strap me into an auto-feeder, and that solves the eating-while-in-combat problem.  Fire loads of plasma cannon AOE, preferably while airborne, and swarms of zombie pigmen are helpless cannon fodder.  Or just swat them all down with that deliriously overpowered obsidian sword, right?  The point is that the self-limiting nature of Minecraft's combat balance can be circumvented completely if you're willing to stomp all over it!

When I woke up Thursday (today), I decided it was time to go without Mekanism primarily because I didn't like how the weapons and armor made the mobs overpowered (albeit fortunately not to "Infernal Mobs" level) but also because I thought bronze and obsidian armor and weaponry was too effective.  Of course, I could have just gone without the tools module... but I had bigger plans.

Mod Mix #4, "Everything Tekkit Isn't":

The game is still young in this mod, but I did at least find a nice village
and plenty of mossy cobblestone in a nearby jungle temple.
I've decided it was time to leave the high tech to the official Tekkit mod pack because they probably care enough about balance to have done lots of custom tweaks to make it work.

Instead, I'm making this mix everything tekkit isn't, so I'll basically have a different gameplay experience when I do play tekkit.  I might as well try to keep with a "fantasy" theme in my personal, non-tekkit, mix while I was at it:
  • The core of this mod is Thaumcraft, that awesome mod I haven't been able to get to because I keep letting other mods get in the way.  (From what I gather, Thaumcraft is not in Tekkit because they don't have permission.)  This time, it comes first, or close to first, for lack of those other distractions.

    Thaumcraft greatly enriches the world by adding the significance of a magical layer of goings on.  Thanks to golems, I don't need to worry about having something to move things between chests.  Also, the golems should provide some effective home defense while still being thematically good. 

    Yet, in terms of all the cool magical stuff Thaumcraft adds, golems are just the tip of the iceberg.  I kinda hate to discuss much of them: discovering them for yourself is half the fun!  Just follow the Getting Started page and try to avoid peeking at the rest of the wiki unless you get stuck.

    I threw in Thaumic Tinkerer for more Thaumcraft goodies.  It's practically an official expansion mod.
  • Tinkers' Construct is not in tekkit (although it is in hexxit and Attack of the B-Team).  In it goes.  These are going to serve the purpose of being my primary tools, not as fancy as Thaumcraft artifacts, but a lot more predictable.
  • I even got rid of Steve's Carts 2 this time, despite it going well in any mod mix, because it is in tekkit so I will keep my experiences with it there.   Besides, they look rather high tech... maybe passably steampunk?
  • Added BiblioCraft because it adds lots of cool furniture and display stands and stuff.  While building a "dwarven hall" in the previous game, I think I learned that presentation is actually quite important to enhancing my Minecraft experience.
  • Added Natura, which adds even more nifty furniture via special trees, as well as some rather cool natural blocks such as oreberry bushes and special trees.
  • Added Better Storage because Applied Energistics is out on this "high fantasy" build, so I needed, well, better storage.  I am rather impressed with the backpack implementation here, perhaps the most balanced I've seen in many backpack mod: if you want double your inventory for cheap, you'd better be willing to give up that chest armor!  Sealing the deal, this mod actually has good cross-compatibility with Thaumcraft.
  • It was either Minecraft Comes Alive or Millenaire for my villages... I decided to go for the former just because I didn't want the latter adding too much extra stuff I didn't want.  Also, I think Millenaire is the mod that keeps running that extra javaw.exe process that never terminates.  It's probably trying to build pathing data or something.
  • Mystcraft - Well, I won't be exploring the moon, but I'd say this is the fantasy equivalent!  Mystcraft lets you craft magical books that take you to other dimensions, often with weird stuff like pools of liquid ores and such.  I think it actually draws somewhat at random for other things loaded, so it'll be interesting to see what it will do with all the things introduced by Tinker's Construct, Thaumcraft and Natura.
  • Of course, there's some things tekkit has that this mod mix does as well, such as NotEnoughItems and Waila and such, but that's really not the point: what's being swapped out here is the core gameplay mods.  
Remember, the goal here is for it to be used in combination with tekkit because the idea is that when I'm bored of playing with high technology in tekkit I can play this, and vice versa.  Thus, different mods for different experiences.

I'm pretty sure this mod pack will work, but I still need to give it a good testing.  If it doesn't work, at least tekkit does!  As for now, I've restarted my Minecraft game almost a half-dozen times over the past four days.  It's just as well I'm going back to work for a few days now: I think I need a break from Minecraft.

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