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Minecraft: Supreme Choice Spoilage

Of my odd weekly schedule, Thursdays are rapidly becoming my least favorite.  Thursdays are a 24-hour period in which I reflect on how badly I wasted the previous 72-hours off while looking forward to another 72-hours in which I will do little more but work.

As with the previous two weeks of this schedule, Minecraft has usurped what I had falsely predicted would be a very productive amount of time for me.  Yet, I do find the time spent in-game to be a considerable upgrade from aimless browsing on the Internet, and when I can't commit to doing anything that's usually what will happen.

Monday was an example of one such day.   I mostly tried to argue on Internet forums, watched Yogscast on YouTube, and defecated inordinately... I've heard of YouTube Poops, but this is ridiculous!  I did, earlier in the day, manage get in a game of FTL that was full of much exciting boarding action and an inexplicable propensity to encounter ships with missiles that ultimately accrued enough hull damage to destroy my ship.  The rest of the day was largely a waste.
By Tuesday, I had enough of my inability to commit to a simple game of Minecraft, so I downloaded the latest Sphax resource pack for Tekkit and made Minecraft happen.  Having been indoctrinated on the Yogcast Tekkit series lately, I immediately found myself at home among Sphax textures, and got to work on trying to get some Modular Powersuits up before ultimately getting sidetracked from a lack of gold ingots that many of the recipes required.

My mind was blown when I discovered compressed cobblestone.  I don't like throwing out the stuff I dig up, so my chests soon become stuffed with cobblestone.  The use of Buildcraft quarries utterly turbo-charge my cobblestone production, so what's a cobblestone-hoarding fellow to do?  Well, I could digitize it and stick it in an Applied Energistics item network, but that takes awhile to get up and running.  Simply crafting a square of 9 cobblestone into one stack of compressed cobblestone could be done right now!

I immediately set about automating the process.  In the process, I learned how Buildcraft pipes work at last.  I always thought them to be rather complicated, but they're really quite simple in execution:
  • Wooden pipes are always the input of the system: with the assistance of an engine, they suck something out of an adjacent inventory.
  • Cobblestone transport pipes provide identical, slow movement that the stone pipes do, but can't connect to each other and the stone pipes have less friction.
  • Iron transport pipes essentially allow items to go only one way, preventing them from being shot out of the tube for backing up.
  • Gold pipes accelerate the movement speed of items passing through the pipes.
  • Diamond transport pipes perform item sorting. 
Most of the alternative piping systems I've seen in other mods (such as Mekanism, Thermal Expansion, and RedPower 2) were mostly just trying to cut down on the amount of piping needed in order to make better use of the same amount of space.
A Buildcraft automatic crafting table (an "Auto Workbench" in latest versions of Buildcraft) is the cheapest such method, built of a mere 4 wooden gears (16 sticks) surrounding a crafting table (4 planks).  It requires no method of powering, but automatically distributes whatever resources are placed (or piped) onto its crafting grid.  Upon accumulating twice the needed resources (one for the template, another to produce the copy), the auto workbench will slowly produce the product.

A Buildcraft wooden transport pipe (1 glass block surrounded by 2 planks) can be attached to the automated workbench to extract finished products.  It must be powered, the cheapest option being a Buildcraft redstone engine (whose most expensive part requires 1 redstone dust and 1 iron ingot).

Just one crafting interaction will turn 9 cobblestone into a compressed cobblestone: a stack of 64 compressed cobblestone equals 576 cobblestone!  That's a single stack, and already enough to overflow a chest with the non-compressed alternative.  Well, I double-compressed it by combining 9 compressed cobblestone, and then triple-compressed it by combining 9 double-compressed cobblestone.   The top chest in the picture above has 10 triple-compressed cobblestone: that's 7290 blocks of cobblestone in one inventory slot!  You can compress cobblestone in this manner up to 8 times, which is overkill: would I ever mine 43,046,721 cobblestone?

The idea of "compressing" cobblestone by hand feels a bit like cheating, really.  Try folding a single piece of paper 8 times and see how far you get.  Do you think you'd get much further with loose rocks?  However, considering what I built not 200 squares away, perhaps I aught to waive the realism prospect...
The smaller set of 3 holes in the upper-right is from the quarry being run on its default 10x10 size.
I've had my fill of spelunking in this game, so I decided I'd just turn a Buildcraft quarry up to its maximum size (64x64 blocks) and turn the sucker loose.  I wisely built it underground so I would not have to worry about falling in.

By simple math, a square quarry that is 6.4 times longer will have 40.96 times the space to cover, and that means you need to provide that many times the energy to get to bedrock.  Yes, you could run a quarry on a few stirling engines and it would eventually get to the bottom of whatever hole you're trying to dig, but it would take days, if not weeks of real time to pull that off.  What you really need to run such a quarry at full speed are eight combustion engines that have been provided with refined fuel...
...and this is pretty much what I built.  8 combustion engines routing their power to the quarry with quartz kinesis pipes while being cooled by water being supplied by 4 Thermal Expansion Acqueous Accumulators, two per engine.  Thus far, none of the engines have come anywhere near exploding.  As a precaution, they are all activated off of a daylight sensor so they will shut down and cool off at night.

I'm still not nearly to bedrock yet because it's a challenge to keep the engines supplied with enough fuel to run.   My Buildcraft refinery is just in a little room by itself, back at base, and refines fuel by being hand-fed buckets of oil that I have to retrieve manually from caves before taking buckets of fuel back to the refinery.  In order to take full advantage of these 8 engines, I'm eventually going to have to automate the fuel supply.

Of course, now that the quarry was running, I had a problem in that it could fill a double-chest completely in a few minutes.  Most of that would not be the ore I was so painstakingly avoiding digging up myself, but rather a bunch of dirt, sand, gravel, and foremost of all: cobblestone.  Tons of cobblestone!  Well, we know what to do with that, don't we?  Compress it!  Only, that quarry was pumping out so much cobblestone that a single auto workbench would soon become overloaded and spew it the extra all over the ground.  My precious excess!  What to do?
Note the bank of six auto workbenches stacked 3x2 towards the back: that's how I handled my cobblestone compression bottleneck for all the cobblestone sorted there.
I eventually ended up routing the cobblestone to six auto workbenches whose product ended up in a single auto-workbench to double-compress them before being deposited in a chest.  The dirt, sand, and gravel is not nearly as prevalent, I was able to store all that in a single chest.  All that leaves is the nifty ores I wanted to recover.  I barely have any of it yet, I'm running bone dry on fuel, but eventually I should have more ore than I could possibly need.

In the later hours of Tuesday, that same day, I rigged up a Steve's Carts 2 basic wood cutter to supply a Thermal Expansion sawmill.   The cart was unloaded via a Steve's Carts cargo manager hooked up to a Steve's Carts external distributor to get the logs to the machinery and then it should load some replacement fuel back into the cart.

The logs harvested by the cart were routed by a combination of Buildcraft and Thermal Expansion piping to the sawmill, whose sawdust was automatically crafted into compressed sawdust whose purpose is to be smelted into charcoal - I made that happen automatically.  Some wood planks were be routed to a Steam dynamo that kept all the Thermal Expansion machinery running.   I was going to do the same for the coal engine on the Steve's Cart minecart, but the solar engine I had installed as the primary engine did such a good job that this was not necessary.
There's actually quite a bit of improvement I could do to this sawmill.  For starters, I could put walls and a roof on it!  In terms of more technical benefits, the pipe routing could be improved in order to make sure the right items get where they belong.  Also, putting the autocrafter for the sawdust directly on top of the sawmill was a mistake, it would be better to use a diamond tube to route all sawdust there.  In its place, a hopper for all the log types would prevent the need for a log overflow chest, eventually they'd all go through the sawmill.  These kinds of thoughts are typical when using Minecraft factorization mods.
Before I built this sawmill, getting wood was a bit of a chore because it was somewhat a walk between base and the nearby forest.  In the space of a hour, this machine filled several chests with wood, logs, saplings, and planks.  I had to install an advanced detector rail on a switch just to shut down the cart, or I'd be drowning in wood and wood byproducts!  Now, the chore is in figuring out what I was going to do with it all!

With my supply of wood secure and easy access to steam dynamos, I can consider my Tekkit game as now having unlimited energy.  Sure, I would have to repair the wood cutter from time to time with a diamond, but even this short circuit of tracks is enough to keep more logs coming in than I know what to do with.  (Too bad trees don't grow this fast in real life!)   Having unlimited energy meant I could go ahead with an Applied Energistics system that would be able to intelligently divvy up the wood and such, the start of a system that would eventually put all of my items at my fingertips.

All things considered, can you blame me for forgetting all about the Modular Powersuit I wanted to build?  Well, it was on the "To Do" list, I just had to wait until my maximum-sized quarry started to provide me with the gold I was missing.

1.7.2 Or Bust...

On Wednesday, I decided to go in a different direction than to continue my ongoing Tekkit game.

To take a look at the improvements made to Minecraft 1.7.2, they are not insubstantial.  New biomes!  New blocks!  New fish!  Most importantly, 1.7.2 is a nice improvement on the stability, speed, and functionality of the previous version of the engine.

In terms of mods, there's actually quite a few that are 1.7.2 compatible now, including the most needed core basics: InventoryTweaks, TooManyItems/NotEnoughItems, TreeCapacitor, Zan's Minimap, and Optifine.

Most of the gameplay mods have yet to make the jump, yet.  What's life without Galacticticraft, Modular Powersuits, Mekanism, Thermal Expansion, Steve's Carts?  Upgrade to 1.7.2 and you'll have to find out.

However, there are a lot of 1.7.2. gameplay mods that are in "alpha" or "beta" status for 1.7.2, as well some that are deemed complete:
  • Minecraft Comes Alive - Complete.  This is mostly an overhaul that makes Minecraft villagers a lot more interactive.
  • Twilight Forest - Complete.  This introduces a cool faerie-inspired dimension with unique mobs and treasures to be found.
  • Archimedes' Ships - Complete.  Hurray!  You can build and pilot your own ships and airships out of blocks, even in 1.7.2.
  • Industrial Craft 2: Experimental - "Experimental".  Having leapfrogged 1.6.4 nearly entirely, the premiere industrial mod built to do everything is surprisingly well prepared for 1.7.2, but has a "use at your own risk" clause attached.
  • Applied Energistics - "Alpha".  This mod lets you build networks of items you have digitized, access them remotely, even order crafting to happen automatically on your behalf.  Sounds indispensable!  Maybe some core instability will change your mind on that!
  • Millenaire - "Beta, expect lots of bugs".  Having not seen an update for Millenaire since October, I'm happy to see that the biggest mod out there to add NPC settlements is still under development.
  • Buildcraft - "Pre-Alpha."  Can I use quarries and auto workbenches in Minecraft 1.7.2 already?  Maybe, or maybe it'll crash noisily when I try!  Still, it's good to see it's on its way.
  • Forestry - "Development Only."  Do you want to know what digital bees can do to you when they are agitated by code in transition?  You'll have to ask permission to find out!
Of course, there are just ones that are on the foremost of my mind.

I took at run at my custom 1.7.2 mod mix on Wednesday.  It was a mix that included Twilight Forest, IndustrialCraft 2, and Minecraft Comes Alive, in addition to many of the "core basic" mods.
Minecraft Comes Alive can't do everything.  You'll have to tell these villagers which houses they live in or else they'll often just sleep standing up in the middle of town, hopefully protected from nasties by the roving guards.

It ran just fine, but I was basically trying to make friends with the villagers in Minecraft Comes Alive, and I find myself not particularly caring - it's not like they had anything worthwhile to trade.  Even less so when I'm looking forward to the likes of quantum bodyarmor and nano sabres, right?

Late that day, I broke down and decided to install Feed The Beast at last.  It's basically a modpack Minecraft launcher like Technic, but it does have a few cool features Technic doesn't.  One of those features is the ability to tweak the custom mod packs you have installed, so if you want to inject Optifine or remove a bunch of mods from a given package with Feed The Beast, you can.

I was now a bit spoiled for choice. 
  • I could just play tekkit. 1.6.4 or not, it's fairly well balanced, well supported by the Sphax texturepack, and includes plenty of cool blocks and tools to play with.  Look how much I accomplished in one day I focused on playing tekkit!
  • If I want to play 1.7.2, I could play my own custom 1.7.2 modpack, or even tweak the Feed The Beast 1.7.2 "Unstable" modpack.
  • There's plenty of cool 1.6.4 Feed The Beast modpacks.  Most of them would have to be tweaked to adhere to my odd ideas in modpacks, but the nice thing about the FTB launcher is I can.  It's sort the whole idea behind the Monster pack that is the primary FTB modpack: just disable the ones you don't want.
Funny enough, for what little time I played on Thursday, I mostly played around with Lapitos Galacticraft modpack, which is not the most extensive modpack out there, but it is the only FTB modpack for Minecraft 1.6.4+ that I could find which included either Mekanism and Galacticraft!

I really miss the sound effects from Mekanism.  They're quite satisfying.  Oddly enough, the machine blocks from Thermal Expansion in tekkit don't make any sound at all.  How boring!

I still never got to the moon in Galacticraft.  As far as goals go, it's not bad, but I have to wonder why I want to go there so badly... it's just an airless void full of hostile super mobs.  Basically, it's hard mode for when The Nether seems too easy for you, perhaps even more exciting for astronomy buffs.

Consequently, of all the FTB modpacks, I actually ended up using Lapitos' Galacticraft... but I had to tweak it extensively:
  • I updated Mekanism, Galacticraft, and Modular Powersuits to the latest version, as well as included an addon pack for the Powersuit modules - the auto-feeder could be quite useful for protracted engagements.   
  • I added Optifine, Computercraft, Minefactory Reloaded, Steve's Carts 2 and Applied Energistics.  
  • I removed all the magical-themed mods that had found itself way into the modpack, as well as a Minecraft Elements thingy that looked scientific but rather unnecessarily bloaty
Basically, I'm looking at my "Tech Conveniences" build from before, without a few minor things, but with a few enhancements, such as ICBM and Modular Force Fields.  I figure that, considering how powerful Mekanism Bronze and Obsidian are, I might as well just enjoy Mekanism while wearing Modular Powersuits.  Go the moon, maybe?  Enjoy the finest in technical conveniences.  I even managed to get my old saved game to work.

Which brings us to the present.  I just can't give a damn.  I have plenty of choices about how I could be playing Minecraft, but I don't really know why I should.  It's not a new complaint for me, but it seems to be aggravated when I get involved with these mods built around the idea of factorization: yes, my productivity in Minecraft is way up, but who am I building for
  • So I can get all sorts of agricultural crops, such as wheat, seeds, ect.  My Minecraft character only has so much of an appetite, this is massive overkill for me, so who am I feeding?  Minecraft villagers don't eat.  I could feed cows, sheep, and chickens with it, but that just makes more of them.  An excess of agriculture becomes an excess of something else; just how much leather, beef, wool, feathers, and poultry does a fellow need?
  • So I can get a bunch of wood.  It's a lousy building material because it can go up in flames, and it doesn't take nearly that much planks or charcoal before I don't need it anymore.
  • So I can get a bunch of cobblestone.   In vanilla Minecraft, the only real use for it is to make stone blocks out of it, which can be used to make buildings, roads, ect.  With the assistance of mods, I can crush it into sand, turn it into lava, a few other things... but it's still mostly clutter.
  • So I can get a bunch of ore.  Ore builds things that do things.  Eventually, you run out of things to build, or you run out of ore.  What am I even doing anymore?
The answer, as I see it, comes down to the same thing I saw before: we need a narrative.  It's not the destination, it's the journey.   Going to the moon is not important.  Building a large village is not important.  It's the process itself that makes the gameplay and will generate the memorable experiences.
To an extent, more people might help just because it makes more of a story.  One person scales a mountain, who cares?  An expedition scales the mountain, and that's history being made.  Funny how that works - I think it has something to do with a core instinct that realizes it's a bigger deal when a lot of people are doing something versus a single person.

However, my introversion is such that I don't find throwing a party to be a lasting solution.  It seems to me that what might help is if Minecraft had seen through its aspirations to be more Dwarf Fortress.  In other words, create a reason why all this production is necessary.  When it's just the players running around making food and building walls, that doesn't mean a whole lot.  When you actually have to keep a whole community of NPCs fed, and have an ultimate goal of perhaps having a well-oiled machine of a village with 400 NPCs and extensive defenses or something, that's actually quite interesting.

It's looking like I'll want to do one of these things:
  • Find or make a Minecraft mod that introduces this level of "bigger than yourself" goings on.  Millenaire is actually pretty close, I'm just a little bothered by its instability and how the villagers don't actually need food so much as it bolsters their population growth.  In Minecraft Comes Alive, not only do they not eat, but the economy is the rather obsolete excuse found on default Minecraft villagers... well, at least you can sire helpful children in that mod.  Turns out Minecolony is in public beta for 1.6.4 now, that's quite encouraging, it is the closest Minecraft mod I've seen when it comes to this whole "keep your people fed and grow a town out of the wilderness" premise.
  • Play something else.  Something like Castle Story or Banished might work fairly well here.  However, I kind of want to be in the game, and these are third person god games.
Hmm... I'll have to put some more thought into this.  There does exist MMORPGs which try to be virtual worlds, things like Notch's previous game, Haven And Hearth, but thus far the developers haven't really figured out where to draw the line, griefers tend to ruin it...

I think I might have just figured out what I want to play.  Now, I just need to find it.
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