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Minecraft Tweaking Or Minecraft Tweaked?

My Minecraft "Fantasy Modpack Ultimate Version" settled when I realized I should look through the configuration files of the various mods and see what I could modify in order to establish balance.
  • I could turn off Applied Energistic 2's ore doubling on the grinder (configured at percentage chance of producing double dusts per ore), and I did, because it's just too tempting to waste a lot of time just spinning that wooden crank.  This pretty much eliminates the only reason not take this mod other than the fact it's a technological theme that clashes with magical mods.
  • I could establish how much ore doubling that Tinkers' Construct smelter did, right down to the individual types of ore.  However, I decided to leave it disabled because I already had plenty of tools, I didn't like how it circumvents the enchantment system, and I did not want the world bloat of oreberry bushes and various metals whose only purpose was to be smelted and mixed.  Pity, though, it was plenty compatible with both Botania and Thaumcraft.
  • I could not configure how much ore doubling the infernal furnace in Thaumcraft did, and that was a pity because it meant I was being hard capped at a block that penalizes you with warp for using it and mainly only has the benefit of giving you potential nuggets (fractions of 1/9th of an ingot) for efficient use.  You can disable the warp ("wuss mode") but what fun is that?
Because of this, if I was going to use Thaumcraft, there could be no ore doubling from other mods.
A rare sighting of a Minecraft vanilla volcano, dropping off into the ocean.  Nice.  Rather ugly thumbnail, though, I admit.
Now, Botania and Thaumcraft do make a pretty good fusion, albeit Botania is considerably easier and has a more relaxed balance.  However, there are actually configuration values to make Botania has balanced as you like!  Among other things:
  • You can disable the crafting of Botania Mana Enchanter blocks, which normally allow you to enchant items with Botania mana instead of spending your hard-earned XP points on them (though you still need find or enchant books to accomplish this).  I've yet to use these.
  • Those "unlimited energy generation" flowers I was complaining about?  Turns out there's a configuration option to have them wither after x number of game ticks.  (24000 is two days game time.)  This basically means that creating a passive generation flower is a choice to spending a number of materials to generate a fixed amount of mana before the plant dies.  I like that, even the effort of replanting them can be seen as earning your mana.
Overall, this "Fantasy Mix Ultimate" I've settled upon works out relatively well... except for two medium-sized game breakers.

Problem number one is that I just don't have enough time for all the hoops Thaumcraft 4 wants me to jump through.  Running around scanning everything and then messing around with research afterwards.  Blah, too much, I say.  It's a great mod on its own, but mixed with all the other activities I want to do, it's overwhelming.

Problem number two is that the Minecraft Comes Alive mod has done much to bridge the gap between villagers being dumb animals versus worthwhile NPCs but, in practice, it is mostly only acheives making the villagers more endearing before they get killed somehow.  The problem is three part:
  1. Despite lighting up every corner of the village I could find (even with NEI's F7 mode showing me potential spawn points) mobs still spawn inside of the village, sometimes right inside of well-lit huts!
  2. The guards broke some time around the point where the mod made the transition to v5.0.  They work a little bit at first, but then they put away their weapon and allow monsters to beat them up.  I have tried gifting them stone swords, it does not seem to help.
  3. Botania Bellthorne flowers kill villagers just like any other mob, so can't be used to preserve these dummies' lives.  Maybe Thaumcraft golems will prove less belligerent.
The death of the villagers has only accelerated since I put up a perimeter of defenses around the village to kill monsters that get nearby, as this simply gives the monsters another chance to spawn inside!
This village has been radically redecorated to accommodate Botania, including a perimeter that distributes mana all around the outer walls I have built to prevent mobs from invading.  For the purpose of powering outer defense flowers, and the residual mana is shot to the center, where it can be used to create things on the runic altar.
Sitting here at the start of day four of my "Fantasy Mix Ultimate," I have doubts about my choices.  It seems to me that a really clever Minecraft is one that tasks the players with coming up with ingenious solutions to problems.  For example, there's ways you can set up automatic farms in stock Minecraft with a little redstone and gumption!   I once created an elaborate moat that swept encroaching monsters down into a jail cell, and all it used was water flowing downhill, I didn't need any Botania Bellthorne for that!  So installing mods that provide blocks that do all this without the need for ingenuity is less interesting, and ultimately just gives me a big glut of things I don't necessarily need anyway.

Is that all these mods do are doing for me, just legitimized cheats?  Actually, I've seen worse mods for that than what Botania and Thaumcraft do:
  • Steve's Carts can easily fuel themselves and provide unlimited wood and crops of you have enough diamonds to spare, although the blades on the carts wear down eventually. 
  • Minefactory Reloaded is basically one collection of machine blocks that leech more out of everything: automated farming, automated ranching, even squeezing the experience juice out of mobs for later consumption (and stranger juices than that, such as liquid meat and fertilizer).  
  • I find the arcane bore is a bit tougher and more challenging to use than Mekanism Digital Miners or a Buildcraft quarry (although, in defense of Buildcraft, the energy for a major excavation is not free unless paired up with another mod).
Maybe what I'm really interested in is something along the lines of Redpower 2, whose primary "productive" machine blocks required you set up elaborate machines to accomplish anything.  I had a lot of fun with that, but Redpower is no more, I find most of what I missed about it has been imported by OpenBlocks (most notably the Block Breaker and Block Placer) and Project: Red (most notably red alloy wire, which allows you to run redstone up the sides of walls, and the logic components such as the timer, which does what redstone circuits can do but in a significantly more accessible state).
The simple pleasure of spelunking in Minecraft isn't so bad, either.
At the far end of this is the fact that Minecraft has a fantasy theme to it naturally, and I like to play in survival mode for the added challenge, which means there's hostile zombies, skeletons, creepers, and spiders running around, among other things.  Consequently, there is a thematic clash if I get too badly mired down to technological upgrades, and so I end up with magical themed mods instead. 

Thematically, steam power is within my comfort zone, which tempts me to get Flaxbeard's Steam Power mod, which lets you fire flintlock weaponry (since creepers already drop gunpowder) and even craft yourself a steam powered exoskeletal suit!  But the trouble I have with exosuits is they're not able to be enchanted, which really clashes horribly with Minecraft's enchantment mechanic which other mods simply build upon.

Ultimately, it seems like each mod I add clashes with the extraordinarily good balance of Thaumcraft 4, which is probably best enjoyed by itself.   For example, I had to turn off OpenBlocks experience collecting items because that's what Thaumcraft 4's brain-in-a-jar are for.  I really miss ore doubling, though...

...ah, what have we here?  Looks like the manual clicking of the Applied Energistics 2 grinder is not a long term problem, after all, which means the fixed balance of the Thaumcraft Infernal Furnace is.  If only I could set the Infernal Furnace to triple or quadruple ores, thereby justifying warping myself to use it, then it would fit in.  As it is, it seems I have to make a decision between that mod and all the others I wanted to use.

Edit: Later That Same Day:
This new world looks promising.  They should have sent a poet.

So I decided to do the following for my new custom modpack:
  • We're keeping Botania and Applied Energistics 2, because it's the most fun magic and best storage and auto-crafting solution combination.  However, it will be a challenge to keep an AE2 network powered with Botania alone... there may be other ways.  Botania flower spawn rate is set at 1.5x versus its default 2.0x (they're slightly too common but it's easy to make more anyway) and passive energy generation flowers will die at the recommended 2 Minecraft days setting.   Openblocks is also alright, I plan to use the xp bottling mechanic, although I may disable gliders because I don't like flight in survival mode.
  • Tweaked my starting inventory to have a mana spreader and mana pool because I found Botania aura rings are not sufficient to keep my starting Botania manasteel gear (essentially iron but self-repairing) powered.  It's not much of a cheat, if you can find a smattering of iron, one gold bar, and finally one diamond or elder pearl, then you can make this right away.
  • Removed Thaumcraft 4 due to irreconcilable balance issues with the ore doubling and ease of attaining results with the other mods.  Like I said, fantastic mod on its own, it just doesn't mix well with the more liberal balance of other mods.
  • Removed Minecraft Comes Alive because the guards are nothing but cannon fodder and it's downright depressing to deal with endearing villagers constantly throwing themselves to the wolves.  I did not re-add the Helpful Villagers mod because it removes the only useful trait of stock Minecraft villagers: trading.  Iron golems are the best defense villagers are going to get for now.  Told Botania to stop having villagers "shed" emeralds, that's just a tad too OP.
  • Added Flaxbeard's Steam Power mod because... flintlock pistols, rocket launchers, and steam powered upgradable exosuits?!  Seriously, why wouldn't I?!  I disabled steam wings and jetpacks because (again) I don't like flight in survival mode, too cheesy.  I avoided any other high tech mods...
  • ...except for Steve's Carts 2, one of my favorite mods of all time.  What the heck, it's steampunky enough for me.  I was able to disable the solar panel modules, so unlimited passive energy regeneration is no longer a thing.  Technically, I can still load them up with unlimited wood harvested by wood-harvesting carts... well, fine, at least that takes some ingenuity. 
  • Added Mystcraft.  Being able to travel to other dimensions with magic books does not hurt the theme one bit, but does provide a potentially interesting diversion.  Also useful for quick travel.
  • Added Tinkers Construct and Natura, but disabled redwood trees in the configuration for being too badly out of porportion with the other things in the overworld.  For all my complaints about ore berry bushes and whatnot, I can disable these in the configuration files too, so they're essentially non-issues.  That Tinkers Construct allows me to circumvent the randomness of enchantment system is somewhat balanced by the fact that Botania already has means of providing controlled enchantments.  I have no shortage of available gear already, so this just throws more on the pile.  Managing the smeltery can be a bit of a chore, but at least ore doubling is now well and truly secure.  Those concerns aside, these mods add a lot of cool stuff aside from its customizable weapons, including pungi sticks for rudimentary defense and a backpack.
  • Added Mariculture, because the stock Minecraft seas are boring and so this should go far towards populating them.
  • Added the Hunger Overhaul mod to make keeping fed really challenging, and Pam's Harvestcraft because Hunger Overhaul is already balanced to work with a greater variety of food.
  • Added ChocolateQuest's Dungeons because the overworld needed more interesting things to do.  If you ask me, they're a bit too common, so I lowered the spawn rate from one every 10 chunks to one every 50 chunks.
  • Added Infernal Mobs, which causes mobs to randomly take on deadly aspects.  Oh God, why have I forsaken myself?!  Suffice to say, I have all the excuse I ever need to stay in normal difficulty mode now, which is where I feel the game is balanced.  I tweaked the rare mobs spawn from 1:15 to 1:50, so they get to be rare surprises instead of common fears.  If I end up dying too much, I might just ditch graves in favor of keep inventory on death, as corpse runs are a chore.
  • I've had my fill of getting lost.  Added Journeymap, but configured it to not display the mini-map by default because it's a tad exploitive knowing when stuff is sneaking up on me and immersion breaking to have a map.  The purpose, then, will be to keep track of important points I discover.
Well, this ought to keep me occupied for awhile.

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