Minecraft, Technically Speaking

I make no secret of it, I got bored with Minecraft a few weeks before its full release. I’m not denying that it is a thoroughly excellent game. Few things in this world have the power to connect total strangers in quite the same manner as Minecraft. Everyone gets something different from it and yet people get common experiences and stories they can bond over. My thing was always survival mode; I’m not in any way artistic enough to play in creative mode. But once you’ve survived everything where do you go from there? You build a fort, pyramid, bunker, levitating city, whatever you call home. You have diamond weapons and tools, diamond armour. You look like the Star of Africa, honestly. What do you do with all that? You can sit in your city, glinting in the sunlight or make it your mission to slay every creeper ever as retaliation for that one that knocked a hole in your wall while you were trying to craft. Either way it wears thin pretty quickly.

If anyone asks, yeah I’m still big on Minecraft. It’s a lie, a white lie, but damn, if it isn’t a conversation starter.

I am entirely aware that a lot was added to the game upon launch but for me it was too little, too late. So I now have the opportunity to grind countless more hours of gameplay yet again just to unlock a dragon to fight? A fight so needlessly convoluted that it took three of the Yogscast team over fifteen minutes to fight using cheats, god mode and flying. You know, I’m good, thanks. I can live without that experience.

Not your father’s Minecraft

All the above negative cynicism is rendered invalid in the light of new developments though. A compilation of Minecraft mods known as the Technic Pack (or Tekkit in multiplayer) has recently made itself known. It’s been around for a while; Lewis of the Yogscast demonstrated it some time ago, but at the time I thought it looked unnecessarily convoluted. A nice diversion, if you’re into that kind of thing, but I wasn’t. The rest of the Yogscast crew, it seems, have continued playing it in comparative obscurity, with Duncan providing a well made in-depth tutorial of nearly everything in it. Duncan has now joined Simon and Lewis to use Tekkit to build a Jaffa cake factory, getting distracted along the way in their usual inimitable style. This was the inspiration it took to garner my interest, it would seem. Such a creative and uniquely inspired idea, and definitely only possible with a lot of trial, error and learning new things in Tekkit.

So I promptly installed the Technic Pack (what with the BM Minecraft server being unsuccessful and all) and dived in. I was easily a couple of hours in before I even got to building machines, the amount of content added is so great. I was tripping over exciting new features right from the start. I spawned in front of a pyramid – and not one of those vanilla MC ones with a silly TNT trap – this had bedrock catacombs stretching the length of the desert, terrifyingly complex, especially for a player starting out with few resources. Finally making it, dirty, sweaty and hungry, outside with my loot I was greeted by and slain by a werewolf. A werewolf! I’ve had bad nights in Minecraft; once I lost two pet wolves to a creeper. The werewolf tops it, though. It’s fast, vicious and damn near unstoppable (I now know it’s weak to golden weapons. Isn’t hindsight wonderful?).

So I sheltered in a nearby Japanese town (courtesy of Millenaire, long before the Testificates appeared on the scene) and set up a better camp in daylight. I got a few simple automated systems going. I moved on to building a factory. The Equivalent Exchange mod uses alchemy to transform any item into resources of equal value. Around eight thousand dirt blocks are equal to one diamond, so getting enough stone to build a rather large factory building was trivial. Power was now the consideration, coal wouldn’t last forever. Wind was my first attempt, but being set up near sea level, the resources needed to reach the altitudes necessary were excessive. Water mills worked but produced so little power as to be near worthless. Solar, then. Solar produces a much better output, wiring it up won’t cost you all your diamonds, but as in real life it’s only going to work on sunny days. It was a massive learning experience, just to make things switch on. But once things worked, the satisfaction was immense.

So now, I have a quarry automatically digging up half the continent, with specialised tubes to sort everything it finds into valuable items, ores which end up smelted into metal bars and useless junk which gets alchemically converted into whatever I happen to need. It runs off three solar arrays which produces just enough excess power to keep my electric jet pack charged up. That last bit? Yeah, the jet pack. Now that’s the best bit. You haven’t lived in Minecraftia until you have a jet pack.

Or a Lightsaber

I’ve barely scratched the surface, this much is abundantly clear. There are entire mods within the pack I haven’t even begun to touch. Forestry, I know at least lets you automate all types of farming for starters, likely more I don’t know about. I’ve seen beehives dotted around the world, and I know you can take up bee-keeping if that’s your bag (insert “covered in bees!” joke here). Most of the items in the absolutely invaluable recipe book look distinctly arcane, both literally and figuratively, I don’t even know what mod they’re in.

Ultimately, the sheer amount of depth this pack adds to the game has given it a new lease of life that I never thought possible. If you have a spark of an idea, it’s probably possible to do it somehow. My grand plan is to glass the desert I spawned in. Quarry it, smelt the sand to glass, grind the stone to sand and smelt that to glass, and then put it all back. But making Jaffa cakes is a noble cause, too.

The Technic Pack is a free mod for players of Minecraft.

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