Minecraft mods

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Minecraft mods are independent, user-made additions and changes to the 2011 Mojang video game. Thousands of these mods exist,[1] and users can download them from the internet for free. Utilizing additional software, several mods are typically able to be used concurrently in order to enhance the gameplay and create an entirely different gaming experience when compared to standard issue Minecraft.[2][3] Mods are credited as one of the foremost reasons why Minecraft became as successful as it did,[4][5] with the Minecraft modding community mentioned as one of the most active modding communities in gaming.[6]

Minecraft mods are available for the Java Edition (Windows, macOS, and Linux) and mobile versions of the game, but neither the console versions of the game nor the Windows 10 edition can be modded.[7][8][9]

Technical feasibility[edit]

Minecraft is a video game particularly known for its adaptability for modifications.[10] Over the course of the years, many independent programmers have made use of that in order to create additional content for the game, known amongst their users as 'mods'.[10][11]

The PC version Minecraft can be modded in two different ways: client modding and server modding.[12] Client mods require the player to modify game files by inserting new files or installing a mod loader like Forge,[13][14] while server modding leaves the client's files untouched and only changes files on a server, to which the player can then log on and use the mods. The latter one is much easier to set up.[12] In any case, modding can result in loss of performance (due to resource demands) for older or weaker computers.[15]

All of these modifications to the PC version of Minecraft are possible because programmers can capitalize on Minecraft's source code which was written in Java.[16] Modding to the mobile and console ('Bedrock Edition') version of Minecraft is different, because that iteration of the game was written in C++ rather than Java.[17] Players who wish to mod their Bedrock Edition games have a simpler process, due to the version's built-in official support for add-ons, which can be installed a lot quicker than Java Edition mods, and require no external modloaders.

History[edit]

Although the very first PC version of Minecraft was released in mid-May 2009,[18] client-side modding of the game did not start in earnest until the game reached its alpha stage in the summer of 2010. The only mods that appeared prior to this were server-side mods, which gave server owners more control over their Minecraft environments.[6] With the release of the alpha version, the first client-side mods began to appear; these added relatively simple things, like other textures or amendments to the in-game compass.[6]

Towards the end of 2010, new mods were released which featured more content than previous ones. Minecraft was now preparing to move into its beta development phase, and popular mods such as IndustrialCraft, Railcraft and BuildCraft were first released to the public. As opposed to their predecessors, these mods had the potential to change the entire game instead of simply tweaking minor aspects of it.[6]

Around November 2011, the mod Forge was released. Rather than adding new gameplay features to Minecraft, Forge allowed players to be able to run several client-side mods simultaneously. Before becoming compatible with Forge, IndustrialCraft and BuildCraft would not run side-by-side, because both of them needed to overwrite the same Minecraft base Java files. Forge ended the necessity to manipulate these files, allowing separate mods to run together without requiring them to touch the base source code.[6]

In 2012, Mojang organized a panel on modding at Minecon 2012, where Minecraft's lead developer Jens Bergensten held a talk.

After Minecraft received its first full release in November 2011, the game's modding community continued to grow.[6] In February 2012, Mojang hired developers of the Bukkit add-on to work on an official modding API, allowing mod developers easier access to the Minecraft game files.[19] In May 2015, Mojang announced on social media that they were "still working" on this API, despite announcing it over three years ago.[20]

Concern arose following Microsoft's acquisition of Mojang in late 2014. Members of the modding community feared that Minecraft's new American owners would put an end to Mojang's established practice of giving free rein to mod developers.[21] Despite the concerns, Microsoft has not announced any changes to Mojang's policies.[21]

In April 2015, Microsoft announced that it was adding a Minecraft Mod Developer Pack to Microsoft Visual Studio, granting users of the application creation software an easier way to program Minecraft mods.[22] Microsoft released the new pack open source and free of charge, amidst a drive to push towards more open source software.[22][23]

A new Windows 10 version of Minecraft was announced shortly after which, unlike the previous versions, was to be programmed in C++.[17] This announcement sparked concern amongst the game's fanbase that the Java-based versions would end up being phased out entirely, which would severely hamper the production of mods as C++ is not as "reverse engineerable" as Java is known to be. However, Mojang developer Tommaso Checchi reassured fans on Reddit that modding was "too important" to Minecraft for the Java-based versions to be discontinued.[17]

Mojang released version 1.9 of Minecraft for the PC in early 2016,[24] and with this update the company promised that the creation and updating of mods would be significantly simplified.[20] Previous updates have been known to break available mods, forcing creators to spend considerable time updating them.[20]

In April 2017, Mojang announced the upcoming creation of a so-called Minecraft Marketplace, where players would be able to sell user-created content for the Windows 10 version of the game.[9] Although this new digital store would specialize in adventure maps, skins, texture packs, PC World did note that this addition would move the Windows 10 version "a bit closer to the moddable worlds familiar to classic players" of the original Java edition.[25]

Controversies[edit]

Over the course of the years, there have been mod-related controversies with Minecraft. One surrounded a mod called GregTech, which was aimed at increasing Minecraft's difficulty.[26] In 2013, its developer, Greg, noticed that some of GregTech's added recipes had been overwritten by another mod named Tinkers' Construct. Greg, in retaliation, deliberately inserted code into GregTech which would crash the game client if it detected any other mods (such as Tinkers' Construct). The authors of both mods later settled their dispute.[27][28]

Another surrounded the mod Bukkit, an API which enabled others to install server-side mods.[29] Due to the project frequently switching hands, several developers past and present had begun to argue about who presided over the rights to the project.[6] Ultimately, in 2014, a developer named Warren "EvilSeph" Loo tried to pull the rights to use his code in the game, effectively forcing Bukkit to fall in a state of disrepair for a time.[6][30] Mojang stepped in to save the project from the brink of destruction.[30]

Another controversy came about in March 2017, when Slovakian cybercompany ESET revealed that 87 examples of trojan horses were distributed through the Google Play Store under the guise of Minecraft mods. Their purpose was to either aggressively display ads or con players into downloading other apps. Combined, these fake mods gathered over one million downloads in the first three months of 2017.[31][32]

Mod content[edit]

The mod Tinkers Construct adds foundries to the game, which can be used to smelt raw metals into parts for custom-made tools and weapons.

The total number of Minecraft mods is officially very hard to calculate because of the sheer number of them, both old and new ones, but one of the repository websites, Curse, features over 1,500 mods.[27] The types and sorts of content added by these modifications also take on many different forms.[3]

For instance, there are mods that add new dimensions that can be visited by the player. For example, there is Galacticraft, which allows players to build rockets in order to fly to the Moon and several planets, and collect their resources;[33][34] there's the Twilight Forest[35] mod, which creates a dimension that enables players to go a fantasy-style forest and hunt for treasures;[34][36][37]

Some mods mainly focus on technology, and add an assortment of machines that can help the player to automate the production of certain in-game materials. Examples of technology-oriented mods include Extra Utilities, a mod that introduces various machines that can be used to generate power, and a random assortment of other blocks and items; BuildCraft, a classic mod known for its many variants of machines, pumps, and pipes [38][39][40] (also most likely named for the fact that, according to the developer, the mod's machines can build (and destroy) in the world)[41]; IndustrialCraft, a mod which adds metals electric tools and generators, including nuclear reactors.[6][42], jetpacks, powered armor, and nuclear items.[43]

In addition to IndustrialCraft's metal weapons, other projects allow for an even wider range of available weaponry: Flan's Mod has modern-style warfare including guns, tanks and grenades,[33][38][39] while Tinkers' Construct allows players to forge and customize their own tools and weapons, some involving a foundry or a forge.[27][36][37][42]

Other mods attempt to customize the natural elements in Minecraft, with mods like Natura and Forestry adding new trees and crops, with the latter adding multiblock automatic farms, beekeeping and butterfly-keeping.[37][42] Mo' Creatures, on the other hand, focuses rather on allowing more animal species into Minecraft,[38][39][44] while Pixelmon (since said to be shut down on the official site[45]) supplements the game with monsters and mechanics from the Pokémon franchise.[27][46] Fossils & Archaeology provides for dinosaurs,[40][47] while CustomNPCs and Millenaire upgrade the game's NPC's.[13][36]

Not all mods will add gameplay elements, however. Others merely tweak the GUI, for example by adding a minimap,[13][33][44] try to smoothen the game rendering, like Optifine, [13][37][39] or by allowing the player to browse through all the items in both the base game and the player's mods and look up how to craft them, like JEI (Just Enough Items).[27][37][39][40]

Modpacks[edit]

Single-player mods are sometimes grouped together in so-called "modpacks", which can be easily downloaded and played by the end user without requiring the player to have extensive knowledge on how to set up the game.[27][48] Content creators use that to their advantage in order to allow mods to interact so that a particular experience can be delivered,[49] sometimes aided by throwing configuration files and custom textures into the mix.[50] The most popular modpacks can be downloaded and installed through launchers, like the Twitch Desktop App, Feed the Beast, Technic Launcher and ATLauncher.[51][49]

Official recognition[edit]

Minecraft's creator Markus "Notch" Persson was hesitant at first, but soon grew to embrace mods.

The stance of Mojang with regards to the modding phenomenon is that they do not support modding, but in 2012 they claimed to be working on a repository for Minecraft mods.[52] Their help website lists video tutorials that teach the player how to install and play Minecraft mods.[52]

Minecraft's creator Markus Persson admitted in 2012 that he was initially skeptical of mods, fearing that the usermade content would threaten his vision for the game.[53] Persson says he came around, as he claims to have realized that mods are "a huge reason of what Minecraft is".[53] In some cases, authors of mods even ended up getting a job at Mojang.[54]

In 2016, Mojang announced their official support for mods on the mobile and console versions of Minecraft (the Bedrock Edition), in the form of add-ons.

Influence[edit]

Minecraft itself[edit]

Mods have influenced the main Minecraft game on three occasions. Mod developer Dr. Zhark added horses to the game through the Mo' Creatures mod. Later on he helped Mojang adapt horses for use in standard issue Minecraft.[55][56] Pistons were also originally a part of a mod too, but impressed Minecraft's creators so much that they added the feature to the main game.[57]

Mojang also admitted that they admired all of the work done on server side modding API Bukkit. In 2012, the Swedish company ended up hiring the lead developers of the project.[6]

Education[edit]

Minecraft is a game which is occasionally used in schools for educational purposes.

Minecraft mods are credited for being a gateway for children to pick up coding and programming.[58] Several educational projects have been created to further encourage students to learn coding through Minecraft, including LearnToMod,[4] ComputerCraftEdu,[59] and Minecraft: Pi Edition,[60] all of which are offered free to teachers. Programming classes utilizing Minecraft were also started by the University of California, which aims to teach children aged 8–18 how to program applications.[4][61][62]

In 2011, MinecraftEdu formed to sell a version of Minecraft to schools that enabled the teaching of a wider variety of subjects including language, history and art.[63] In January 2016, Microsoft announced a new tool, "Minecraft: Education Edition", which would be designed specifically for classroom use and which would continue on the legacy of "MinecraftEdu" to teach a wide variety of subjects using Minecraft.[62]

In The Parent's Guidebook to Minecraft, author Cori Dusmann denotes that homeschooling and Minecraft make for an interesting match, as creating simple mods can be an "illustration of scientific principles," to which homeschooling providers are receptive.[64]

The idea of introducing Minecraft into school curriculums was resisted by Tom Bennett, who serves as an adviser to the British government. According to Bennett, Minecraft was a gimmick, and schools would do well to "drain the swamp of gimmicks" and resort to just books for teaching.[65] Bennett's condemnation was rebutted by a number of journalists for The Guardian, who did indeed think Minecraft in school was a worthwhile innovation.[66]

Critical reception[edit]

PC World's Nate Ralph calls installing mods for Minecraft "a somewhat convoluted process", but does admit it could serve the player who desires "a little more out of the experience" of playing the game.[12]

Max Eddy of PC Magazine also raises a point concerning the process of setting up a game augmented with mods, claiming "it seems rather complicated" and that at first he was "too afraid to mod Minecraft at all", but learned to appreciate it when he realized that modding Minecraft is "pretty forgiving".[67] Eddy does nevertheless mention that he feels Mojang's fast development pace regarding the main game has slowed down the progress of the most popular mods.[67]

Similarly, Benjamin Abbott of Metro agrees that adding mods to Minecraft is "a thorough pain in the backside", though he concedes that "the result is usually worth it".[7]

Matt Smith of MakeUseOf says he is disappointed with most of the Minecraft mods available, claiming they don't modify the game "in a way most people would care to enjoy", or have "bugs that grind the experience to a halt".[42]

At San Jose Mercury News, George Avalos claims that mods are definitely suited for "mainstream enthusiasts", but does warn that precaution must be taken in order to avoid downloading "dangerous and spammy software" when looking for Minecraft mods. Avalos also remarks that installing mods will probably require adult attention,[11] even though Minecraft typically appeals to children.[62]

References[edit]

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