Minecraft mods are independent, user-made additions and changes to the 2011 Mojang video game. Thousands of these mods exist, and users can download them from the internet for free. Utilizing additional software, several mods are typically able to be used consecutively in order to enhance the gameplay and create an entirely different gaming experience when compared to standard issue Minecraft. Mods are credited as one of the foremost reasons why Minecraft became as successful as it did, with the Minecraft modding community mentioned as one of the most active modding communities in gaming.
Technical feasibility[edit | edit source]
Minecraft is a video game particularly known for its adaptability for modifications. 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'.
The PC version Minecraft can be modded in two different ways: there is single-player modding and server modding. The first variant requires a player to modify their game files by inserting new files or installing a mod loader like Forge, the second one leaves the player's Minecraft installation untouched and only changes installation files on a server, to which the player can then log on. The latter one is reportedly much easier to set up. In any case, this can be tricky as adding mods can make running 'modded Minecraft' a laggy experience for older or less advanced computer systems.
History[edit | edit source]
Although the very first PC version of Minecraft was released in mid-May 2009, 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. 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.
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.
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 consecutively. 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.
After Minecraft received its first full release in November 2011, the game's modding community continued to grow. In February 2012, Mojang hired developers of the Bukkit add-on to work on a modding API, allowing mod developers easier access to the Minecraft game files. In May 2015, Mojang announced on social media that they were "still working" on this API, despite announcing it over three years ago.
After Microsoft acquired Mojang in late 2014, there was initial concern amongst the modding community that Minecraft's new American owners would put an end to Mojang's established practice of giving free rein to mod developers. Despite the concerns, Microsoft has not announced any changes to Mojang's policies.
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. Microsoft released the new pack open source and free of charge, amidst a drive to push towards more open source software.
In mid-2015, a new Windows 10 version of Minecraft was announced which, unlike the previous versions, was to be programmed in C++. 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.
As of February 2016, Mojang released version 1.9 of Minecraft. The company have promised that this update will significantly simplify the creation and updating of mods. Previous updates have been known to break available mods, forcing creators to spend considerable time updating them.
Controversies[edit | edit source]
Over the course of the years, there have been two major mod-related controversies with Minecraft. The first surrounded a mod called GregTech, which was aimed at increasing Minecraft's difficulty. 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.
The second surrounded the mod Bukkit, an API which enabled others to install server-side mods. 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. 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. Mojang stepped in to save the project from the brink.
Mod content[edit | edit source]
Because of the sheer number of Minecraft mods – the total number is hard to calculate, but repository website Curse features over 1,500 of them. – the sort of content added by these modifications takes on many different forms.
For instance, there are mods that add new dimensions that can be visited by the player. There is Galacticraft, which allows players to build a rocket in order to fly to the Moon and several planets, while the Twilight Forest mod enables players to go a fantasy-style forest and hunt for treasures.
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. BuildCraft is known for its many machines, pumps and pipes, while IndustrialCraft also adds metal tools and nuclear reactors.
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, while Tinkers' Construct allows players to forge their own swords in a foundry that has to be assembled and constructed by the player as well.
Other mods attempt to customize the natural elements in Minecraft, with a mod called Natura adding new trees and crops. Mo' Creatures, on the other hand, focuses rather on allowing more animal species into Minecraft, while Pixelmon supplements the game with monsters and mechanics from the Pokémon franchise. Fossils & Archaeology provides for dinosaurs, while CustomNPCs gives the player a hoe with which they can spawn customized NPC's.
Not all mods will add gameplay elements, however. Some merely tweak the GUI, for example by adding a map, try to smoothen the game rendering, or by allowing the player to browse through all the items in both the base game and the player's mods.
Modpacks[edit | edit source]
Single-player mods are sometimes grouped together in so-called "modpacks", which can then easily be downloaded and played by the end user without requiring the player to have extensive knowledge on how to set up the game. The most popular modpacks can be downloaded and installed through launchers, like Technic Launcher and ATLauncher.
Official recognition[edit | edit source]
The official stance of Mojang with regards to the modding phenomenon is that they do not officially support modding, but in 2012 they claimed to be working on a repository for Minecraft mods. Their help website does list video tutorials that teach the player how to install and play Minecraft mods.
Minecraft's creator Markus Persson admitted in 2012 that he was initially sceptical of mods, fearing that the usermade content would threaten his vision for the game. Persson says he came around, as he claims to have realized that mods are "a huge reason of what Minecraft is".
Influence[edit | edit source]
Minecraft itself[edit | edit source]
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. 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.
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.
Education[edit | edit source]
Minecraft mods are credited for being a gateway for children to pick up coding and programming. Several educational projects have been created to further encourage students to learn coding through Minecraft, including LearnToMod, ComputerCraftEdu, and Minecraft: Pi Edition, 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.
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. 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.
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.
Critical reception[edit | edit source]
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.
Max Eddy of PC Magazine also makes a point out of it the processing 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". 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.
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".
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, even though Minecraft typically appeals to children.
References[edit | edit source]
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Bibliography[edit | edit source]
- Rogers Cadenhead, Absolute Beginner's Guide to Minecraft Mods Programming, (Indianapolis: Que Publishing, 2014). ISBN 0-133903-22-2
- Cori Dusman, The Parent's Guidebook to Minecraft, (San Francisco: Peachpit Press, 2013). ISBN 0-133521-91-5
- Jimmy Koene, Sams Teach Yourself Mod Development for Minecraft in 24 Hours, (Indianapolis: Sams Publishing, 2015). ISBN 9-7806723-3763-5
- Lars van Schaik and Ronald Vledder (eds.), De ultieme gids voor Minecraft, (Doetinchem: Reshift Digital, 2015). ISBN 82-261-0074-7
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