Minecraft Mods

Note: In this post, I use the word ‘mods’ loosely to mean any modification of the default version of Minecraft.

For a long time, I never changed anything other than tweaking a few settings of the default version of Minecraft. Then one of my grandsons introduced me to a few mods he used and I liked them enough to try them.

The one I currently find most useful, OptiFine, is really a modified ‘version’ of Minecraft. It requires installation and then appears in the list of versions available in the Minecraft launcher. I use it mostly to improve the performance of the game, especially increasing the FPS (frames per second). A few other features are also useful, particularly the way a torch lights up the area when selected in the hotbar – handy in caves!

Recently I started using some resource packs again. The first one I added, Dramatic Skies, modifies the clouds, sun, and moon to be more realistic looking. The clouds look like real clouds and the sun and moon appear round instead of the standard square block in the sky. It works best when the default Minecraft clouds setting is turned off so the regular Minecraft cloud blocks do not get in the way.

More recently I decided to look for one of the other resource packs I used a long time ago to see if it had an updated version. Unfortunately, the one I used to use exclusively (along with OptiFine) is no longer up to date. In fact, the last Minecraft version R3D CRAFT works with is 1.12. That dates to 2017. Whoever developed it has obviously moved on. I’m still disappointed because it was so good.

The other resource pack I used sometimes when the R3D CRAFT mod needed updating was ‘Faithful’. It improved the default visual look of the blocks, etc. while still keeping the basic Minecraft look. In searching for it again, I found and tried Faithful HD512, because I thought an HD version would be the best, but I did not really like some of the textures. So, after looking at six or seven other resource packs at resourcepack.net, I finally settled on Faithful 32×32 because it appears to be the same as what I remember, but updated for the latest Minecraft version.

Over the years, I’ve tried various other resource packs, but have settled on these as the best for my visual enjoyment for now.

Firefox Certificates Glitch

A few weeks ago, when considering whether or not to restart blogging here, I found an old draft of a post from May 5, 2019 that never was published to the blog. I have hesitated to publish it now over two years later, but I think for my own benefit to remember old tech problems, it will be useful to do so. Back then, a major problem occurred using Firefox. Before finally publishing my draft now, I decided to find what version of Firefox was current back in early May 2019 and discovered the Wikipedia Firefox Version History. According to that, it was most likely Firefox 66.

Following is my May 5, 2019 draft:

A couple of days ago Firefox suddenly disabled all add-ons. I tried closing and reopening it, then tried uninstalling and reinstalling, all to no avail. The instructions given in the general help section said to delete and install the add-ons again. I tried that and was able to uninstall them, but not reinstall. It kept coming up with errors.

Next, I went online checking user forums and found that it had been identified as a glitch in the software and eventually it would be fixed. That was Friday night.

I checked again Saturday and found a comment that said it was fixed, but one had to allow Firefox to install and run studies. I did so, then was able to install all the add-ons I use again.

Most time consuming was reinstalling the feed reader, Feedbro. It was easy enough to get the addon, but it turned out I lost all the feeds I was using. I don’t know if I would have been able to recover them if I had not uninstalled it, but suspect I might have been able to.

This is the worst issue I’ve had using Firefox. The most confusing part of it was the glitch happened suddenly and not as a result of an update.

End of May 5, 2019 draft

My wife and I both continue to use Firefox and have had no problems since. A while back, we also began to use our own profiles making it much easier to navigate with our preferred bookmarks present.

Programming & Coding

My first computer was an Apple II+, although I learned to program in BASIC on a Radio Shack TRS-80 owned by my colleague and neighbor. He bought it when the two of us took a course at our university (we were both faculty members) to get started in programming. Not too many weeks later, I invested in the Apple because at the time I anticipated I would be better served by it, so taught myself how to program in Applesoft BASIC. It was similar to BASIC in DOS, but enough different it took some work to become proficient. That was the early 1980’s.

Fast forward to 2021. Using some mods in Civ VI and then having my favorite one go out of date due to New Frontier Pass updates was inspiration to consider learning how to at least tweak mods (like fixing the one I enjoyed), if not actually create my own mods. Since the mods are all open source, I was able to look at the code and try to decipher it. That led me to noticing that most mods were coded, at least in part, in Lua.

So, I embarked on the journey of learning how to code in Lua. I started with a few “beginner” videos and eventually decided I was just going to have to learn it on my own by working on a project. The most logical option for a project was to attempt to resurrect my old football game (I called it ‘Coach’s Football’ because it was not an action game, but simply a ‘thinking’ game that involved calling plays and defenses and watching the results.) That game written in Applesoft BASIC had minimal graphics.

Over the course of several months earlier this year, I gradually learned Lua enough to actually finish the core of the football game (minus any graphics) and it is now in ‘test’ mode, but I lost interest in doing the tedious testing.

To keep myself motivated to learn even more of Lua, I decided to use my old baseball game (that I programmed on my then Apple IIe in the mid-1980’s) as the next project because it could use Lua features the football game did not require. I have now completed the fundamental structure of the baseball game in Lua and it too is in ‘test’ mode.

Because, once again, I’m having difficulty finding the motivation to take time to just test the game, my Lua coding is now sporadic at best.

I have much more to learn before I can do anything more than tweak a Civ VI mod, but have not found the right project to learn on yet.

Saga of the Mice

Over many years of using computers, I have migrated from keyboard input only to a brief test of the early Mac mouse (never owned a Mac, but did try one out on loan), to various PC mouse choices.

Early on I just bought the mouse that came with the computer (e.g. Hewlett Packard) and never thought much about it. If one eventually quit working, I just bought a cheap replacement.

At some point, I decided to try a wireless mouse, especially for use with a laptop and convenient for travel. I bought an early Logitech and liked it, so bought a second one for my desktop computer. Eventually, I decided the cost of replacing batteries was not really worth the convenience, especially for the desktop, so quit using them.

After seeing a gaming mouse in operation, owned by one of my grandsons, I decide to invest in one. It was a Razer Death Adder. Unfortunately, I had problems with it – the left button malfunctioned – but fortunately it was still on warranty so it was replaced at no cost. When the replacement also ended up with a similar problem, this time after the warranty ran out, I decided it was not worth messing with anymore since I never really used the extra buttons and features for gaming anyway. So, I bought a basic Microsoft wired mouse again.

Recently my cheap Microsoft mouse began to fail, so while I was deciding what to buy next, I tried using my Logitech wireless mouse again. As before, the batteries did not last very long. Since I use it for many hours every day, that is not a surprise.

I intended to just buy another cheap wired mouse, but found none available in stores close to where I live, so looked online and found a new Logitech gaming mouse for less than $20 and decided to try that one.

So far so good.

(I still have not found a use for the extra buttons with Minecraft or Civ VI, though).

Minecraft Versions

I do not remember when Microsoft/Mojang began calling the PC version I’ve been playing for years the Java Edition, but that is the one I use with both my accounts. As I mentioned in the last post, I tried the Windows 10 Edition when it first came out, but was disappointed in several aspects of it, so have not even tried it since.

I took a couple of minutes to go back and check to see what Java Edition version of Minecraft I was playing when I last posted anything about Minecraft on this blog. It was version 1.13.1 Update Aquatic as best I can tell. There was one minor update of it to 1.13.2 before the next new version was released.

Much has happened with the various versions since then, each one with some unique new features. Because the Minecraft Fandom Wiki has a good deal of useful information, I will just make a few editorial comments under the listing of names and links of the releases rather than going into detailed descriptions.

  • 1.14 through 1.14.4 Village & Pillage
    • I found this mostly annoying. It took getting used to the village changes, especially the availability of crops. Before this update, all three basic crops (potatoes, carrots, wheat) were present in virtually every village. It also took a little time to learn to deal with the new hostile mobs.
  • 1.15 through 1.15.2 Buzzy Bees
    • This one is not terribly interesting. I rarely bother with honey, etc.
  • 1.16 through 1.16.5 Nether Update
    • This update apparently was long awaited by many gamers, I do not normally spend much time in the nether, so all I’ve done is a little exploration to see the new stuff.

The current version is 1.17.1 and I am playing it while I wait for the second release (1.18) of what is called Caves & Cliffs. It will probably be released late in the year.

So far, this version has been only mildly interesting. Many of the additions are not items I will use much and since I am more of a “dig-down” miner followed by systematic mining at level 11, I have not found many of the cave items that were added. I suppose while I wait for 1.18, I may try doing more cave exploration from surface cave openings to find and see more of the new sights.

Minecraft Account Migration

Last fall Microsoft/Mojang announced their plan to require all Minecraft accounts to login via a Microsoft account instead of the Mojang account. I believe their stated intention was to eventually eliminate the Mojang account. It was a while ago so I don’t remember all the details, but as I recall the primary reason was for better security.

Earlier this summer a notice began to appear on the Minecraft launcher screen that they had begun to migrate accounts from Mojang to Microsoft. The first time that notice popped up I read the explanation of how to get that done and then waited for my turn.

I have two Minecraft accounts dating back several years. I bought the second one so that visitors here could play with me via LAN even if they did not have their own Minecraft account. Over the years it has not been all that useful because those I play with have their own accounts, but there is no point in worrying about that now.

The reason I mention that here is my second account turned out to be the first one to be migrated. I went through the process and found it relatively easy to do. The only disappointment was the weird name I was assigned for my Xbox gamer tag. It is disappointing that one cannot choose your own tag when migrating. Anyway, I got the migration done the same day that account was eligible.

More recently my original Minecraft account was finally eligible for migration, so I did it same day again. This time the Xbox gamer tag turned out to be the same name assigned years ago when I tried the Windows 10 Minecraft version, which was a bit of a surprise, but after more thought, I think it kind of makes sense. In the process this time I discovered one can change the Xbox gamer tag one time with no charge, but if you want to do it again, it costs $9.99 each subsequent time. Changing names was somewhat challenging, but long story short I eventually got both my gamer tags changed to the same as their on-screen name.

Most disappointing is the fact that there appears to be no way to change the icon that goes with the login. Maybe there is a way I have not found yet. I’ll probably try again sometime when I am looking for some diversion.

New Frontier Pass Modes

A distinctive feature of the New Frontier Pass is the introduction of eight new game modes.

I have tried them all and won at least one game with each except the Zombie Defense mode. That one was so weird in that it was virtually constant combat because each time you killed a zombie, eventually it would respawn again. In addition, each unit killed – whether your own or of an AI civ or city-state that was at war – eventually returns as a zombie thereby increasing the number to deal with. Since I am not a great fan of continuous combat, I ended up just quitting that game. Maybe someday I will try again, but not anytime soon. For gamers who like playing for domination wins and relish the combat, this mode probably is an enjoyable challenge, but for me, it was just not fun.

The game modes are not exclusive – one can use one or more simultaneously.

The two I have enjoyed the most and use together almost every game I play now are ‘Monopolies and Corporations’ and ‘Barbarian Clans’. I like the former because it enhances the gold per turn production significantly (among other things) and I always seem to need more gold! The latter I really like a lot because Barbarian Camps not destroyed eventually evolve into new city-states. That expands the number of possibilities for trade routes and suzerains as the game progresses, both of which make a Diplomatic victory easier to achieve, and that has become my favorite way to play. Another side-effect of the larger than normal number of city-states is the probability that Valletta is one of them is greatly increased. Valletta is by far my favorite city-state to have as a suzerain because of being able to buy city projects, including flood barriers later in the game, with faith.

For a challenge with some unpredictability, the ‘Tech and Civic Shuffle’ mode can be added. It changes the sequence of the techs and civics in a random shuffle with all techs/civics in a given era all mixed up so planning ahead for boosts (Eurekas in the tech tree or Inspirations in the civics tree) is much more difficult. I will play this occasionally just for variety.

I don’t particularly like the other four modes much, so rarely play with any of them on anymore.

  • ‘Apocalypse’ mode makes play more chaotic in the late game due to intensified disasters, comets especially. One comet can actually destroy a complete city if it happens to hit the city center.
  • ‘Dramatic Ages’ mode is a little too dramatic for me. After the initial Ancient Era as a Normal Age, you are either in a Dark Age or a Golden Age, depending on how successful you have been in navigating the current age challenges. Special policy cards for each type of age help some to mitigate the issues that arise, but not enough as far as I’m concerned.
  • ‘Heroes & Legends’ can be interesting because the characters are useful in unique ways for various aspects of the game. When I choose to use this mode, I try to get Hercules because of his ability to complete districts, even ones just started. That is a very powerful dynamic. The down side of this mode is recruiting a hero or legend takes city production time that many times I prefer to devote to other needs.
  • ‘Secret Societies’ is a bit too much fantasy to my liking. I also do not like having to use Governor slots to advance the chosen society.

For more detail about all of the modes, visit the game modes page of the Civ Wiki.

I suspect for most Civ VI players, myself included, the introduction of the modes has made the game more interesting to continue playing. The variety they offer keeps the game somewhat fresh, although whether one uses any of the modes or not, no two play-throughs are at all alike.

Probably one reason I keep playing!

New Frontier Pass Civs & Leaders

Over the course of several months from May 2020 through April 2021, nine new leaders and eight new civilizations were added as part of the New Frontier Pass. In addition, two Persona Packs were added in July 2020.

Eight of the new leaders came with their new civilizations, but the ninth, Kublai Khan, was added as a second leader option for either China or Mongolia.

In the Persona Packs, the developers introduced two new options each for Theodore Roosevelt and Catherine de Medici. Roosevelt becomes either Teddy Bull Moose or Teddy Rough Rider, and Catherine becomes either Black Queen or Magnificence. Unless one plays with the original (Standard Rules) version of Civ VI (not Rise and Fall or Gathering Storm expansions), these personas replace the original Teddy and Catherine.

A full outline of the New Frontier Pass expansion, including a listing of the new civs and leaders, is available at the Civilization Wiki website, a site I highly recommend for all kinds of detailed information about the game.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I have played and won at least five games with each of these leaders. Some unique attributes make them all interesting to play, and some even feel over-powered at times. Although I’ve enjoyed them all as I played them, I cannot say any of them have become real favorites yet. I think it will take more intentionally playing to exploit their attributes than I did so far. I tend to play a style that favors diplomacy and not all of the new leaders or personas are as well suited to that as they might be to another focus.

For anyone who is interested in a detailed analysis of Civ VI leaders and suggestions for how to play with or against a particular leader, I recommend the excellent Zigzagzigal’s guides found on Steam.

New Frontier Pass Intro

So many things have changed in the last two and a half years that there are many topics I could write about, but first I will pick up where I left off – writing about Civ VI.

Over that span of time, I have downloaded and installed all the various game updates and patches as soon as they were released. Several of them were sorely needed fixes. I bought each of the first two expansions as soon as they were available, but was slower to get the DLC (Downloadable Content), although eventually bought them to have the full set.

I also immediately bought the last expansion – New Frontier Pass – when it launched. The final update of that expansion was April 2021 and at that time the developers said it was the last change they would make to Civ VI. We have not even seen any bug fixes since, so it is likely they are working on Civ VII now. (I wonder, has the recent release of competitor game ‘Humankind’ put any pressure on the developers to get a Civ new version out sooner?)

I believe earlier versions of Civilization (I through IV) had an original release followed later by some major expansions and several more minor updates. My first experience with the Civilization franchise was with Civ V and I know that was the case for it. This time, after two expansions, Firaxis introduced the idea of a ‘pass’ to have access to a series of new content updates over about ten months. It felt kind of weird buying a package of unknowns, but I decided to take the chance and do so rather than waiting until the end to see if buying all the new items was worth it. I have to say, I’m glad I did. The various new items have provided many hours of fun game-playing and learning.

Concurrent with the release of the New Frontier Pass, beginning in May 2020, Firaxis also released free monthly updates for all Civ VI owners. I won’t attempt to go into any detail on the content of those, but interested gamers can find more here.

In the next few posts, I will write more about the New Frontier Pass, the civilizations and leaders added bi-monthly, and the new modes introduced. I have played them all and definitely have some opinions to share.

Just for the record, I have now played and won at least five games with each civilization leader in the entire Civ VI series. At some point, I decided to take on the challenge of winning at least one game with each leader at each of the five highest levels: Prince, King, Emperor, Immortal, Deity. The lower levels are too easy to bother with. Even though I had won games at various levels before an official record was being kept by the game, I actually decided to “start over” with the original and early DLC civs so I would have an easy-to-access record of my progress using the Hall of Fame feature that was added to the Gathering Storm expansion. If I recall correctly, that came with the September 2019 update, when they moved “Additional Features” to a sub-menu on the main page.

As of today, I have 521 overall wins playing Civ VI:

  • Original Release – 50 wins
  • Rise and Fall Expansion – 23 wins (51 through 73)
  • DLC (from early through Rise and Fall) – 11 wins (74 through 84)
  • Gathering Storm Expansion – 142 wins (85 through 226)
  • New Frontier Pass – 234 wins (227 through 521)

Here is a screen shot of the total play time.

(Achievements have not been a high priority for me, especially since many of them are won through playing the various scenarios, which I do not enjoy playing much.)

By now, it may be obvious that the pandemic and my self-quarantining meant a good deal of time being spent playing Civ VI!