Friday, March 7, 2014

Sometimes Less Is More

Image courtesy of The Order Expert
I've been toying with the idea of starting a Minecraft Let's Play series on YouTube with a very specific and interesting theme (which will remain a secret for now). It could be done in pure vanilla as of 1.6, but I do love me some mods, and truth be told I've grown quite accustomed to minimaps and other niceties.

Design and presentation are rather significant for this concept, and frankly I could use a bit more variety than what vanilla offers (though the stained clays, colored glass, and new stone variants are heading in the right direction). I went in search of mods that provide more options and add some neat gameplay features as well.

I finally settled on about 20 total mods (that includes Forge, NEI, "core" mods, etc.), thinking I came up with a pretty tight list. That's roughly half the number of mods I normally run, so I felt confident that I had put my minimalist goggles on correctly and began setting up my Forge profile and mods.

However, nearly half a day was spent haggling with ore generation where several mods overlapped. Taking a good long look, I finally decided to cut out all but the most necessary and continued on.

I loaded up Minecraft and started a creative test world only to find single-digit framerates. I then spent the evening optimizing my computer and fiddling with video settings, hoping for improvement. When my options were finally exhausted, I returned to the modlist and reluctantly nixed another world generation mod.

Worried that my building options were getting sparse, I remembered another aesthetic mod that might do the job and added it to the list. While talking with a friend about my modlist and FPS issues, he recalled there being a feature in my newly-added mod that sounded a lot like something in another mod I'm already going to use.

After some searching, it turned out he was right. Using both mods would've only complicated things without really adding much more variety. I've not used this other mod before but have been intrigued by a few of its features. Little did I know it also included a huge variety of block types and designs!

Loading up this slimmer variant I noticed a respectable increase in framerate. I began testing out some of the blocks and features of the mod, and began seeing glaring graphical glitches. This just wouldn't do for recording purposes, so I went to find a fix.

It turns out the mod has compatibility issues with Optifine (sometimes minor glitches, sometimes severe crashes depending on the versions of both mods), and there's really no workaround short of removing one or the other. Being that I have a very old computer, losing Optifine sounded like a deal breaker. I was already having FPS problems, and feared I'd have to shelve or alter my idea entirely. The mod's forum page was full of posts saying that Forge has included a lot of tweaks in recent versions and Optifine shouldn't be necessary.

Skeptically, I removed Optifine and its config and loaded the world. I tweaked the vanilla video settings a little and voila, I was running smooth as silk! After I picked my jaw off the floor, I struck Optifine off my modlist.

There's several morals to this story, kids.

First, be sure to research the content provided by mods you're not familiar with - and I mean really look into it. Google them and cross-reference wikis if you have to. The hour it takes to do that is way less than the time you'll eventually spend trying to figure out complicated setups, what goes with what, and generally tearing your hair out.

Second, don't assume something is or is not a certain way and will remain that way forever. I thought Optifine was so important to running my game smoothly that it would be the last thing I removed. I was wrong to the point of it actually making things worse for my specific setup.

Finally, remember that sometimes less really is more... or maybe that less is enough, and more is just too much. You get the idea, more or less.

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