A Minecraft mod is an independent, user-made modification to the Mojang video game Minecraft. 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 at the same time in order to enhance gameplay. The Minecraft modding community is one of the most active modding communities. Its mods are one of the main reasons behind Minecraft's overall success.
Minecraft mods are available for computer and mobile versions of the game, but legacy console versions cannot be modded. Mods for the Bedrock version of the game made using Minecraft own API are known as "add-ons".
Technical feasibilityMinecraft 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 as "mods".
The Java Edition of Minecraft can be modded through the client or server. Client mods require the player to add files to their game folder and install a mod launcher/loader such as Forge, while server modding leaves the player's game folder untouched and only changes the behavior of the server, to which the player can then log on in order to play a varied game. Client mods can change the behavior or appearance of any aspect of the game, and commonly add new blocks, items, mobs, vehicles and even dimensions. Client mods can result in loss of performance for older or weaker computers, especially if the player combines many mods together in a "modpack"; however, some client mods can increase the game's performance. Modifications to the Java Edition of Minecraft are possible because for each new major version of the game, the community reverse-engineers Minecraft source code, which is written in Java.. Mojang and Microsoft provide little official support for this, but the EULA permits non-commercial mods.
Modding for the mobile and console versions of Minecraft on the Bedrock codebase is different as that iteration of the game is written in C++ rather than Java. Players who wish to mod their game on Bedrock codebase versions have a simpler process due to the version's built-in official support for "add-ons", which can be installed faster than Java Edition mods, and require no external mod loaders.
HistoryAlthough the first version of Minecraft was released in May 2009, client-side modding of the game did not become popular in earnest until the game reached its alpha stage in June 2010. The only mods that were released during Minecraft Indev and Infdev development stages were a few client-side mods which had minor changes to the game.
With the release of Alpha, the first server-side mods began to appear. One of them was hMod, which added some simple but necessary tools to manage a server. Michael Stoyke, also known as Searge who would later go on to work for Mojang, created Minecraft Coder Pack, which was later renamed to Mod Coder Pack, keeping the same acronym. MCP was a tool which decompiled and deobfuscated Minecraft code. MCP would recompile and reobfuscate new and changed classes, which can be injected into the game. But, if multiple mods modified the same base code, it would conflict. To solve this problem, Risugami's Modloader was created; Modloader prevented any conflict occurring due to multiple mods modifying the same base classes or game resources.
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. As opposed to their predecessors, these mods had the potential to change the entire game instead of simply tweaking minor aspects of it. Bukkit, a server-side mod intended to replace hMod was also released during this time. CraftBukkit, a server software which implemented the Bukkit API was also released. Bukkit allowed server owners to install plug-ins which modified the server's way of taking input and giving output to the player without players having to install client-side mods.
Around November 2011, the Forge Mod Loader and Minecraft Forge were released. Forge allowed players to be able to run several mods simultaneously. Forge utilized MCP mappings. Forge also released a server version of Forge, which allowed mods to be run on servers, which eventually led to people creating modded servers. Forge ended the necessity to manipulate the base source code, allowing separate mods to run together without requiring them to touch the base source code. Forge also included many libraries and hooks which made mod development easier.
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After Minecraft was fully released in November 2011, the game's modding community continued to grow. In February 2012, Mojang hired developers of the Bukkit to work on an official modding API, allowing mod developers easier access to the Minecraft game files. Bukkit was then maintained by the community. A fork of CraftBukkit, called Spigot which was backward compatible with plugins was also in development. An Alternative to forge named Liteloader was released. Liteloader made modding very simple and promoted adding new content instead of modifying existing content. Like forge, Liteloader also used MCP mappings.
In 2013, Forge Mod Loader soon replaced Risugami's Modloader as Modloader wasn't being updated in time by its developers. In early 2014, a new server software named Sponge, which had a very powerful plugin API compared to Bukkit, and was also compatible with running Forge mods was released. Sponge also introduced mixins, an alternatively to modifying byte code. Soon, Liteloader implemented mixins into their API allowing developers to modify in-game content.
In mid-2014, Spigot released a server software made to link many servers together. The project was called BungeeCord, and had a separate plugin API from spigot and spigot plugins could work side by side with BungeeCord. Many popular Minecraft servers use BungeeCord to link up Minecraft servers together. PaperMC also released a modified version of BungeeCord called Waterfall, which included optimizations that were not present in Spigot.
Concern arose following Microsoft's acquisition of Mojang in late 2014. Members of the modding community feared that Minecrafts new American owners would put an end to Mojang's established practice of giving free rein to mod developers. Despite the concerns, Microsoft did not announce any changes to Mojang's policies, and modding was unaffected.
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 September 2016, a new modding toolchain known as Fabric was released. Fabric devised its own set of free mappings to use instead of MCP mappings. Fabric also used Sponge's mixins. Fabric was very light and did not have all the elements of a forge mod, and could also be released from developmental snapshot versions of Minecraft, which other mod loaders could not.
A new Windows 10 version of Minecraft was announced shortly after 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 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.
In April 2017, Mojang announced the upcoming creation of the Minecraft Marketplace, where players would be able to sell user-created content for the Windows 10 version of the game. 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.
In 2018, Forge underwent a large rewrite, partially because of the large changes in Java Edition version 1.13 and to support their new long-term support system for upcoming versions. This made many modders use 1.12.2 as their primary version. Mod Coder Pack stopped receiving updates after 1.12.2. Liteloader was not updated for 1.13, and in its succession came Rift. Rift was a light mod loader for 1.13 to 1.13.2 which also used mixins. However, Liteloader and Rift did not release a mod loader for servers, so Liteloader and Rift mods could only run on the game client. A new server software for 1.12.2 named Magma was released, which allowed using PaperMC plugins and Forge mods together.
In late 2018, Fabric underwent a complete rewrite. Mappings' names were changed and more hooks were added to make modding easier. Fabric also began becoming very popular and 1.14 modding began to split between Forge and Fabric. Forge released their new long-term support system for Java Edition version 1.14, and updating mods to newer versions was made easier.
In August 2019, Microsoft decided to partner with Nvidia to add support for ray tracing technology. This new update is expected to be released in 2020.
Currently, as of 2020, the modding community is split up between Forge and Fabric. Server modding is split up between CraftBukkit, Spigot, PaperMC and Sponge. Server linking software is split between BungeeCord and Waterfall.
ControversiesOver the course of the years, there have been mod-related controversies with Minecraft. One surrounded a mod called GregTech, which was aimed at increasing Minecrafts 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. The authors of both mods later settled their dispute.
Another surrounded the mod Bukkit, an API which enabled others to install server-side mods. In 2014, the leader of the Bukkit team Warren "EvilSeph" Loo announced that development would cease, and Mojang stepped in to save the project. With Mojang's announcement, the intellectual rights to the project became ambiguous. Licensing conflicts arose between the original creators of Bukkit and maintainers, largely revolving around the who "owned" the project after the primary maintainers resigned. One major contributor tried to pull the rights to use their code in the game, effectively forcing Bukkit to fall in a state of disrepair for a time.
Another controversy came about in March 2017, when Slovakian cybercompany ESET revealed that 87 examples of trojan horse malware 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.
Mod contentThe total number of Minecraft mods is hard to calculate because of how numerous they are. One repository website, CurseForge, features over 55,000 mods as of 2020. But there are multiple repository websites, which feature all kind of different mod categories like "Planet Minecraft" or "ModForest".
The types and sorts of content added by these modifications also take on many different forms.
For instance, there are mods that add new dimensions that can be visited by the player. The Galacticraft mod allows players to build rockets in order to fly to the Moon and several planets, and collect their resources and Twilight Forest creates a dimension that enables players to explore 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. 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; and IndustrialCraft, a mod which adds metals, electric tools, generators, including nuclear reactors, jetpacks, powered armor, and nuclear items.
In addition to IndustrialCraft 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 and customize their own tools and weapons, some involving a foundry or a forge.
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. 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 and Millenaire upgrade the game's NPC's.
Not all mods will add gameplay elements, however. Others merely tweak the GUI, for example by adding a minimap, try to smoothen the game rendering, like Optifine, 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.
Optifine is also the most popular mod to bring shaders support to Minecraft. They completely change the game look by adding shadows, dynamic lights and reflective surfaces. They are, however, very hardware-demanding.
ModpacksMods 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. Content creators use that to their advantage in order to allow mods to interact so that a particular experience can be delivered, sometimes aided by throwing configuration files and custom textures into the mix. The most popular modpacks can be downloaded and installed through launchers, like the Twitch Desktop App, Feed the Beast, Technic Launcher and ATLauncher.
Official recognitionIn 2012 Mojang claimed to be starting work on a repository for Minecraft mods. Their help website lists video tutorials that teach the player how to install and play Minecraft mods.
Minecrafts 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. Persson says he came around, as he claims to have realized that mods are "a huge reason of what Minecraft is". In some cases, authors of mods even ended up getting a job at Mojang, and some in-game features, such as pistons and horses, were originally from mods. In 2016, Mojang announced their official support for mods for the Bedrock version of Minecraft, where they are known as "add-ons".
''Minecraft'' itselfMods 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 Minecrafts 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.
EducationMinecraft 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.
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. Bennett's condemnation was rebutted by a number of journalists for The Guardian, who thought that Minecraft in schools was a worthwhile innovation.
Critical receptionPC Worlds 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 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". 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.
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".
Minecraft mod Galacticraft was mod of the week in PC Gamer in July 2013.
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.