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Design Bites: Minecraft - Feed The Beast

The "Design Bites" series is about learning or appreciating just one design element of one game. It's about applying an analytical eye, even if it doesn't touch on everything.

What's Minecraft - Feed The Beast?

Minecraft is a Sandbox developed and released by Mojang in 2011 (Kinda, it was in beta for a long time). The player roams a procedurally generated world building things and collecting resources with a variety of tools. Feed The Beast (FTB) is a collection of Mods for Minecraft, which add new items, creatures, resources and other features to the game. There are many different Feed The Beast modpacks, each with their own goals and focuses. This article is specifically about "Feed The Beast: Infinity Evolved". I would encourage anyone curious about FTB to head on over to the Feed The Beast website or Forums and check it out!

What's Awesome?

Deep inside all humans is the burning desire to build a nuclear reactor.

No? Just me?

Alright. To be completely honest - I didn't have the strong urge to collect uranium and design a reactor cooling system until very recently. While we might not all share my newfound passion, one thing that we do share is a strong desire for progress.

FTB is incredibly effective at stoking this desire and it does so in many ways. One that i'll talk about briefly here is a technique to make players feel good about progression: by showing the player that previously challenging things are now easy. Let's compare FTB to vanilla Minecraft.

You begin Minecraft by struggling to acquire some basic resource. This could be a precious metal, a plant, or an item dropped by some hostile creature. Whatever the resource is, the payoff for acquiring it is usually the ability to acquire rarer resources: an iron pickaxe can retrieve diamonds, a stone one cannot. In regular Minecraft, this climb tops out at Diamond gear, which really isn't all that difficult to acquire if you know where to look: an hour or two of gameplay is enough to find enough diamonds to deck your character out. There are other things to do beyond this: enchanting and various other items to build, but in terms of the core gameplay - mining & crafting - once you've got the diamonds you're pretty set. This is where a modpack like FTB comes in.

Feed The Beast turns minecraft into a lengthy ladder climb. The core game loop for Minecraft is simple: Collect resources to build tools... to collect new resources to create better tools. FTB alters this loop by adding a key element: processing of collected resources. Add a take away pizza and a good skype call and repeat until you pass out at 4am.

FTB not only adds a heap of new materials to attain far beyond the diamond tier of equipment (thus extending and strengthening the existing minecraft core game loop), it stresses a different kind of progression: efficiency. It's not longer just about whether or not you can acquire a few diamonds, it's about how many diamonds you can acquire and how fast you can acquire them. Furthermore, it's about whether you have all the machines necessary to make the most out of the diamonds that you have acquired. The latter of which sends you cascading through a series of branching requirements that give you mountains of things to do.

The beautiful payoff is that after you've put some time into things you can step back and look at the insane chain of contraptions that you've built and measure the benefit: when you started it took you hours to acquire a handful of diamonds, and now you're pumping them out of the ground at 800 blocks per hour. This stretches each material tier in the game loop into a player defined journey of advancement. You're not done when you've collected a diamond, you're done when you feel like you will never need to worry about collecting diamonds again.

There's so much more to talk about regarding FTB, but i'll try and reign it in here before things get scattered further. I'll conclude by saying that Feed The Beast devoured 130 hours of my life by revitalizing a game that I had long since put down. That, in itself, is a fantastic thing.


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