So a few posts ago I said some stuff about Minecraft and how I was playing on a multiplayer server with a few guys from work and their friends and whatnot. Shortly after that there were some problems and the server was down for most of a week. After it went back up, it was wiped of our world and buildings, but the guy who owns the server decided on the urging of his friend to use something called Feed The Beast. FTB is this program that uses a bunch of mods and collects them into packs and loads them into Minecraft for you and runs the game for you. It's all legal and above board and you still need to own Minecraft to play because it uses your normal Minecraft account and everything. Plus, Notch and Mojang made the game to be heavily used and abused by the modding community.
FTB has these modpacks that include various mods from various people that have done various things to the game. Some of these are useful utilities like a minimap mod that allows you to set up waypoints and stuff on the overworld so you always have a good idea where you are or at least know which direction you should start walking to get back to your base of operations. Others have useful utilities like using increasingly expensive ores to create increasingly spacious inventory items. Others add neat things like new biomes with new plant life and different textures and colors for stone and dirt. Redwood forests are pretty fucking crazy looking and volcanoes are as well. Others add new resources and subsystems to the game like copper ore, a better system for managing rails and carts, electricity, magic, nuclear power, power armor, flying armor forcefields, or teleportation.
Normal Minecraft is pretty basic, you have a furnace, anvil, crafting table, enchantment table, and cauldron. You refine ores by burning fuel (wood, coal, etc) in the furnace, you craft things in the crafting table (by arranging various amounts of materials in a pattern on a 3x3 grid), you brew potions in the cauldron. You can also use levels to enchant with the enchanting table or use the anvil to repair tools or combine enchantments. I think that's about it. You can do a lot with redstone circuits and running power to things, but its pretty complex once you get beyond pulling levers and powering carts as they move along rail tracks. I mostly settle for lever operated lava pits and redstone operated secret doors. Other people are crazier and create huge clocks and calculators with it.
So now we're playing Minecraft with all these mods (the Direwolf20 modpack, specifically) and I am completely lost because I knew nothing of these mods or FTB. I'm a vanilla Minecraft guy, I've figured out pretty much everything in the base game and nowadays I just like playing around on creative mode placing blocks and building neat things or things from my Pathfinder campaign. Which reminds me that I need to update the Orcunraytrel save to reflect the new additions that Karl put on the tower while the guys were in Cantellen.
There's all this new stuff and it's all insane. You need to harvest resin from rubber trees to combine with smelted copper to make wiring to connect your coal fueled generator to your battery box to store electricity then connect it to your extractor to get a better resin to rubber ratio. You'll also need to use an electric furnace so you're not burning through all that coal because coal can be ground up and hydrated and compressed and put into a container then extracted to get a coalfuel cell, which can power your generator for longer than a normal piece of coal. Or you can run a windmill and solar panels and a water mill to power everything. Or you can break down plant matter to run your generator.
So there are some interesting aspects to these mods and there are a few beefy ones that change a lot, while others are just minor tweaks or additions. My favorite one is the Thaumcraft mod. It adds magic into the game. Basically, what you do is destroy materials to release various essences of magic into the air and then you use a wand to create something out of them. Sometimes it is a useful building material like arcane wood, which you can craft a door out of that can only be opened by you. You can also build warded building blocks and glass, which are immune to destruction at the hands of other players. Handy on a multiplayer server. Other times, you can create more mundane resources. Like you can throw tin into a cauldron and wave your wand and create gold and such.
There are also useful utility magic items like the portable hole, which creates a magic tunnel that lets you pass through blocks. There's also a wand of excavation that blasts the earth with a beam of magic so you can collect the blocks. You can also create little golem dudes to guard and attack other players or hostile mobs (or peaceful mobs) or pick up stuff for you or refill your cauldron. You can also build swords and tools out of a magic metal that is more easily enchanted than other materials and has almost as much durability as diamond and deals almost as much damage as diamond.
It's a pretty neat mod that takes some work to get into. You can't just find a recipe online and make stuff. You have a little spellbook and you have to create a research table and kind of research the various essences. So gold has the metal and valuable essences, so I had to research (destroy) valuable objects, metal objects, and objects related to change (like seeds and eggs) to shift my progress bar on research before I could actually transmute metal into gold. It's kind of a neat process that is a little more involved than the normal construction of objects in Minecraft. It's also kind of pretty. Most of the new objects and resources are very shiny and colorful and feature little auras of particle effects.
Another of the main mods, and one I am currently focusing on quite a bit is the Industrial Craft mod. This one mostly centers on the inclusion of advanced machines and technology and runs on electricity. The basic device is a generator that you burn fuel in to generate electricity, which you then transmit to machines via gold, tin, and glass (I think) wiring. You can also transmit electricity by powering up batteries and then placing them into the machine you need to run. It's just easier to run wire all over the place frankly. My base is kind of a rat's nest of the stuff. Wiring is a little complicated, each wire can only take a certain amount of electrical output or it melts. If your wire isn't insulated enough, it damages you when you're next to it. If it is too high of a voltage for the machine to handle, it explodes the machine. Luckily, there are transformers to downgrade voltage, so you can use a high capacity/high voltage storage device and downgrade the voltage it outputs to power your basic machines.
The mod also gives you access to some tools that have unlimited durability, but they run on electricity. My diamond tipped drill only stores enough power to use it about 150 times, which isn't a lot during a mining run. However, you can create batteries and other storage devices. I actually crafted a battery pack to wear that stores 30 times as much energy in it as the base amount the drill can hold. It's handy, because I also run around with a chainsaw. The chainsaw and drill are also super fast at mining and cutting wood, so it speeds things up considerably. Until I need to charge up that battery pack.
The generator isn't your only means of electricity production though. You can pump lava for a geothermal generator, run water through a water mill (or sink it into a lake), you can put solar panels of varying degrees of power on the landscape, you can even put up windmills. I mostly use plant life to generate biofuel and some solar panels. The mod also allows you to build a nuclear reactor, if you can find some uranium, and the power output on those is pretty significant, but you have to manage them real well or they explode and spew lava all over the place and destroy a lot of blocks around you. You can also use the uranium to build nukes, which destroy a space about 80 - 100 blocks horizontally and 100 - 130 blocks vertically, and is accompanied by a poison and hunger effect.
There is also some pretty advanced technology in the mod. You can create a jet pack and some composite armor and a mining device that will automate mining for you in a 5x5 or 9x9 square till it hits water or bedrock. But it takes power to run it. There's also the force field, which kills any players other than you that are inside of it unless they have a special access pass you craft for them. There's also a portal gun and weighted companion cube, and a teleporter. The advanced technology is fairly expensive in terms of resources, so I haven't really played with it yet. I'm still trying to figure out all of the basics of the mods, so I'm still figuring out my power grid needs and what I'll need for long term play on the server, so I haven't built any of the higher end stuff. Plus, one of the smaller mods adds a bunch of new biome types, so I've been doing quite a bit of exploring instead of mining and resource collection.
One of the other bigger mods is Buildcraft, and it does a lot of the same stuff that Industrial Craft does, but in a different way. You still have machine types that improve upon the furnace and operate with better speed and efficiency, but they run on Minecraft Joules and are generated by various types of engines you can build. Minecraft Joules and Industrial Craft electricity are not compatible, but can be converted by some devices from one to the other. It also tries to automate mining with the quarry, which looks kind of cool, but does about the same thing as the Industrial Craft miner. The engines are as tricky as the electrical system, they can overheat and explode and cause conductive tubes (wires, basically) to exlode. One neat thing from Buildcraft is transportation tubes. You can build tubes of various types to move resources around. So you can set it up so that your combustion engine is pumped water to keep it cool and then use it to power your pulverizer to break down ores (so you can refine them for more the a single ingot per ore) then connect a tube from the pulverizer to a chest or furnace to keep moving the ores out once they're pulverized. Industrial Craft and Buildcraft are real big on automation.
Another mod is Forestry. It is about trees and farming. Using this mod you can automate the harvesting and planting of trees and crops. Right now I'm trying to set up a automatic farming process to farm peat for me (so I can power some peat fired engines to play with more Buildcraft stuff), along with some trees, wheat, and reeds (so I can convert them into biofuel for my electrical generators). If I can automate basic resource collection with a quarry and some farms, I should be able to just wander off and dick around doing whatever and not have to worry about needing wood or food or fuel for a project. Forestry also includes a crazy system of bees, breeding bees, and breeding plants. I have no idea how it works or what the benefits are, but I guess there are like 132 different types of bees (Thaumcraft actually adds 72 new species, so the base number of bee breeds is like 60). One neat thing that Forestry adds is the electrical engine, which can be powered by Industrial Craft electricity to pump out as Minecraft Joules. However, it doesn't output much. To modify and improve its output you can use a Foestry crafting device to build a soldering iron and circuit board and put different electron tubes into it. Farms can also be modified this way. The types of crops your farms can grow is determined by a circuit board and electron tube set up.
There are other mods in the game (including one based on Myst, which allows you to generate and travel to what are essentially other Minecraft worlds that you can rape for resourcs), but these are the only ones I really have any experience with so far, other than building neat items to see what they can do because I have a shit ton of resources for them lying around because I don't use them. One interesting thing of note is that all this new and shiny shit has completely killed my desire to create anything in terms of neat structures and buildings. This kind of bums me out, because I was all excited to create that floating castle and stuff, but I figure that once I get a handle on all of this new stuff I'll probably want to craft something neat looking. Like a flying castle with smokestack factories as the corner towers of the walls and a nuclear reactor cooling tower as the main fort, with a force field around it all.