Follow the Yellow Brick Road: Our Introduction to Minecraft Modding
Angelica Calcagnile & Andrew Rochon
Angelica: Our journey into modding begins. As long as I’ve been involved with the cabal, Dr. Bart Simon has wanted a yellow brick texture, a mainstay of early modernist building designs. Though he had once built Villa Cavrois by Robert Mallet-Stevens using the Chisels & Bits mod, the convenience of a standalone block for future modernist builds cannot be rivalled. Andrew and I set out to make the dream come true, independently at first, before combining forces and strengths.
Andrew: We initially reached out to Bart after our weekly meeting to volunteer to make his yellow brick dream come true. Video game modding has always fascinated me; the idea of people coming together to improve a game for free is nothing short of a utopian fantasy. After attending BlanketCon 22, a digital convention where Minecraft mod makers gather to demonstrate their projects, I was greatly inspired to jump right into it.
Unbeknownst to me, Angelica was already working on the gorgeous yellow brick textures. After talking it over, we decided to make this a team-up project to involve all members of the Student Cabal so we could use all of our unique interests and skills together.
Angelica: What color grout though? It was clear from discussion on the TAG Discord server that this decision couldn’t be made lightly. Not too light, not too dark, just right. Or perhaps, the best of all worlds? I realized that a light-grouted block and a dark-grouted block couldn’t coexist neatly. It would be an either-or binary, unless there was some way of blending the two? Bart’s yellow bricks would have to come in a light grout, a dark grout, and four variations between. Placed in varying combinations, they imply the irregularity of aged grout.
Andrew: I was somewhat familiar with basic programming but I had no real experience with java other than smaller mods I worked on in high school. Luckily, there is a huge trove of Minecraft modding tutorials on the internet. I followed Cy4’s modding tutorial on YouTube while simultaneously making adjustments during the process, such as using a different forge/Minecraft version, using different textures, etc. However, Cy4’s aren’t entirely beginner friendly, he covers things very fast and expects you to know some basic formatting for java.
I ran into a lot of errors along the way too, usually because of typos or misunderstanding something from the video. When I couldn’t figure it out myself I would look for more tutorials. However, I noticed that there is a lot of information on basic modding (i.e. setup, making basic blocks and items, etc.) but not a whole lot about more advanced things. Of the information that was out there for the basic stuff, a lot of it was purely copy-paste or blatantly stolen videos, so it’s important to be wary of any shoddy tutorials.
Angelica: While I have done retexturing of videogame elements in the past, I haven’t had much luck with modding beyond that. I’m sure I could learn, but the the simple act of changing the visible face of a 16 x 16 x 16 voxel block is far more complicated that one might initially assume. Thankfully Andrew’s set of skills complemented mine on this project, and we were pleased with the outcome. The yellow bricks were immediately put to use by Bart on his replica of the Fagus factory by Walter Gropius and Adolf Meyer.
Andrew: There’s a unique sense of satisfaction when the work you put in pays off, when it actually works as intended. I don’t know if it’s because it’s new to me or even programming veterans have the same feeling. You might spend about 15 minutes programming in a block: setting the conditions, the loot tables, the behavior, sounds, crafting recipe, etc. When it all works, it is surreal to see it in-game. The fact that you can’t really see the effect of what you are doing while programming, and having to wait for the game to boot up and load adds anticipation.
Our experiences creating in Minecraft typically had instant gratification, when we place a block we see how it looks. However, programming feels more like painting in the dark, sometimes you turn on the lights and there’s a mess, sometimes the breaker jumps and you have to stumble around in the dark to flip it back on, but sometimes (somehow) there’s a beautiful painting there.
We decided to call the mod The Cabal’s Toolbox because that is essentially what it is: a place where we could put all of our mishmash ideas to the test in-game, and even experiment with concepts for standalone mods. Right now the mod is available to download here and will be updated over time with blocks and items for our unique projects. This is just the beginning and we have plenty of ideas for the future.