Minecraft Is Not What You Think, or:
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Polybenzimidazole

This was a long time coming (and I wrote a slightly shorter version on some forum a while ago).

Thanks to Q23, I’ve known Minecraft since it’s pre-beginning. It’s all very vague in my memory, but I remember I tried an early tech demo with blocks when there wasn’t even a world generation, and then something resembling current Minecraft some time later. Interesting because it started as some Dwarf Fortress-like, a project only known in certain tiny circles. But for me, personally, Minecraft has always been disappointing.

The early tech demo didn’t convince me at all. The moment I broke a block and saw the remaining still floating in the air, with no physics, left me a sour taste. And when it became the real Minecraft it still was bad for me. The game is not intuitive. This was long before the recipe book. You had to look up things on some guide, or just trying random arrangements to find a recipe. Something that could be found immediately at random, could have required someone else half an hour. And then you had to memorize them. The survival game is shallow. Once you know the intended progress the survival aspects only last about half an hour: you get some tools, crafting table, start digging a hole until you find coal, coal leads to torches, so more subterranean expansion, looking for iron. But the survival itself is caused by the active pressure of monsters during the night, and food. If you don’t want to slaughter random animals, you can start a crop farm early on. Since the yields are always greater than the uses, food is infinite, problem solved. To skip the overworld monsters you need a bed. That means you need three sheep.

This wraps up Minecraft for me. Prioritize the bed before everything. Then settle, start a crop farm, dig down. Game over. Why? Because once you have infinite food, a magical object that makes you skip the night, and infinite torches and tools… The “survival” pressure is over. It’s not that Minecraft actually stops here, but the lack of clear goals (and “demands”) mean that every time I tried playing the game and reached this stage, I got bored. I don’t care about building pretty houses, it feels trivial and meaningless. The rest of the game seems shallow and there are tons of other that offer more depth.

(All I’m writing here is not “personal” ramblings, as always I analyze my own reactions because they eventually build a point. Game design.)

…But Minecraft is hugely popular, lots of kids play it. Everyone, at every age plays it. It is different why? Because most of those kids don’t come to Minecraft like I did. In the age of youtube and everything else, they probably have seen Minecraft being played tons of times before putting their hands on it. Or, they’ve seen their friends playing it, and playing together in multiplayer. The learning process, and recipe guessing, isn’t like mine, where you are alone in front of the game. You have friends guiding and helping you, so that you move at a brisk pace. Tutorials have no place here. Instead for me the recipe-guessing was like a leap back to the age of textual adventures, when you had to try commands over and over until you found something that worked and made you progress to the next room. Or dialogue in early RPGs where you had to guess the word that would trigger a new block of text and obtain some important info or progress. This wasn’t about having “more freedom”, it was about being tightly restricted and trying to guess what the designer was thinking. It’s not gameplay informed by knowledge, it’s informed by blindness. Groping in the dark. Making it frustrating.

That was it, and then it was not. About a year ago I got into Factorio. Even in this case, thanks to the forums I’ve known Factorio for a very long time. I installed it at least three times. Every time, I played for half an hour, or slightly more, got a “feel”, and then let it be. But this was different for Minecraft. I simply thought: “Cool, this is interesting, I’ll keep it for when I have more time to focus.” Last time, about a year ago, I played for slightly longer, two, three hours. I got halfway through the third tutorial. Something clicked. It was like a magic trick, i got addicted. Factorio became everything. But, for me, everything doesn’t mean I start playing the game obsessively, but that I start READING about the game obsessively. Forums, reddit and everything else, I started absorbing “information”.

For me, the AAA industry is almost irrelevant. I thrive in game communities and mod work. I thrive in the vision of players, that can see a game well past its original intention. I came from the Commodore 64, but I always wanted to tinker with games rather than playing them. When I had my first PC I got Doom. Doom for me wasn’t about playing the game. It was about hunting for levels made by players, trying all sort of editors. I never made ANYTHING even barely worthwhile. But I also knew everything, from obscure level editors, to Dehacked. The day I bought the first Quake, I installed an editor before I launched the game for the first time. Even today, I get so much more enthusiasm when I find some players’ project then the announce of a big new game. Battletech, for me, is nothing if there wasn’t Roguetech, Jagged Alliance 2 is nothing without 1.13, or AIMNAS (that sadly will never get even close to be completed), but there are tons of examples, from the classic Mount & Blade, to Starsector, X-Com (the old), all Paradox games, simulators like Falcon 4 and Silent Hunter 3, Freespace 2, Rimworld, Stalker (Anomaly), Terraria of course, but even Tarkov that walks a thin line between legal and not with its incredible single player add-on. Even Doom Eternal, that for me would be a much worse game without add-on support and some manual tweaks (I also got a constant crash that could only be solved by modifying code that could only be possible thanks to mod support). Every time there is some space, the community can make these games become SO MUCH MORE. To the point that the original game simply disappears. No reason to exist outside those mods.

The more the industry tries to wall itself off, the more it disappears for me. I’m not a passive consumer. I don’t give a shit about your movie-like stories. I can read books, I can watch movies that are made by real artists. Games for me are transformative. They are tools, languages meant to be played with. If your game isn’t open, for the community, then it’s already dead. That money will choke you to death. And that’s also why there’s that other space about roguelikes, and those communities and devs, open-source projects like CataclysmDDA. Let’s play, not watch passively.

Back to Factorio, I started to read obsessively about the game and found out that Factorio also had an extensive mod community. That was a door to a new world. I got to the third tutorial mission, and I never played “Factorio” again. It was over. What is Factorio for me, now? A collection of a few “packages”: Angel + Bobs + some MadClown and a couple of other minor components, Nullius, Space Exploration + Krastorio 2 + all Brevven meterals and some other stuff, and Pyanodon. That’s it. Four distinct collections of mods that represent the best versions of Factorio available. Games that are so expansive, addictive in all the right ways, that they become hobbies to cultivate for thousands of potential hours. And that’s the most FUN I’ve ever had, in all my gaming life.

I’m not analyzing further, there’s some stuff I wrote in the Factorio thread on Q23, but I love writing about this stuff. Factorio is great because its structure makes playing with mods straightforward. You don’t need to LEARN anything, strictly. You can just dive in the deepest end, it’s fine. That’s why I went from the third tutorial to the most complex Factorio had to offer. It’s not Minecraft, where you have to guess your goal, or randomly find a recipe. Factorio is like the code of the Matrix in front of you. It doesn’t require expertise, it’s not esoteric jargon. It just requires patience. You have a tech tree, all laid open. you have some limited tools. You just have to walk through it. Pyanodon is known as Factorio as its most complex, but when you start a game you soon find out you cannot research anything. There isn’t any conventional “path” to walk. And so it dawns on you: I can only build and play with what I already have. I can only put down the pieces, and connect them. And that’s like being a kid and playing with Legos. Minecraft is NOT Legos. Because everything’s hidden. In Factorio you see everything. You have all the pieces: make them sing. No one gives a shit if you make a disorganized spaghetti, you’ll always have time to reiterate, polish. Arrange the pieces temporarily to see how they operate, and when you figured it out you can clean the table and set down a better plan. Just… PLAY.

Factorio is addicting because you have infinite time, close to infinite progression and toys, and ALWAYS clear goals. Long term, short term. “One more turn”, in the sense there’s always something else that awaits. Small and big things that constantly present new problems and open new paths. It’s just PERFECT game design, distilled to its most pure. And what you build is… yours. Your own creation. It’s a bit the fun flavor of playing a Sim City, what you build is your creation, maybe to share with others with a screenshot. There’s always the fact that in Sim City the design constraints end up making every built city looking alike, but in Factorio there’s quite enough freedom to make your own misshaped spaghetti monsters, that you will love so much. Because you are their mom.

Factorio can deliver a similar exhilaration and fun of creativity you have when programming. The fun without the job, I suppose. But all games are.

So there was me, reading about the greatest, most complex mods for Factorio. Reading that a SINGLE Pyanodon run could take 1000 hours would excite me. Here I open another parenthesis… People usually get turned off by something like that. They hear: this takes 500 hours, and they NOPE out, thinking “this is not for me.” YOU ARE WRONG. Of course the number of hours in not indicative of quality time, but in these cases the prejudice is built on false premises. People who shut the door when they hear a game is too long is simply because they think they don’t have so much time. That’s the part where they are wrong. I came from a generation when games weren’t “meant” to be finished. From the penny arcades to the first home computers, you just played for a while with whatever you felt like playing. Everything changed, of course. But these types of games like Factorio are different from those linear AAA games that try to ape movies. A movie and a book have their meaning as a finite thing. But in a game, more content or a very long progression are just a guarantee of entertainment. It’s like you have a distributor of Fun Pills, but the can only contains 10 of them. Now imagine if they were INFINITE. The point is never “reaching the end”, but having fun WHILE you’re playing. Stop WORRYING about the end. And if you’re having fun, why do you want it to stop? It doesn’t matter if you have one hour or thousands, you simply get to the point you feel like getting to. You stop where you want, it’s fine. The game gets too complex? That’s also fine, you can stop. It’s not like only hearing half of a story makes it pointless without hearing the rest. If a game like Factorio has tons and tons of content through mods, that’s great. It’s like a huge bag of toys, that you explore at YOUR OWN pace, for as long as you want. You shouldn’t be scared that this bag is too big, because it’s always for you to employ however you like. It’s not a challenge impossible to match, it’s just a long, steady progression that presents new problems to solve. The game will be with you for as long as you want, and if you want to take a vacation it will still wait there for you when the desire comes up again. These are sandboxes, and you simply use as much sand you’re comfortable with. The fact the amount of sand is huge encourages you to play, because it means it will be there, ready, when you feel like stepping up the game. Scale to bigger things once you feel like you mastered your current level.

…So there was me, reading about the greatest, most complex mods for Factorio… and eventually I found mentions and comparisons of similar games. Satisfactory, Mindustry, Dyson Sphere Program, Oxygen Not Allowed. Until I found another obscure reference… GregTech.

Turns out GregTech is a Minecraft mod that makes the game more similar to Factorio. I started looking around and found some wiki pages. I learned there were multiple GregTech versions, and that they added block-machines to create some processes. It was interesting, but not especially mind blowing. The weirdest part for me was that I know pretty much everything on the field, at least superficially, but for some reason all this big section of Minecraft modding never surfaced. I knew there were mods for Minecraft, but they all seemed about people making big structures and all that decorative fluff.

Oh, I was wrong.

A door to a whole new world opened. And I spent the last 7 months reading about all of this, and a little bit of playing too.

Once I realized that the modding scene was way bigger then I thought, I took my usual approach: show me the deepest end. I was pointed to something called GT (GregTech) New Horizons (GTNH). In Minecraft, these “modpacks” dominate the scene. There are single mods that develop their own thing, but these individual mods are then organized together in what essentially are “total overhauls”. Part of this is because Minecraft modding is messy. It’s not like Factorio with an explicit mod support. The mods themselves have to be written in Java and are generally “dirty”, hacky work that require lots of expertise and skill. And because everything is quite messy, there will be bugs and problems, and solving them requires serious work. All this means that you need a good team to make a good modpack that can be well supported. You don’t just throw together some mods and play, you have to rely so much more on “curated” packages. The modpacks.

I launched GTNH.

And wow. This is the Minecraft I wanted, with what I hated removed. Not a survival exhausted in 20 minutes, but blazing onward to 600+ hours, of actual, “hard” content added to the game. And the most amazing, unexpected thing: …a questbook.

If my hugest issue when playing Minecraft was not having some incentive to push me onward, some clear goal that would enlighten the progression, this HUGE questbook, with more than 2000 quests, was at the same time a great guide to erase the problem of guessing recipes, and a clear path. It was finally Minecraft… with actual CONTENT to play with. With immediate activities, rewards, and long term goals.

I always thought Minecraft was just fluff, players spending hundreds of hours building pretty houses and castles, but functionally pointless. Because they were just abstractions. But now the whole thing takes a new light. I don’t care spending hours decorating something, for fluff, but if I’m going to spend hundreds of hours in a factory, then the way it’s functionally built, BECOMES IMPORTANT. You can plan and carefully design your places because the design has a function. You’re going to actually “live” in there. It’s not a backdrop, it’s your working environment. The same way you can spend hours setting up a programming IDE so that you are familiar with it. Things start making sense. You jump around like a bunny, you’ll get hungry sooner, need more food. If you build a path, then your speed is enhanced while walking on it. You want doors, windows, a place well lit. Stuff you build and use because it’s functionally active in that world. Stuff that has a purpose, a role to play. The survival aspects start making sense when they come together like this. You don’t just eat bread, because you need different types of food and nutrients. The world around starts to take a shape that is meaningful, where every “block” joins into a system. Onward.

If difficulty is a problem, it’s always because of accessibility. Having fun in a game is all about solving problems, but if those problems are too hard they become insurmountable walls. Even a small obstacle that doesn’t have a clear solution can become frustrating. The great thing here is that the functional complexity available in a huge modpack is accompanied with an equally huge questbook that works as a guide. Here’s your mountain of content, don’t be daunted, take my hand, I’ll guide you all the way. You just have to put the time, patience, and fun. But it’s all there because it is MEANT to be enjoyed. Your sandbox, with your guide. It is a huge mountain, but it is accessible. You just start to climb, setting your own pace and goals, step by step.

Now my Minecraft folder is… let’s see… currently at 52Gb.

I also intended to make a sort of guide here. So here’s what you need to dive into all this.

You need the Java version of Minecraft, avoid everything else. I don’t think the Java version is still available from Mojang, so you’ll have to deal with Microsoft. But once you got your account information, you don’t have to touch Microsoft stuff anymore.

You get this (instead):
https://github.com/MultiMC/MultiMC5
https://multimc.org/

(Note: community projects sadly often derail into lots of drama, and unless you’re directly involved, it’s drama that is very complex and hard to judge. I know very little of the present one, but MultiMC has also “forked”: https://polymc.org/news/moving-on/ …It can’t be too bad to have a more open platform, but otherwise, I have no clue on the matter.)

This is the program you use to download the game assets locally and the modpacks. Everything will be held within, without contaminating other directories, Windows main drive, profile and everything. The modpacks themselves, along with their options, configs and savegame data, will be put inside the “/instances/” directory. If you want to move all your stuff you simply have to backup your MultiMC folder and you won’t lose anything.

Beside MultiMC, and your user and password to access the main assets, you’ll need a Java version. Now… Modpacks depend on a certain Minecraft version, you don’t just download and play the latest. Most of the relevant modpacks are either 1.7.10, or 1.12.2. Those are the big “plateaus” where Minecraft modded has taken shape. But today there are also popular modpacks for 1.16.5, and a few things are trying to stay up to date (1.18.2, currently). Mods take time, questbooks too, good modpacks take even more time. That means that the more bleeding edge is the modpack, the more you lose in terms of mod integration and complexity. Many mods that define what modded Minecraft is haven’t moved past 1.12.2.

All this is also important because when you are PAST 1.16.5 you need Java 17. If you instead play a modpack based on 1.16.5 or earlier, then you need Java 8.

This is where I suggest grabbing Java:
https://github.com/graalvm/graalvm-ce-builds/releases

Take a recent version if possible. But notice that the current one, 22.0.0.2 doesn’t have a Java 8 package. So you need to scroll to a 21.3.1 or 21.2.0, for example “graalvm-ce-java8-windows-amd64-21.3.1.zip”, since you are looking for Java 8, and Windows (“amd64” indicates both AMD and Intel processors). Once you have the zip, you unpack it somewhere, and then configure MultiMC so that it will use that java version. Just look in the /bin directory for “javaw.exe”. Done.

It’s important you set the parameters, and every modpack has its own recommendations. This is what I use:
-XX:+EnableJVMCI -XX:+UseJVMCICompiler -XX:+EagerJVMCI -Djvmci.Compiler=graal -Dfml.readTimeout=120 -Dgraal.ShowConfiguration=info -XX:+UseG1GC -XX:+UnlockExperimentalVMOptions -Dsun.rmi.dgc.server.gcInterval=900000 -XX:+DisableExplicitGC -XX:G1NewSizePercent=20 -XX:G1ReservePercent=20 -XX:MaxGCPauseMillis=50 -XX:G1HeapRegionSize=32M

Also set the minimum and max memory allocation BOTH to 8192 MiB. All these settings aren’t perfect, and every pack has its quirks, but it’s a general default that should be working well. You can then individually tweak each instance while leaving the general settings alone.

That’s it. There’s an “add instance” button at the top left. You press it, go for example at the CurseForge tab and look for a modpack to install, the program will download the mods and create the instance. You launch it and play. These days I follow closely dev work directly on Discord channels, and often packs are available there as downloads. So you just import the zips.

At some point, for a reason or another, you’ll start tinkering. So it’s useful to know some general aspects. A modpack is generally built of three components: mod code, scripts, configuration files. Consider that MultiMC won’t automatically update a pack for you. You do it manually. It usually means creating a NEW instance, so a new subdirectory. You can then navigate to the old, and copy those files you need, to the new. Usually game options (options.txt), the “/saves/” directory, and some other stuff depending on mods, like minimap or tomb data. in any case, the instance directory will contain a “/minecraft/” directory, that’s where’s your stuff. The mod code is contained in .jar files, in the “/mods/” subdirectory. The scripts, that generally contain custom recipes, are inside “/scripts/”, and configuration files are under “/config/”. You can edit scripts and configuration files with just a text editor. When you manually move your data you don’t touch these, since they are set by the pack developers, and so might change when there’s an update. Other directories are usually generated at launch, so you generally don’t touch them.

Now, what do you PLAY?

Here’s a list. With a few notes, more or less relevant. I have less than 100 hours logged overall, when each one of these can take several hundreds. I really know nothing, but I read a lot.

My focus is of course on “industry”, complex processes and depth of gameplay in general. For reasons I’ll elaborate later, this generally means everything GregTech, but there will be other stuff listed.

– GT New Horizons [1.7.10] This is the big daddy of Minecraft modding. It’s one of those with the most active development, still to this day. It gets criticized because it’s “grindy”, but we’ll see later that grind can have a meaningful design purpose. Objectively, it has two strong positive aspects, that are almost unmatched in other modpacks: integration and progress. Integration means that this pack puts together the whole breadth of mods. It has many different biomes, types of food, monsters, along with magic and everything GregTech. These mods are integrated not only because they are in the same pack, but because the recipes are tweaked to depend on each other. Leading to an overall semi-linear progress, of a monumental “size” and scale, that is kept still accessible thanks to an expansive questbook. It’s essentially a flagship. The central pillar of this pack is GregTech 5, but after it was pushed by the community in a whole new directory, now known as GT5U (U-nofficial).

http://downloads.gtnewhorizons.com/Dev-Pack/Pack/Client/ The latest versions usually appear here. What you can find on curseforge is usually a bit outdated.
This is the main Github, the group of devs maintains a large number of 1.7.10 mods, at least those that can be messed with because set as open source.

Note: there are a couple of GTNH “forks”. One is GT Mega, but you need to hunt on discord for this one. It’s made by some embittered GTNH devs that left because of some drama and different vision for the modpack. The other is GT Impact, that you can find here. This one is set on “peaceful” mode, no monsters, only automation. Known to be very good, with interesting multiblocks and some other interesting choices. It has a significant problem though: no questbook. Because of that, you usually need to be already familiar with GTNH.

– Technlogical Journey [1.12.2] This is another unofficial GregTech. It’s based on GTCE (Community Edition), that is a port of GT5 for this new version of Minecraft (all official versions made by Greg didn’t move past 1.7.10). But this is not a well done and “full” version of GregTech, and the main reason why it was completely rewritten recently (but still not in this pack). The main show here is Gregicality, an extension of GregTech, only available here, that pushed the mid to late game toward future science technology. This is here because it represents another interesting extreme, in the complexity of the chemistry chains. It goes one step beyond GTNH itself at the late game, but it is much, much more stripped down in non-GregTech content. There isn’t much integration, and the questbook is more a general progress guide to follow than a complete tutorial. So it’s generally for those who have experience with modded Minecraft and GregTech especially.

https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/technologicaljourney This link is only useful to follow the Discord link. The updated version of the pack is distributed on the Discord link and you absolutely should avoid the Curseforge version. Even the questbook is incomplete in that version.

– Supersymmetry [1.12.2] Only for future reference, since there’s nothing to see here at the moment. It’s an ambitious modpack, science-based, built around the rewrite of GTCE (GTCE-unofficial) and a new version of Gregicality. But a new version of Gregicality (now called Gregicality-Science) is still rather far from release, and the pack, with the ambition to join Gregicality with NuclearCraft Overhaul and QMD, is even further away. Right now the pack is a meme, but it could become important.

https://github.com/Zalgo239/Supersymmetry (Zalgo, Tech22 and Pcm_Keywielder are literally doing God’s work in the proverbial sense, “work that is very important and necessary, especially that which receives little or no recognition or pay.”)

– Omnifactory/Nomifactory (STE) [1.12.2] Still the “lousy” GTCE, but the best introduction to GregTech if you want the focus on the factory rather than the whole modded world, as in GTNH. Since I also was not practical with GregTech, I needed some guide to then “graduate” to Technological Journey. My choice was Omnifactory STE. STE stands for the ominously named “Self-Torture Edition.” For the time being, it helped me. Omnifactory has now be renamed Nomifactory, so refer to that. Omnifactory STE still hasn’t transitioned to the new name. The difference, early game, is that it has much more expensive recipes and enables the steam age, that is instead skipped in the standard version of Nomifactory. Since I play to get familiar with GregTech, I do need that steam age, and playing through that first questbook page helped me starting to define the GregTech mental space. I’ll soon try to reproduce and match the progress into TJ. Omni/Nomi is mainly a GregTech pack, rather lean, and meant to be played without monsters. So it’s like a focused slice of Minecraft. All survival aspects are essentially removed. But there’s still plenty to keep you busy, and work hard.

Nomifactory dev (only use the dev version on github, the main description page has a link to the nightly builds and an info page)
Omnifactory STE Get the client on that page, I manually updated a few things myself, since it’s not as well maintained as the main Nomifactory, but it should be fine

Both STE and Standard have a port to the new GTCE-u, but it’s still in beta.
https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/nomi-ceu
The STE version is currently only on the Nomi Discord channel.

I’ll add here that there are other GTCE-u modpacks in development. This includes Technological Journey 2. But I’d stay away until Gregicality comes out. I’ll link instead three other packs:
GregTech Community Pack, a lean pack with a tutorialized questbook. This is only GregTech base version + some small support mods. It’s meant to be an introduction to GregTech.
GregTech Expert 2
TerraFirmaGreg You may soon realize that GregTech seems to attract some niche Russian, Chinese and Japanese communities. This is a Russian guy who’s putting together GTCE-u with TerraFirmaCraft.

– FTB Ultimate [1.4.7] This is a jump back in time to a much, much earlier version of Minecraft. Ancient history. This is GregTech 2. But I played this to have an overall feel of the starting point in GregTech. It’s still greggy. The biggest difference is that ore generation is traditional. So you just start digging down and find plenty of minerals to use. Because ore generation is scattered all over the place, it means it’s more “exploratory”, and classic Minecraft experience with mods. There’s no questbook. This is a typical “kitchen sink” pack. Every mod does its own thing, there’s no “intended” progression, and you just take your own path. At the time there weren’t many mods, so players were familiar with everything available. They knew what to do and the game was more about creatively using those tools rather than structuring some intended progress. But it’s also the point where mods started to be aware each other, guiding toward a richer, complex experience. It’s fun to play. Use NEI, make a Pulverizer to double ores.

(Old, but it still lets players build… this)

From the MultiMC instance page, look at FTB Legacy, order by game version, scroll down close to the bottom for the correct version for 1.4.7. The pack version is 1.1.2… but there are a few caveats. You need to add a few things that are indispensable.
Block Helper
https://bdew.net/old-downloads/ (the one for Minecraft 1.4.7: “neiaddons-1.4.7-1.6.1.r8.jar”)
Mouse Tweaks

– Divine Journey 2 [1.12.2] Not GregTech. This is a good example of a “hard” progress based pack. Recipes, even of basic things, are modified. And the mods included are organized to provide a semi-linear progress. Since everything in it is modified, this gives something fresh to play for everyone

https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/divine-journey-2

– Lost Era [1.7.10] This is another large pack for this early Minecraft version, despite being a recent one. It has GregTech 4, that was mainly a minecraft 1.6.4 mod, so this one here was an unofficial port. But GregTech is not the core here. It’s a much more simpler pack compared to GTNH, with meaningful but not “hard” progression. It’s especially great as an overall tutorial for mods. Featuring most of the main ones, including tech and magic. Stuff you learn here is always useful whether you move to newer or older versions. A great access point, with an excellent questbook.

https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/the-lost-era-modpack

– TerraFirma Rescue [1.7.10] This is the merge of TerraFirmaCraft and GregTech 6. It’s actually GT6 unofficial, it’s a bit outdated as a pack, not so well maintained. But TFC has some excellent gameplay aspects. I’ve only tried the early game, and the quests could use some polish, but once I gasped what I was meant to do it became quite satisfying and more “natural” than even standard Minecraft gameplay.

https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/terrafirma-rescue

– Bears Den surviving Take 2 [1.7.10] Simple GT6 pack. Basically a ready test environment for GregTech 6. You can always drop some more mods in there, if you want.

https://bearsden.overminddl1.com/Downloads/Gregtech%206%20packs/Surviving%20Take%202/

– Test Pack Please Ignore [1.6.4] This is another reference point for GregTech, since it contains the last version of GT4 before the move to GT5. Despite its age this is a large pack, somewhat inheriting what FTB Ultimate was. In both these cases there is no questbook, so playing through it is not simple at all. you can probably look some older gameplay on youtube to get some ideas. I have a questbook for this version of GT, but based on a Russian hard pack with all the recipes changed, and if I backport the questbook, it crashes. But at least it can works as a general reference. It’s especially with one of the late GT3 versions, and then the move to GT4, that GregTech grew in ambition and also started “greggifying” recipes. This was a controversial design decision because if for example before you needed metal plates in recipes for GT machines, now metal plates are much more widely used, in order to justify building the plate-making machine, rather than crafting those plates manually with a hammer. Same as modifying some Minecraft canons, like 1 log only producing 2 planks, as long you don’t use a saw or a sawmill block. Leading to the general concept of “microcrafting”, also often considered as a bad thing.

This one is on Technic. Simply “add instance” in MultiMC, select the Technic tab and search for the pack name. I heavily tweaked my own version, with minimal testing, so it makes no sense to give more specifics.

– FTB Unhinged [1.5.2] Another GregTech reference point. I’m not sure if it’s really that interesting as a reference, but this, being late GT3, is right between the GT2 in FTB Ultimate, and the GT4 in Test Pack Please Ignore.

Use again the FTB Legacy tab in MultiMC.

– InfiTech 2 [1.7.10] To complete GregTech reference points. This is version 5 before it moved to the Unofficial version, and then GTNH. It is an important pack because it comes with a classic questbook. So it can be followed to see how GregTech was intended to work at this point in time. And how it spread to fundamentally change a lot of the early game.

https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/infitech-2 (yes, it says it’s outdated)

– Revolution 3 [1.7.10] Another generally ignored but important niche. This modpack includes Reika’s mods. Like Greg himself, Reika still maintains his mod suite to this day, but they are very rarely included in modpacks. The main reason is that Reika forbids modification and integration, because he thinks his stuff is precisely designed with a certain progression, but that goes against the intention of those who put together modpacks. These choices ended up in a sort of walled off world. This pack is a rare one that includes those mods, and also has a questbook. Reika’s mods come with their in-game documentation, but they still assume one is quite familiar with the modded games and tools.

This one’s on ATLauncher. So add instance, select the tab and search for “Revolution”. You want the “3” version. Don’t go to 4, it’s a different thing.

– Dragon Realm [1.7.10] This is a recent thing. Reika had his own server and modpack, where he played along the years and tested all his mods. He never released it because he didn’t want to maintain it, answer questions, deal with bug reports and all that. He recently decided to still release it. There’s TONS of information on the site, including specific install instructions that need to be followed. What’s missing is again… a questbook. So you either use Revolution 3 as a “map”, or you’re left figuring stuff in the game or watch some video.

https://dragonrealm.overminddl1.com/index.php Read everything here. Follow instructions carefully.

– FTB Academy + FTB University [1.12.2] These are “FTB” packs. These are usually well done, especially in this case. They are essentially big tutorials, making you familiar with all (most) of the mods. No GregTech, but you have a guided approach that shows you what’s the deal with Minecraft modding.

https://www.feed-the-beast.com/modpack/1_ftb_academy_1_12
https://www.feed-the-beast.com/modpack/52_ftb_university_1_12

– Enigmatica 2 Expert (and Extended) [1.12.2] One of the most famous “hard” packs. It messes with some common recipes, like chests, but it is generally considered as one of the most accessible hard packs. Built to have a certain progression and integrating both magic and tech, similar to Divine Journey 2. No GregTech.

https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/enigmatica2expert/ Original
https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/enigmatica-2-expert-extended Extended

– Enigmatica 6 Expert [1.16.5] The first modpack I mention in this Minecraft version. A spiritual successor to Enigmatica 2 Expert, released days ago at the time of this writing. It’s actually way different from E2. Like, Enigmatica Exotic edition. It demands a lot more exploration to find useful random loot, and fighting enemies in generated structure. It heavily depends on magic. I suppose it’s less “industry” than usual, but will require automation. The pack is identical to the non-expert version. The only changes are “hard” recipes. Most of the questbook is also identical, but hardmode enables a page to show an ideal order of progression for the mods included. Whereas in non-expert those mods are relatively independent, in expert the recipes have many cross dependencies, so that you’ll need to progress in “x”, in other to unblock something in “y”.

https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/enigmatica6expert

– Create Above & Beyond [1.16.5] Hugely popular. Classified as hard pack, but nowhere close to the standard. It’s mostly about the popular mod Create, that is about automation but in a way that is conceptually opposite to GregTech. Create is about building Rube Goldberg contraptions. Think about “analogical” technology rather than the industry blocks of GT. But it’s fun for a lot of people and now in a pack with a defined progression. Most 1.16.5 packs are just “kitchen sink”, without a definite progression, and more “fluff” mods about the standard aspects of Minecraft, like exploration and combat. So there’s still a huge demand for something deeper, and on more recent Minecraft versions. This one is a decent mix of something that feels fresh, but also not shallow as most more recent things.

https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/create-above-and-beyond

– Multiblock Madness [1.12.2] This is another tech-first modpack, oddly not GregTech. But it’s one of the more rarer packs that contains some of the most complex tech mods, like NuclearCraft Overhaul and QMD (particle physics). Another ambitious modpack is being planned that will include this, with GregTech (Supersymmetry), but it’s a long time away from a release. The only other modpack with a similar set of features, available at the moment, is Quanta. This one (Multiblock Madness) should have a decent questbook, that i think is important when the complexity scales up. I haven’t played it, so I don’t know if the questbook can be a good guide on its own, or if it’s better to build some experience first.

https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/multiblock-madness/

– SevTech: Ages [1.12.2] Another popular modpack next to Enigmatica 2. Rather unique because it has a technological progress that is gated through various ages. Rather than using a questbook, it goes for an enhanced achievements page, that can still be used as a general guide about what to do and how to progress.

https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/sevtech-ages

– Compact Claustrophobia [1.12.2] I can’t remember if there’s a more up do date version out there. But this is interesting because you have a series of problems of increasing complexity, and you are stuck in tiny rooms. So the challenge is to both solve the problem, and use as less space as possible. The forced limited focus helps to concentrate on the problem only.

https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/compact-claustrophobia

– FTB Oceanblock, Cuboid Outpost [1.16.5] Both recent packs I’ve seen played on Twitch.

As far as I know Oceanblock doesn’t have a dedicate page, for some absurd reason. But you can again “add instance” and look for it on the FTB section.
https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/cuboid-outpost-le

– FTB Infinity Evolved Expert [1.7.10] I haven’t touched this one, but it’s one of the classic ones, hugely popular.

https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/ftb-infinity-evolved

Different, semi-incomplete sidetracks (pursuing complexity in different directions than GregTech, these are even more “niche”):

– TechNodeFirmaCraft https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/technodefirmacraft
– Ad Astra Per Nucleon https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/ad-astra-per-nucleon
– Per Fabrica Ad Astra https://atlauncher.com/pack/perfabricaadastra
– Fabrica Atlantica https://github.com/wormzjl/Fabrica-Atlantica
– Quanta https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/quanta

– Valhelsia 3 [1.16.5] Popular big “kitchen sink” pack. Quests were planned but never appeared. Just a collection of mods, supposedly well put together, and it lets you experiment with the best stuff available in this version of Minecraft. Minecolonies, for example. This pack essentially contains many of the popular big mods, but it doesn’t have a well planned progression, and it won’t guide you through that content. So it’s a mixed bag.

https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/valhelsia-3

– Better Minecraft (Plus) [1.16.5] Another “exploratory” modpack. Extremely popular. I think the video looks quite amazing. There are versions for 1.18, both Fabric and Forge. But of course less meaningful mods, since the newer version are always weaker on content.

https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/better-minecraft-plus

– Crucial 2 [1.16.5] This one is a well thought, minimal pack that voluntarily stays away from Minecraft modding complexities. It’s basically an improved vanilla Minecraft.

https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/crucial-2

Misc 1.16.5 “questpacks”. All of these have lots of quests, and slightly different sets of mods. Sometimes they use the same quests. They are all kitchen sink without a really defined progression. Quality may be variable. Age of Fate seemed to lag for me. Despite the huge number of quests don’t expect them to cover everything. Some “branches” are more detailed than others, some could be missing entirely. In the end, despite the presence of quests you could feel like not knowing what to do:

– TNP Limitless 3 https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/tnp-limitless-3
– Monumental Experience https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/monumental-experience
– Dungeons, Dragons and Space Shuttles https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/dungeons-dragons-and-space-shuttles
– Age of Fate https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/age-of-fate

– Craft to Exile: Dissonance [1.15.2] Weird choice of Minecraft version. You try this yourself. I’m just pointing you to this image

https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/crafttoexiledissonance

– Chroma Technology 2 [1.16.5] Not on my radar, this one seems for the cool kids. Fighting dragons and collect magical weapons. It has the “Silent Gear” class of mods.

https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/chroma-technology-2/

Unordered misc:

https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/the-winter-rescue
https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/surviving-with-rotarycraft
https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/terrafirmacraft-reditus-2
https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/installation-route
https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/decursio-project
https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/ragnamod-v
https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/ragnamod-vi
https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/greedycraft/
https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/the-late-pack
https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/minecraft-eternal
https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/new-elysium
https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/ultimate-progression
https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/journey-beyond-the-abyss
https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/terrafirmacraft-omega
https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/telomerase (TerraFirmaCraft+ 1.7.10 pack)
https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/terrafirmamundane
https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/terrafirmaquest-2
https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/poetica
https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/tiag
https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/nostalgia-craft
https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/smashing-mods-together
https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/mc-odyssey
https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/mc-odyssey-2
https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/simplepack-1-16
https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/material-energy-5-entity
https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/valkyrtech
https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/sky-fabrication
https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/engineers-life-2
https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/meatballcraft
https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/ascension-of-the-technomancer
https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/a-polychromatic-world
https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/goliath-industries
https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/voidtouched-rebirth
https://www.curseforge.com/minecraft/modpacks/nuts-and-bolts

It’s all stuff I bookmarked for a reason or another. There are MANY more modpacks that are better and more popular than these listed, like many of the FTB ones. I just directed my searchlight in some specific directions.

Some notions about GregTech.

The latest “offical” GregTech version is GT6, for minecraft 1.7.10. As I said above, there aren’t many modpacks for this GT version. Same as what happened to Reika’s Rotarycraft, another “complex” mod made by an engineer, with real physics simulated in the game (praise for Reika’s mods is more about the concepts involved, but much less for his coding skill and performance of those mods…). I’m currently trying to build a “mental map” of those versions of GT, to have a general idea of what changes from one to the other, and how they evolved in complexity and design. It will take me a while.

GregTech originally started (…okay. Remember that all you read here doesn’t come from a position of authority. I just gathered SOME knowledge. What I write is usually pertinent and documented, but it may be a generalization or a simplification) not as an individual mod, but as an “extension” to a much more popular mod at the time: IndustrialCraft 2 (by the way the FTB wiki can be quite useful, but there are two versions, with different content. Here’s one and the other). IC2 already provided a number of machines for ore processing and other conundrums. GregTech Intergalactical was meant to expand the scope, especially in the middle to late game with more advanced machines, more materials and processes. But as the mod became more popular and Greg kept working and adding to it, the scope of the mod increased.

You have to consider the modded game landscape at the time. There wasn’t much organization, and there were an handful of popular and well known mods that players had fully mastered. Those mods weren’t well coordinated with each other, there wasn’t an overall vision or progress. So the individual mods were extremely powerful tools that allowed players to conceive creative contraptions. But they were also kind of overpowered once you knew your way around. Rather than a balanced progress you had players bee lining right to end game in no time. This created a demand for “hard” modpacks, where the overpowered shortcuts were nerfed so that you felt like earning the better tools, and experience the technological progress within the game. If you have everything you want, on demand, the game gets kind of boring even if you have endless possibilities about what you build. Without some restraints, the lure of a reward becomes weak.

As the scope of GregTech widened and deepened, Greg started to “override” the landscape. He started to expand the game design, so that a certain progress was forced. He was nerfing certain recipes so that the use of machines was more rewarding, and also modified the recipes of the IC2 machines to require more complex and expensive materials. The motivation is obvious, he was transforming the technological progress so that mods were better integrated and so that crafting a new machine felt more rewarding. It’s a delicate balance, but required at the time when players had available overpowered machines from other mods that would immediately make a large portion of the content irrelevant. At the same time, when you start touching these aspects lots of players are disappointed, because you are adding “grind”, for example creating artificial dependencies just to justify the presence of a machine. If the metal plate machine in GT is only used for GT machines, then you could decide to ignore it, and in case just craft a few metal plates with a hammer. But if Greg modifies the recipe of EVERY other machine, now all requiring plates, then the plate machine becomes mandatory. And so more restrictive. Up to the point of creating a large drama, especially with the developer of another hugely popular mod (to this day): Tinkers’ Construct. With Greg going for the infamous choice of making the game CRASH if the Tinkers mod was present. Responsibility was bounced back and forth, it is not my role to be judge here, but the result was that the community started to get split, and Greg, not unlike Reika, grew more “radical” in his design choices, that ultimately pushed his work in its own niche and more insulated to the rest of the modding space.

This “greggification” of recipes started especially with GT3 and moved on to GT4. And from there the scope of the mod kept growing, moving away from a mere add-on for IC2. Today, GregTech 6 doesn’t depend on IC2 anymore, and its impact on the game is so wide that it can be considered a modpack on its own. With a specific design vision that affects the whole game.

Despite this, the official GregTech, again like Reika, never moved past 1.7.10. The scope of the mod was way too large for Greg to reshape around a radically different of Minecraft. But this didn’t stop Greg from radically redesign his mod, with GT6. As with happens with another hugely popular mod, Thaumcraft, versions start to differ so much in design, there there isn’t a “best” one. And that’s why players who liked GT5 decided to “fork” Greg work, leading to GT5-U, first, I think lead by some guy named BloodAsp, and then eventually handed over to the GTNH team that continues to this day, working on that branch of GT5, and expanding a lot more the complexity of the chemical processes.

When the modding community largely moved to the new standard Minecraft version (1.12.2), Greg stayed behind to do GT6 on 1.7.10, but some other devs/players tried porting GT to 1.12.2 (mainly a guy known as Archtech). Not GT6, but GT5/U. This version was GTCE, that never got a good reputation, both in quality of code and content. But it was the only version available, and when carefully worked in a custom pack like Omnifactory… it wasn’t bad. Another team started to work on extensions to GTCE, like “Shadows of Greg”, to add back and flash out what was missing, and then to expand further the mod, with “Gregicality”. Eventually, having to constantly deal with the limits of the code, they decided to do a radical rewrite of the whole of GTCE… leading to GTCE-U, released just this past December (which is impressive considering the redesign only started about 6 months before)… But still going through significant redesign phases as more interesting ideas from GT6 are backported, moving again the scope of the mod, from a loose port of GT5U, to the aim of making the “best” GT version, integrating the best ideas and practices (but it’s not an exact science, and there are always ambiguous debates on how “hard” the mod should be).

Today, there are a number of GregTech versions still maintained and relevant. Here’s a list:

GregTech 6 [1.7.10] The official one, still maintained by Greg. It’s considered “feature complete”, so Greg is mostly fixing bugs and compatibility.
GT5U [1.7.10] The flagship that is integral, inseparable from GTNH.
GTCEu [1.12.2] The recent rewrite by the Gregicality team, the most promising version, especially when the new Gregicality Science comes out and more modpacks are developed.
GregTech Intergalactical [1.18?] The only attept to port GT to the newest Minecraft. Despite you might expect lot of attention on this one, this seems a one-man work, and it develops at rare bursts because that main dev can’t dedicate time to it. I don’t really know why it’s much, much smaller than the 1.12 team, but… It is claimed to be almost feature complete, and still generally ignored for some reason.
GT4 Reimagined [1.18?] This is a port of GT4 that is using the same API/infrastructure of the GT version just here above. Test pack here
GregTech 4 [1.7.10] GT4 was for Minecraft 1.6.4, this version is a port to 1.7.10. Used for example in Lost Era (see above), it’s a smaller, simpler version compared to GT5, so preferred in this case if you don’t want GregTech to “monopolize” the design of the pack.
GregTech 6 Unoffical GT6 also has a “U” version. Used mainly in TerraFirma Rescue, but the mod is a bit outdated and not well maintained, so the main 6 is now ahead. Greg has “complained” that rather than fork GT6 it could have been a better idea to create it as an extension. So that the merge of new GT6 features could have been more automatic, and even offered the possibility to port the most liked features of GT6U in GT6 itself.
GregTech Experimental [1.12.2] This one is a port of GT3.
GregTech Classic [1.12.2] I don’t really know. As the description says it’s a mod to match a port of an earlier version of IC2, so it should be a modern port of how GT1 was originally.

Now I have my own plans, most (all?) of which won’t probably see the light. I’d like to write, or contribute, to a questbook. For example it seems there’s not a good, complete questbook for GT6, and my original idea was to make a large pack including both GT6 and Reika’s mods. Now the idea moved to try to use the lost Era modpack as a base, eject GT4, replace it with GT6 and Reikas’, and rework the GT quests from there, since the pack is already meant as a guide for all the mods it includes. But it is likely than when I start working on that it will evolve to become more like a “hard” pack with some changes to the progression. Another, very long term and probably impossible for my technical skills, would be to modify the code to TerraFirmaCraft, to make it compatible to general modding, and overhaul all the early game, convincing GTNH devs to embrace this vision. This is “unlikely”, because both players and devs are strongly against TFC, but I have my reasons and my own way to rearrange those mechanics. The actual hard part is the code, and that mans being highly unlikely, especially if I’m alone working on that…

…But, even writing a GT6 questbook is a very long project. I don’t know GT6. The path leading there would be watching Bear’s videos on GT6, reproduce all that stuff in game, and putting on the questbook everything I learn. right now, I’m only playing through Omnifactory STE, to get an idea of GT, and eventually move to Technological Journey to reproduce what I know over a “legacy” Gregicality pack. And that’s already a significant commitment…

The discovery, seemingly coming out of nothing, of modded Minecraft was for me an amazing experience. Like a kid walking into a gargantuan castle filled with new toys. Hard to believe. The “Recipe for Fun” is quite simple, and very similar to Factorio. The game throws at you a constant flux of tasks. To complete these tasks you need to fill a number of sub-tasks, and many of these will have cross dependencies. So that in order to do X, you also need A and B. But doing A also unblocks a new path, that might lead you to F and G, in a complete new direction, that eventually will lead back. This continuous flow of problems to solve, micro and macro, is extremely addicting because it signals clear objectives and then their completion enables new stuff to see and experiment with, to create new sets of problems, and new branching tasks. New machines to experiment with, new stuff produced, new places to explore…

The progress, especially in GT-themed packs, also follows a well tuned formula: you have to work hard to get to a specific goal. In order to get there you have to complete a number of different activities, it’s a journey. But once you reached the objective the reward goes in two different directions. It goes forward because you are unlocking a new branch of the tech tree, so new gameplay to explore, machines you can build, new things. But it also goes back, because sometimes you open new ways to get the same resources in much less time and effort. That’s what makes it rewarding. You aren’t simply leaving everything behind, making it all obsolete as it happens in many (not sandbox-y) games, to move to something else, and neither you have to repeat over and over the same process. You simply unlock backward-facing shortcuts that let you “optimize” what you’ve done up to that point. As in Factorio, you have sometime the meaningful choice of keeping your own “slow” line, or “refactor” and redesign it so it’s much more efficient once you’ve unlocked some “power-ups”. No one prods you annoyingly onward, you decide what to prioritize. The sandbox provides you the good tools, it’s up to you doing what you want with them.

I can even analyze my own experience to better understand what works so well, and what doesn’t. For example when playing Omnifactory STE I got to a point that felt like a significant stagnation for my own fun. It was as soon as I unlocked the new quest page after completing the first. This is not normal, because I got to the place where the pack actually becomes interesting (Omnifactory standard starts from this point, basically), so why it was the opposite for me? Because I didn’t have a clear objective. There are a bunch of new machines I can do, but I don’t have anything they need to be done, FOR. I can work to build those new machines, and activate some new processes, but I don’t see anything, at the moment, that I need these new things FOR. I have things to do, but not a clear goal. In the previous “page” of the questbook, instead it was different. I was struggling for scarcity everywhere. So I needed to do stuff, and had to work with important restrictions. I made a coke oven multiblock, that let me transform wood logs into charcoal and coke, but I couldn’t use it because it was getting immediately clogged in creosote oil. So I then built a big steam furnace powered with that creosote oil, and then went to create a giant, “undocumented” buffer steam to power a couple of macerators and start ore processing before it was intended to be reasonable. Basically I was doing one step while thinking at what that step would let me do. Planning ahead, always with another goal on my radar. As it usually happens, good game design here doesn’t even depend on the mod. It depends on… the questbook.

And that’s why I want to go there. I enjoy tinkering with game design, and in modded Minecraft the quality of the experience depends so much on how the different mods are used, how they are integrated, creating a system that lets the game come alive. The structure and organization. It’s also the real distinction between Minecraft and Factorio. In Factorio you’re always at the bird’s eye. Always planning. Factorio is relentless with its lure because there’s nothing in there to distract or slow you down. In Minecraft instead you live inside the factory and are part of it. You tinker all the times with wrenches and other tools. You manually take an empty tank, walk down to a river, place it on the sand, slowly fill it with a bucket in your hands, and then drag it back to put it in its proper place, and maybe in the process you get hungry, or a creeper explodes half your base. Incidental annoyances that depend on your previous choices, that form a complex system. You plan your factory as in Factorio, but you also walk inside it, manipulate it directly with your virtual hands. In Factorio you plan and design, and it’s a pure mental drug, in Minecraft you’re “doing” too, in a way that is fulfilling and also relaxing. A mix of micro and macro that create a varied, absorbing experience.

Why I wrote all this?!

Not for you. You, meaning a hypothetical reader. This blog/website has existed for a long time. The purpose is still the same. A bit inconveniently named, it was always meant as an archive for my own use, and incidentally whoever would find some value or interest in its content. I’ve always been on the forums, engaging directly in discussions. On the blog I was rallying knowledge.

I’d cut pieces of discussions and paste them here to give them emphasis. Set milestones in recurring debates. As if clippings from newspapers. It was necessary for the organization of my mental space, because if that space is well organized then it will eventually have an effect on the quality of my thoughts.

P.S.
The title is a reference to a famous movie, and Polybenzimidazole is one of the most complex production chains in GTNH.

Metaphysics of “subscribe to Pewdiepie”

Yes, this is a funny title for a very, very, unfunny topic, in light of recent events. But I always disliked rhetoric and the metaphysics are indirectly pertinent here, providing the structure and patterns I use for analysis. So it’s more like a subtle hint.

While in most other cases I didn’t consider Pewdiepie responsible of what he was being accused, this time it’s different. Things are more complex than how they appear and you can’t simply distance yourself from the act. Saying you have nothing to do with it, on one side it’s obvious, on the other it’s myopic.

So let’s talk about this myopia, and why it’s so widespread.

When there’s some controversial topic it’s always hard to discuss it and analyze for what it is, because people get irritated, come with prejudices and the end result is that instead of a better understanding of a problem you end up exacerbating it. One strategy I use, both when I think by myself or when I discuss this with other people, is to cut away the topic from its context and explain the pattern I see using a completely different example that won’t have “strings attached”. A different example that retains the same characteristics but that doesn’t come with the same set of prejudices, and so can offer a more neutral basis of understanding, if it’s true that you aren’t anymore directly emotionally attached to it. Otherwise it’s those emotions that take control and that’s the opposite of a clear sight.

So, in order to analyze the mechanics of “subscribe to Pewdiepie” I’ll use a completely different topic that I think retains all the features. It too comes with its own set of strings attached, but the change will be enough to neutralize it: “not all men.”

When I first heard it, years ago, I also didn’t understand the message. I was one of those “men” who couldn’t understand what was wrong in the typical defense of “not all men.” It was legitimate, it felt legitimate to me, and yet it was used as a “here we go again with that stupid defense men will use.” Why was it considered stupid, “by women”, if I couldn’t see the problem in it? Because I was “a man”, and so of course “I wouldn’t understand.” And when you hear “you won’t understand, you are a man” you feel irritated, because it sounds patronizing. So we are caught in that struggle, and instead of a better understanding of each other we only end up with deeper divisions.

Why couldn’t I understand what was wrong in the use of “not all men” as a defense used by men? Because I was myopic. “Not all men are rapists.” I know I’m not I’m a rapist, so why I cannot claim that? While I should take that blame when I am *certain* I’m not guilty? Again, because I was myopic.

Let’s work with an example then. Let’s say I’m a guy and there’s a pretty woman walking along the other side of the road. I decide to whistle aloud at her, a typical “catcall”, because I see she’s pretty, I’m interested, and I want her attention. Now this is a simple typical case that can make people debate whether this is can be counted as harassment or not. From the mentality of a man, this is not harassment. Because if I’m there, this interaction is meant as a way to be playful. I know the boundaries, I know I’m not going to start chasing that woman, try to grope her or anything like that. I whistled to get her attention, see how she reacts, but it stops there unless she gives a clear consent of moving it forward. It’s not harassment because it stops long before it gets serious. It stays this side of the line, so if that woman wants to play along fine, if she ignores it that’s fine too. So in this example I haven’t harassed anyone, right? Nope, this is again myopic, and it’s directly tied to the idea “not all men.”

From the point of view of a man, in that situation, the whole thing is a closed system. The guy “did nothing wrong.” It was just a whistle to get some attention, but it stopped there. It was fair because there wasn’t an intention to harass, but just to be playful, like a game. It was meant as a positive interaction and even within the hope that the woman would show interest. Everything consensual. But of course that man doesn’t know what’s in the head of that woman, so he cannot know beforehand whether this approach will be positively or negatively received. The whistle is a way to sample a reaction, see if it can lead to something else, again with consent. What’s wrong with that? Absolutely nothing. It’s linear, it works. Not all men are rapists, a whistle is not harassment.

Again, this only works, linearly, because you are thinking about it from the confines of your own head. You know your intentions, you know what you are doing and why you are doing it. So it’s true you are doing nothing wrong. But you are still being myopic. You are ignoring the fact this isn’t a closed system, and can’t be judged in separation.

The problem with “not all men” is that its MESSAGE is valid, but it is GARBLED. So the ultimate outcome is that the rift is exacerbated instead of solved. I guess the inner mechanics are actually working properly, as this is a tool meant for a fight. It’s doing exactly what it was meant to do. But let’s instead be naive, and try to take it apart anyway. The theme of “not all men (are rapists, for example)” is that it unpacks more eloquently as “it takes just one”, to ruin the life of everyone. THAT’s the valid theme. Not all men are rapists, yes, but it takes JUST ONE to feel threatened. Why can’t a woman go for a walk without the fear of being assaulted? Why can’t she dress sexily, for whatever reason, and still feel safe? Because not all men are sexists and rapists, but it still takes just one to feel that threat on your skin, and that’s not tolerable.

The whole deal is that, the example above, the guy whistling to the woman on the other side of the road knows the content of his own head (relatively), he knows his intentions, he might know he isn’t a rapists and that he will never cross that line. BUT, on the other side of the road that woman has no such “in-sight.” She has no information to work with. It’s just a stranger over there. Not all men are rapists but it’s something that happens with such a frequency that YOUR LIFE IS AT STAKE if you ignore that possibility. That woman doesn’t know what is going on, she has no control and that loss of control is a form of abuse. It is INDEED harassment. Because, as a whole, we don’t live in a sane society where you can EXPECT to be safe. You have to worry, or gamble and then suffer the consequences.

So no, that woman doesn’t have the freedom of “feeling safe”, or maybe even answer the catcall with a wink and play along, because she would take a risk. And women do live in this toxic environment where they are forced to feel unsafe to preserve their safety, where they have to deal with this moment to moment, all their life. This is what it is, and it is unacceptable. It’s a disgrace and it shouldn’t be tolerated even for a moment. It’s a problem that should have the utmost priority.

Not all men you’ll meet in the course of your life are misogynist, sexist, rapists, but it takes JUST ONE to ruin the rest of your life.

Human beings, in general, are myopic. When you judge yourself from the confines of your head you might see it as an open book, understand your intentions clearly and so judge that a catcall to a woman is all fair game, knowing it won’t cross some definite line. You will think it’s how things should be. But that means you would see your “system” as if it was closed, and blind to what’s outside that you’re also part of. You would ignore that you live in a sexist society where women AREN’T safe. And, because so, because of this wider system you are myopically ignoring, a catcall IS harassment. Because while you can play innocent, a woman instead is forced to learn the environment where she lives, in order to stay alive. There’s no freedom in that, only the real, tangible threat of not learning that lesson. A woman cannot afford being myopic in the same way a man can.

We live far, far, far away from an ideal world. And we cannot pretend it is what it isn’t.

How does “subscribe to Pewdiepie” fit in all this? It’s the whole theme of “i’m not guilty” and “not all men” rhetoric. Yes, as in the example above, a catcall isn’t harassment when judged from the confines of your own head. When you know your intentions and when you know what you’re doing and why. But the system isn’t closed, you live in a wider, more complex environment. Women learned their own lesson the hard way, because they had no freedom not to take it. Now it’s also time that men stop playing naive and start seeing the world for what it is. Instead of constantly washing hands of responsibility.

Stop being defensive, and be more proactive. And don’t be blind (wherever possible).

Bethesda’s game engine is, indeed, shit

With the release of the terrible Fallout 76 come the cyclical complaints about how terrible and ancient is the game engine Bethesda uses.

Some guy who thinks he has a better insight ended up writing this:
https://kotaku.com/the-controversy-over-bethesdas-game-engine-is-misguided-1830435351

This is what I wrote on a forum:


This is funny because, very obviously, Jason Schreier doesn’t know what he’s talking about and he’s way too dumb to realize it.

A “game engine”, as used in discussions in forums and articles, IS NOT A PIECE OF TECH. Nor it is a “collection”, as he says.

A game engine is a heuristic. It’s a term in language that works like an umbrella and that encompasses the overall “look and feel” of playing a game. *Playing* it, not building it.

Of course the look of Morrowind or Oblivion doesn’t PRECISELY correspond to the look of Skyrim or Fallout, but the analogies and the general feel are absolutely there. You could make an experiment and let someone play a Bethesda game without knowing it’s Bethesda and he’ll know, if he’s competent, within minutes. And certainly not because that game would be very complex.

If an engine is an engine, then it provides a structure. No matter how much you WRESTLE it, the structure is a structure and by being structure it imposes itself and will create limits.

No matter how many times Bethesda explains how they rewrote everything in their engine, PLAYING those games will always reveal the truth. And the truth is that they are too scared to abandon the pipeline they used until this point because they cannot afford to wipe everything clean and restart from zero. Because IT IS indeed an engine, and they don’t want to discard it.

For Fallout 76 we have changed a lot. The game uses a new renderer, a new lighting system and a new system for the landscape generation.

And yet it’s the same shit, as glaringly obvious to anyone who played even for 5 minutes. All Jason Schreier says falls apart right there because it is PROVEN by playing the game and realizing how the “””engine””” is still the same.

What Jason Schreier says is only vaguely correct in the sense that “engine” is not a word used precisely in this context. But it’s only a discussion on the specific use and meaning of that word, and it doesn’t even remotely touch the actual discussion that takes place when players criticize this “engine”.

Ship of Theseus. It’s basically a new engine. I hate that word.

Ship of Theseus is how to nail the philosophical problem yet without understanding it.

The Ship of Theseus means you are different, not that you can become anything. Of course Bethesda’s games have greatly changed, since Morrowind. Yet they still cannot shake from those roots.

Even when you replaced all the parts, the way you have replaced them influences the outcome. It’s not freeform.

In the same way, the moment all your hair cells get entirely replaced doesn’t correspond to the moment you get blue or purple hair. The “engine” is still the same.


EDIT: This slightly blew up on twitter. But who am I to NOT go down the rabbit hole?

– when people refer to Bethesda’s game engine in the discussions they refer to the feel that links all their games, and that has its root in the underlying tech. That’s why it’s a heuristic. I perfectly underlined it’s a semantic problem.

My car’s engine is a heuristic for the smell of petrol, the screeching of tires, the warm leather seats, the gamers in the back seat screaming ‘are we there yet’.

– more or less, yes. More accurately your words are heuristics, as is all human language and representations. Jason wanted to use technical language, I used neuroscience. It’s a semantic problem.

– in fact, your car’s engine isn’t a heuristic. But your “car’s engine” is. Metalinguistics are the sixth function of language according to Jakobson and reason why we can talk about language with language.

I appreciate this from an academic standpoint, but if you tell your mechanic that they didn’t fix your engine and you actually mean the seat warmers are still too hot, they’re going to say you have no fucking idea what you’re talking about.

– yes, context. That’s why all this was spawned from an article that decontextualized the way the term “game engine” was used. Players don’t see code, they see output. So they blame a “game engine” because it’s their heuristic to link experience to tech.

– when someone “feels” Fallout 76 uses the same engine of Oblivion they are observing a heuristic of a link they cannot analyze in detail. Because they lack the precision of vision and information. Hence a heuristic is used.

– so when a player speaks or writes it can only be about the experience and not about the tech. Even if the center of the message is the existence of that link between experience and tech. Because they aren’t independent.

– Funnily, it’s not “academic”. It’s a dualistic problem like mind/body separation. Here it’s tech/feel, engine and experience. We see two things where there’s only one thing. They are one and the same. The tech is what generates experience. There’s no experience without tech the same as there’s no consciousness without a brain.

– It’s as if I say “my hand hurts”, and you, doctor, tell me, “Nope, your brain hurts. Pain can only be a mental construct.” That’s obviously true, but it’s also missing the point.

– RDR2, God of War and Skyrim are all sorta open worlds. Do you think their tools and engines are generic enough that you could perfectly recreate one in the other?

– That’s why people complain. Because the “scaffolding” that on one side allows Bethesda to produce relatively fast some huge games, on the other side ultimately feels archaic and clunky. With its advantages it also inherits its disadvantages, and players are demanding a more radical detachment from those old (but well known and convenient) roots.

– Btw, many times Bethesda has declared they completely renovated their engine.

– Yet players know it “feels” the same. The heuristic proves the underlying tech hasn’t changed in meaningful ways. As someone wrote in the forum: the proof is in the pudding.

Also this: https://www.resetera.com/threads/the-controversy-over-bethesdas-game-engine-is-misguided-kotaku.80983/page-6#post-14984524

Serena Williams and the logical fallacies

I’m not going to summarize what happened.

I only want to point out a couple of specific aspects. One is the logical fallacy that lies as the basis of many discussions.

The main objective fact (including the controversy) is that the umpire gave Serena a warning for coaching, coaching that was admitted but that Serena claimed not having seen (but that is irrelevant for the rules). The problem here is that this rule is not applied consistently (or claimed not to be applied consistently), and so it depends on the sensibility of the umpire whether to enforce it or not. I do agree that the match could have been handled more gracefully, because in the end these decisions led to worse outcome for everyone involved and no one directly benefited from that choice, but the umpire still applied the rules as they are written.

Now the topic is whether or not that decision was “sexist”. The logical fallacy is to consider that topic relevant for the match. It’s relevant for a discussion, afterwards, but it’s not relevant for the match itself. I’ll explain why.

In sport there are quite often different rules for men and women. I’m not an expert but I think the height of the basket in basketball is set differently? In any case we’re quite used to having slightly different rules, we also have some slight different rules in tennis. Whether we agree or not with this practice, what’s important for sport being sport, and fair, is that once the match starts the rules are applied uniformly to everyone who participates in that match.

In tennis, for example, we have different rules if the surface is hard or clay. As long the rules of that specific match are applied to both players, the match is fair. This to say that rules change all the time, what’s important is that in a match between two players the rules are applied uniformly, and not that those rules are applied uniformly across all matches and all players. Different tournaments, different rules. Different years, different rules. Even rules against doping change over time.

In the case of the match of Serena Williams she was playing another woman POC. If anything, the only trace of possible bias is that her opponent was Asian, and that the match was taking place in New York, so Serena had the favor of the public supporting her A LOT MORE. A lot more loudly. This is a definite, objective advantage. It is NOT applied uniformly to both players, but we still also widely accept it as it is. It’s just part of the game as it is part of most sports. Yet it still is an objective bias and it’s important for an objective analysis of what happened.

The fact is: Serena was not playing against a man. Whether or not rules are applied not uniformly to men and women isn’t an issue here (regarding the match being played, not the cultural discussion, which is legitimate). It isn’t an issue because Serena plays on the women side of the tournament, exclusively against other women. So even in the case “men play by different rules” IS IRRELEVANT as long those rules are applied uniformly to the TWO players engaged in that match (and the rest of the tournament they played). At no time in the tournament Serena crosses her path with a man, so the application of the rules just can’t technically be sexist simply because the match is between two women. She’s not playing against men, so she can’t technically be subject to bias and favoritism as in the case she was playing against a man, and so treated differently compared to her opponent.

To be fair the rules of that specific match have to be applied uniformly to both players, they don’t have to be applied uniformly TO THE REST OF THE WORLD. The match is its own entity, and what matters is that the rules are applied to those players who participate in that match, not everyone else who’s not part of that match.

This before any sort of personal opinion or cultural discussion can take place. It’s just analysis.

Of course the discussion doesn’t stop there, it starts. But on the internet things completely fall apart because every opinion is then weaponized, factions are built, and then it’s just a war.

I’m not on one side, I’m not on the other, and I’m not in the middle either. I’m precisely positioned regarding the considerable number of aspects that build this overall complex issue. I won’t pick a faction. But we’ve seen the debate degenerating, to the point I’m not really sure that bringing up these themes actually leads to an improvement of our society. What I observe is a push for extremism. A will to entrench personal beliefs and identity.

You cannot just cleave these complex problems in two halves, and what I observe is that as a society we absolutely have zero defenses. We have no way to handle this, and it only leads to that extremism that makes everything worse.

Taking a step back, you can see how emotions are what build opinion. For example:

https://www.teenvogue.com/story/serena-williams-us-open-mistreatment-op-ed

As I watched Serena repeatedly ask for an apology, I sat up a little straighter, glared at my television and felt a knot slowly forming in the pit of my stomach. I tweeted the words, “Oh no,” and started to cry. In that moment, Serena voiced something that I could relate to so deeply, something that often goes unsaid: the many times in my life as a black women, I have deserved an apology and haven’t gotten it.

Can you say this sentiment is not legitimate? Of course it is (legitimate).

But just because you can recognize yourself and empathize with an aspect of a story doesn’t mean the whole story is yours and that the appropriation is itself legitimate. Serena didn’t deserve an apology. She threatened, accused and offended the umpire, reiterating this behavior over and over. It wasn’t one time. Even in the possibility the umpire enforced a too bland rule, he cannot “apologize” for applying that rule too firmly, because that’s his job.

Your mind has sliced a part of the story that moves you. That part is legitimate (I do believe you had those experiences when you deserved apologies and didn’t get any), but this one is not your story. And if you then transform Serena’s story in your story then you’re wrong. Because these stories are not the same.

This simplification, where different stories become one story, is both extremely powerful, extremely important, but also dangerous. Because that simplification compresses and cuts away aspects of the story that are not irrelevant at all.

Yet, in order to bring change to our society you cannot use differentiation. You need a story, a symbol, a flag. One movement that pushes the sentiment as one and whole. Not fragmentation, not differentiation, not complexity. You need things simple.

Beware of things being simple.

This Internet Shitstorm as the Prelude to the End of Times

The latest silly controversy in the gaming world is about a youtube gameplay video of an anticipated platform indie game, Cuphead. It’s maybe only chance or perverse shortsightedness that the very first gameplay video allowed to come out, and so going to magnetize attention regardless, shows an embarrassing degree of incompetence in playing this game, and even simply being able to follow on screen instruction or understanding an extremely basic HUD.

Most people would think that with so much going bad in the world, this kind of non-issue wouldn’t even deserve 10 seconds of their attention, are we REALLY talking seriously about this? Yes we do. In my case every little thing seems to be a symptom of a looming imminent collapse. And this little thing has all the basic features we can find on much more serious problems. But also because it’s a tiny issue, it’s a good sample case to easily analyze.

This is what I wrote on a forum about this:

The real issue is the overall structure of every debate and every controversy. This one is just one good example amidst too many.

You cannot have anymore any “but”. You are either black or white. Right or wrong. With us or against us. Friend or enemy. It’s a purely tribal war where identity (political or otherwise) is everything.

You cannot have a nuanced opinion. You cannot examine one problem and explain there are a number of aspects to consider about it. Because if you do this type of analysis it’s not anymore clear whose side you’re fighting for. People don’t understand anymore if they should agree or disagree with you, because people agree not on the basis of good arguments, but on the basis of group identity. When they understand who you are then they’ll automatically agree or disagree.

And because this BINARY view is applied to every single debate, then you get cases like this. Where there are some legitimate concerns whether or not a journalist should be required to have some basic competencies about the subject he’s going to cover, yet harassment shouldn’t be justified either.

And on twitter every single argument is just another type of straw man, for example misrepresenting the other group’s thesis as: “ANYONE WHO WRITES ABOUT GAMES NEEDS TO BE A MASTER”.

Yet no one said that. But if you then try to exhibit some moderation in your own argument, then this moderation is pointed at as a rhetorical trick to try to hide your true colors.

So what’s happening lately and at large is that our world grows in complexity and people’s way to deal with growing complexity is to rely on mighty simplification. Mighty simplification is to divide the world in black and white, enemy or friend. And then you FIGHT.


This is my analysis. But what would you do about it, then? The only way I know is to tear down those walls. To go against the identity of those groups. To challenge their views with the good arguments you can produce, and some patience. Yet your patience itself might be irritating, when people are frothing at the mouth and just want an occasion to unleash their certainty against you, they want you to succumb and play the enemy they want. And then kill to restore their purity: it’s a ritualistic practice. But, honestly, I have a pessimistic view about all this, and I have it about the bigger picture. These days I do believe that even “democracy” is a big lie that we tell us to believe we can lead some form of change. Instead I now believe that these big changes that are happening in society at large are completely off our hands (and climate change is a good example: we’re done. We’re way past the last chance to fix it). Things are going in a direction and there’s no way to steer or even affect this process. Whatever is happening, is happening. You can observe and maybe be conscious about it, but it’s like a big war that is about to happen and the small changes that you believe you can produce are just personal delusions.

But then one is rarely pragmatic when it comes to morals. You just fight for what you believe regardless of whether you think it’s useful or not.

Instead of rounding my corners in order to merge and blend better with a community and be well accepted, I find myself sharpening those corners. One might think that this is a result of a form of egocentricity, because you want to stand out and remark your identity. You want to feel better and different. You disrupt the homogeneity and well being. Instead of creating harmony within a group, you seem to just stir dissent and unease for the sake of it. You become abrasive and, after a very short time, extremely unwelcome. But instead in my case my reasons are different, even if I find myself falling in that situation from time to time.

I do believe that “anonymity” on the internet is a “feature”. It means it’s not anymore relevant *who* you are. It’s not important your history and background, where you live, your political ideas and sexual preferences, the color of your skin or how pretty or ugly you appear. What’s left is purely the validity and merit of your arguments. On the internet you push your ideas without a face. And that’s how it should ideally work. Your ideas aren’t valid and useful depending on *who* you are. Those ideas are only useful if someone else makes those ideas her/his own. The persona is left behind and forgotten. If my idea becomes your own, and you even forget it came from me, then communication was a success! Ideas and opinions, and so information, are an abstract type of currency we share. The value is in itself, not on the holder.

Yet we evolved through other means. We apply heuristics in order to parse a complex world and heuristics oblige us to rely on simplifications in order to quickly make judgements. We cannot properly gauge every little problem, because we’d be swamped in eternity, and an eternity of time is a kind of luxury mortal beings don’t have. Hence we are still strapped to a ‘Facebook’, as an old school style of mindset applied to the virtuality of the internet. We don’t evolve the structures of our minds, we simply re-apply to the internet the old structures we’ve always been familiar with. We build houses in virtual spaces, we build communities, and then we insulate them, we build walls around those communities and end up “hating” the foreigner. And occasionally rise the pitchforks to launch a war against the nearby village. Or, more often, simply take “potshots” from the trenches.

Recently I found myself banned from BrokenForum (being Lum’s latest personal community). I was very conscious of what I was getting into, so this outcome shouldn’t have been a “surprise”. At first I had no idea that I was going to stir some chaos. But then people started contesting that choice I made and I found myself painted in a position like: I made a bad choice on a whim and now I’m trying to rationalize a justification. It would have been easy at that point to just acknowledge the disagreement and move on. But the scenario that was being painted simply wasn’t true. I did engage in a conversation because I thought I had good reasons behind my choice. It wasn’t taken on a whim. It was well motivated, and so I thought that I could at least explain and clarify my position. I was expecting that if I calmly explained my reasons some people would at least understand (not agree) my angle. I was convinced it was possible to have a civil and meaningful discussion about it.

Well, that didn’t happen. Instead I found myself facing a GIANT WALL of hostility. For a time I tried to probe that wall. People kept misrepresenting my position, thinking ‘Oh, now he shows his TRUE colors’. But nope, I was trying to have people engage directly with my reasons instead of clumping my position into a monolithic bad one that is easy to dismiss. Being long winded is a necessary feature of being precise and clear. I was listening to counter arguments, and then clarify my position to dissipate misrepresentations. I was carefully separating insults from insults that were at least grounded on some rational argument and addressed those (and some people even argued they had a right to insult). Filtering reason from outbursts of irrational dissent. But it was also becoming obvious that very few were even interested in understanding my position. I simply became automatically unwelcome.

You’d expect one would think …maybe this is not the right time and place to have this conversation. And I did switch gears even if I still naively believed that there would be at least *someone* who could maintain a rational composure. Let’s set an example by resisting the pressure to turn this into an hateful shitshow, I thought. I was trying to cut short and get to a point: I made my best to explain myself, you still disagree, fine anyway. But that’s when some people started to bring in extraneous stuff. They just wanted to smear me with shit to degrade the whole discussion. If I shut up while people fling shit to me, then I simply admit being embarrassed and guilty. So I was then baited to explain ALSO that other stuff, while thinking: please stop accusing me of extraneous shit so we can all move on? Halfway through that discussion I stopped bringing arguments. I clarified myself, and then there was a longer tail trying to bring closure to the extraneous stuff that was brought up later, but I clarified that too from those stupid misrepresentations, admitted miscommunication when it was my fault, and in the end I moved on. A couple of weeks later I check back and find out I was banned. THAT was a surprise, because I ended up being banned after the discussion was largely over.

But that’s also not why this irritated me. Forums are personal communities and they don’t need to be just and fair. Rules are arbitrary and always legitimate (but I didn’t break any formal rule, I simply stood behind an opinion that happened to go against the grain). Either you accept the standard, or move on. What annoyed me was how I was banned, and that I had a good opinion of this community, and so I thought that the discussion was indeed possible. I was banned after the argument was over and solved, and I was banned with a stupid meme, purely out of spite. I didn’t blurt out offenses despite having received many, yet no one stood to defend me from the abuse I was getting. It’s much easier and problem free to merge with the mob mentality. Most people are cowards in these situations. So in the end I was banned simply out of spite when they did realize they couldn’t provoke me enough to make a misstep or break some rule. But more importantly I was banned in this way by people I’ve known for many, many years. I do expect some respect because I do have respect for them and always treated them with respect along the years. And so I’m proven naive again, I should know better than expecting to find respect and humanity on the internet.

Again, this is just another good example hinting at what is going on. We are becoming increasingly unable to engage with a complex world. Even the most stupid controversy like a journalist who can’t play a game becomes a problem with too much complexity to it. And so we retreat inside insulated communities where no view is ever challenged or truly discussed honestly and transparently, and these communities naturally grow hostile to everything they see outside, more often than not becoming schizophrenic and eventually turning against themselves too. No one ever tries to reach out and find some common ground, or even the basis for a rational confrontation. More walls are being built because we embraced unreason.

All is fine and fair in the world. Enjoy the imminent Apocalypse.

P.S.
Since to write this I looked back at that thread, I still find loose ends that would need to be clarified, like this one.

Yes, I’m certainly against the ‘mean lady writer’ when it comes to her well documented abuse on the internet. But no, I’m definitely not against her literary work. I have no problem to say that if she eventually writes something that falls within the spectrum of my interest, I might buy the book and maybe enjoy and recommend it.

No, this is not because I separate between author and the product. The product always comes intimately from the author, those ties cannot be cut and it’s silly and superficial to look at things that way. But at the same time a human being is never defined by a single trait or a single act or a single opinion. Awful human beings are able to do good acts, the same as human beings we think are awesome are able to do awful acts. This human necessary tendency to divide people into binary states of absolutely right and absolutely wrong is what I explained above as the root of the problem: we are collapsing under the complexity of the world, and answering that complexity through mighty simplification and certainty. Religious, political and moral wars because we abandoned reason.

Reason is all about giving value and understanding those small differences. And criticize not the person, but the act. So that the person can be salvaged when that person realizes the wrong in his/her act.

But most people would rather shoot a Nazi in the face and feel good about it. Not understanding that doing so they became indistinguishable. Monsters who fight monsters. What’s important is not under what flag the monsters fight, but what is monstrosity itself. And understand that it can manifest where you less expect it. Within your own group and sometimes within yourself.

P.P.S.
This is just in:
http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1431191

Pewdiepie says a racial slur during a stream. This quickly becomes another case of “now he shows his true colors”. So what do you expect to happen, given all I said above? It’s automatic, people are quick to put a permanent label on the guy.

Pewdiepie = racist asshole

What would be a rational stance toward this, INSTEAD? (because putting labels on people is just another byproduct of idiotic oversimplification) The rational stance would be recognize first that he did indeed use a racial slur. In fact he quickly realized that, and it’s evident in that short clip. That simple fact is condemnable, and it should be. But does it make Pewdiepie unambiguously racist and deserving a permanent label? Of course not. He might well be, but we don’t remotely have enough information to make that judgement.

But people’s reaction is that they want to know so that they can judge (empathy, this selectively weaponized instrument). And that “slip” is enough to earn a definite label and not look back.

Rationally, again, we should condemn the act, not the person. If that person realizes the act is condemnable, maybe that person will do his best to correct his behavior. The goal isn’t to rise the pitchforks and going on this witch hunt, the goal is to point out the mistake to the guy, so that the guy can recognize the merit of the critic, and correct his behavior (or, if it was serious, his principles). Understand right from wrong. Because you can be sure that a TRUE racist doesn’t reconsider his own terrible principles. Where people would see a perfect occasion for judgement and final condemnation, I see an occasion for correction.

But in this case Pewdiepie has certain responsibilities, being on the internet and with a pretty large audience. A bunch of kids are going to watch him, so it should be expected he does at least his best to stay within certain boundaries. At the same time I also understand he’s playing a game, and focusing on the game, and being his natural himself he might not be permanently obsessed about his responsibilities. It is not a big deal because I would personally give more importance to a deliberate, intended insult, rather one that was blurted out in the same way one would usually swear: without really *meaning* it.

“The way he easily spewed it out you can tell this is a term he would normally use in most of life’s frustrating cases.” Yes, that’s true. But it also doesn’t automatically reflect or imply ideology. It’s a suspicion you can have, even legitimately, but it’s not a proven one. And it’s completely idiotic to believe these kinds of behaviors are what reveal “one’s true heart.” Even a carelessness in the use of language and a total lack of respect aren’t enough to prove an actual ideology. They only hint at a rather diffused superficiality dealing with certain stuff. It’s condemnable, but it isn’t dangerous. It’s an idiom that directly expresses racism, but here used to express frustration, not ideology. Again, it’s a condemnable carelessness, but not dangerous in itself.

Analysis: he used a racial slur against another player whose actions upset him. He fell into this common phrase, a type of swearing that is commonly used. But just because something is common doesn’t mean it’s *right*. Even if it’s just an harmless form that doesn’t match a true intention (like swearing in general in most cases). An ingrained way of speech isn’t automatically an ingrained true belief. The best you can expect is to point the guy what’s wrong, and ask him to be more conscious about that. Even if it’s a very little thing, it can still be challenged.

But not the person. And because racism is a true and giant problem, we shouldn’t be distracted by purely harmless stuff and going against imaginary threats, when there are instead serious, tangible threats everywhere and real damage being done.

What happens instead is that a giant wave of hate rises against Pewdiepie, and it will smash against another wave of those ready to defend him. Hate will mount, while true racists (and racist acts) out there are completely untouched by this virtual hateful indignation that schizophrenically paints targets on itself, instead of the real threat.

We are on a doomed path of self defeat. There are signs everywhere and at all levels. We have already lost.

P.P.P.S.
Another explanatory reaction:

You can see I asked him below: “But were you a misogynist for doing so?”

It’s a somewhat similar case, since using “bitches” in normal speech has a certain root in misogyny. That use too is a bad behavior that should be criticized, and corrected as he did. But I don’t believe this guy used that word to reflect ideology. It was a bad form of speech, one rooted in misogyny, expressing misogyny in itself, and yet still only a bad form and not revealing a true intention. It’s to be corrected, but still not harmful or dangerous.

P.P.P.P.S.
Another:

Beside the fallacy of the binary “choice”, and the fallacy of the second option, since using that word doesn’t automatically make one embrace an ideology (it’s an obvious slippery slope of convenient oversimplification).

(and unless you don’t want to normalize the concept of ‘racism’ and ‘racist’ to apply to more mundane and harmless situations, which is itself a dangerous slippery slope of more widespread identification, and so justification, of those positions)

What’s interesting is the distribution of “retweets” and “like”, and so what people decided was their priority to signal for. The two options can be read as:
– Retweet, if you don’t personally use the word.
– Like, if you think using that word makes one a ‘racist poop’.

And since it’s a binary choice where one excludes the other (it’s a binary choice, right? Now I have a doubt, but I think you cannot retweet and like at the same time?), and since retweets at this time are half the number of likes, it’s as if twice as many declared possibly being “racist poops” themselves. There’s an unintended hypocrisy in that choice that I find curious.

But more evidently people are simply signaling for their rejection of that person, this is evidently the explicit intent. Yet that ‘will’ originates from a slippery slope of simplification. People are quick to judge and suspend empathy when it’s convenient for their in-fights. Racism itself stems from that slippery slope. Racism itself is an oversimplification that confirms one own’s stupid cognitive biases. It carries the same seed of irrational hatred and unreason, and requires one to have found some good reason to cancel one’s empathy.

Biases aren’t a problem of human cognition. They are the King. Because again the world’s too complex, and to face complexity we increasingly embrace unreason. Our judgements are based on heuristics, those heuristics are a blunt, clunky tool that gets misapplied to an environment that defeats understanding and ever grows more complex. Only disaster comes out of this and, once again, it is unavoidable.

Our society is now a dysfunctional machine. The case of Pewdiepie is like a false positive in an antivirus scan. And for each false positive we lose sight of the real threat and just open the doors and welcome it to come in and feel at home.

P.P.P.P.P.S.
Exhibit C, from a forum thread:

seriously. like im sure he says it daily, especially while recording when something bad happens, but just cuts it out. its fucked really. shows what kind of a person he truly is.

No, it doesn’t. You’re following your own biases and making a suspicion you have into a proof. You cannot know what kind of person “he truly is”. But you can be persuaded you know with certainty. Belief always comes before reason. And that’s called prejudice.

Another guy replying to the one above:

Those 1000 cuts per video suddenly make sense. And we all thought it was just an annoying editing style.

So now Pewdiepie makes 1000 cuts in a video montage because he has this compulsive need to say that word. It “makes sense”, right? Literally, making sense, seeing exactly what you want to see on the basis of an ingrained prejudice. Which is different from something actually true.

I’d say that we should be supposed to condemn prejudices, in general. Of which racism is one category.

And by the way, I thought I’d address this too, I’m not playing the devil’s advocate. I face the true devil in the form of the roused mob that makes all distinctions fade and merge into binary states of tribes that fight each other to the death. On the basis of rotten principles that are a shadow of their original intention. I face that progressive erosion of reason and promotion of cognitive biases that I think are the real threat.

P.P.P.P.P.P.S.
I could update this hourly.

Right now in Italy the heated, loud & public debate isn’t about Pewdiepie, but about two policemen that have been accused of rape by two American students. The issue is, though, that a week or so ago the big controversy was another case of rape but where the assailants were “immigrants”.

You can easily imagine how, at that time, a violent, widespread outrage rose against the danger posed by all those immigrants that invade our country and bring criminality and even diseases (yeah, there was that too, in the news). Just the most typical case of sweeping generalizations founded on the slippery slope of simplification rooted into prejudice.

So it might not be a surprise that, THIS TIME, since it was about cops committing crimes, so “our own”, what rose wasn’t indignation, but a WALL to DEFEND those cops from the supposedly unjust accusation of rape. And it’s not simply public opinion, but public opinion reinforced by mainstream media, journalists and politicians that love to ride the wave.

Yeah, this is fucking hateful and widespread racism happening right now, in a civilized (?) country.

And it still has ties and roots in the cases above. Here too we have public opinion that is deeply rooted into prejudice and unreason. In one case rape was enough to condemn a whole category of people who happen to be foreigners, in the other rape was justified, because those two American students might have been drunk and licentious.

In all these cases public opinion follows identity instead of reason. We’ve already lost.

P.P.P.P.P.P.P.S.

Dispelling the myth of DirectX 12

There are lots of articles out there detailing the merits of the new DirectX, but I think they all evoke expectations for the end-user that will never materialize.

The biggest aspect is that DX12 is “more efficient”, and so free performance. Being compatible with older hardware means that the same engine on the same hardware will run better, especially lowering load on the CPU side. All this leading up to the myth that DX12 will extend the life cycle of current hardware.

My opinion is that the opposite will happen: DX12 are a way to push again to buy new videocards and new CPUs. As it always happened.

A couple of days ago Eurogamer published an article about the first somewhat relevant DX12 benchmark:
http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/digitalfoundry-2015-ashes-of-the-singularity-dx12-benchmark-tested

The most important aspect is how on a fast CPU and a Nvidia card, DX12 is SLOWER than ancient DX11 technology. This is already the proof, just one case that means nothing beside showing that it can actually happen: DX12 isn’t a sure improvement. It could as well push things backward instead of forward. It’s not unambiguously “better”.

Here’s what I wrote about what might have happened (the beginning is an answer to someone claiming Nvidia DX12 drivers aren’t optimized yet):

Part 1: if we are at the bottom level, the activity of the driver isn’t very different from what DX11 does. If we are talking at a very basic level on DX12, it means dealing with basic instructions that DX11 already perfected. So there isn’t something intrinsic in DX12 that makes for a “tricky to develop” driver. The DX12 driver, compared to the DX11 one, is a driver that does less, at an even more basic level. So I’d assume for an engineer it’s much easier to write that driver (and less to work with when it’s time to squeeze out more performance). The first reason why DX11 might be FASTER is because Nvidia engineers know how to make something faster *in the driver*, whereas these guys who made the DX12 code didn’t know as many tricks. Hence, DX11 is faster because it ends up having better custom-code written by Nvidia.

Part 2: better multi-thread in DX12 still brings overhead. That’s why Nvidia backwards performance ONLY HAPPENS on 4+ cores and higher CPU frequency. If the DX11 render can keep up (meaning that it doesn’t completely fill one core) then the DX11 is FASTER than DX12. Because single-threading code is faster and because it leaves even more space on the remaining cores for the rest of the game logic. If instead you hit your CPU cap on the single thread THEN DX12 should be ideally faster, because you can spread better the load on other cores.

The reason why Final Fantasy 14 benchmark runs faster on DX9 than DX11 is somewhat similar. You can have fast single-thread code, or slower multi-thread core. At the end if you add up the load of multi-thread code it ends up cumulatively higher (so slower) than the single-thread code. The same happens with 64bits vs 32bits. 64 is marginally slower, but it allows you to tap into more resources.


Those are aspects that might explain why DX11 ends up being actually faster that DX12. But the myth is that the ideal better performance of an engine will become better performance for the end-user too. I think that’s false, and that’s because it’s produced by a false perception of how game development works.

I’ll try to explain again why DX12 expectations may be overblown, as it always happens, when you focus on the technical aspects and not on the practical ones.

Optimizing a game is a never-ending process that takes development time. Development time = money.

For a game company the first priority is to do things QUICKLY, because doing things fast turns into money you save. That’s why Batman game tanked: they didn’t want to allocate it enough time. They wanted it done FAST because PC isn’t worth long develop times.

Time spent on optimization and actual game performance for the end user belong to the same axis. That means that in a lot of cases the hypothetical speed of DX12 WILL NOT be translated into faster FPS for the end users, but into shorter optimization phases for the developer.

So, DX12 = same performance of DX11 with shorter development time (eventually), but at a lesser cost for the developer.

That’s how it works. The speed of an engine isn’t solely due to technology, but also to time spent on it. In practice, TIME is more an important variable for the developer than performance for the end-user.

That means, again, that in practice DX12 will end producing just about the same performance you see now in DX11. Every improvement in tech, in the HISTORY OF PC has always been eaten very quickly by rising requirements. Always and without exception. The moment you give developers some gains, they fill them up on their side by cutting down the time.

That’s not even the whole picture. As everyone knows video drivers are increasingly complex and optimized only for the newest cards. See Witcher 3 performing badly on 7xx cards. That means that even if DX12 theoretically bring benefits to ALL cards, as time passes the engineers writing drivers will only have time (and motivation to do so) to optimize them well on newer hardware. To not even consider developers who write engines, that will never waste weeks and months writing specific optimization for older hardware.

That means that all gains that DX12 might bring will be used to push new hardware, and not to make your current hardware live longer. It will mean less engineering effort to develop new cards while showing bigger performance gaps. Smoke & mirrors.

This is how things work in practice, since the world isn’t simply run by theoretical technology. What you expect from DX12 just WON’T HAPPEN. DX12 performance improvements are oversold, as it ALWAYS happened and will continue to happen with new technology.

This modern counter-bias

So, it looks like The fantasy side of tabletop Warhammer joins those things that got a “reboot”. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that it turned into shit.

It doesn’t take very long, looking at the internet, to see that the response for this reboot has been almost universally negative. The Warhammer fantasy universe has been reset, so all established lore has been canceled, and it was also an opportunity to rewrite the rules and, guess what, make them more “casual”.

The main differences are the focus on a smaller amount of units and more importance given to heroes with special abilities. So a smaller scale to manage where single units make the difference. Beside that, everyone complains that the removal of army points makes the battles simply impossible to balance. And it sounds like a gaping hole of an oversight, however you want to look at it.

It should be evident that they now want a toy, and not a wargame.

But I’m pointing this out to underline two basic trends. One is about these “reboots” that systematically alienate the current players yet gain absolutely no one new. The point here is that it doesn’t take any careful analysis to realize these plans are always terrible ones.

The second trend is that I was reading this article that was doing a good job explaining the situation:
http://www.terminally-incoherent.com/blog/2015/07/04/age-of-sigmar-and-the-end-of-warhammer/

The problem is that it falls in this trend of the “Social Justice Warrior” angle being forced upon everything, which has the only effect of undermining perfectly reasonable complaints. As I said the article makes very good points, so it really wasn’t necessary to also put the load on that silly angle. I’m linking it because it reads like a parody of those same issues.

One of the new things the new rules seem to do is trying to break the fictional layer of the game to engage directly THE PLAYER as a game mechanic. In some kind of parody game it could even be a good, goofy idea, but on the actual Warhammer? It’s beyond stupid.

But I find even more funny that on one side the game rules themselves break the fictional layer, while on the other side the guy writing that article pushes the political agenda onto a fictional game/product. So I guess two wrongs make a right. And so the result is that perfectly reasonable complaints about a very goofy ruleset turn into very goofy complaints, in a kind of circular way.

And so the accusation:
“encouraging players to straight up mock people who suffer from mental illness”

About this rule:
“if, during your hero phase, you pretend to ride an imaginary horse, you can re-roll failed hit rolls”

Uh-oh. So very offensive. Worthy of a crusade. GRAB THE WARHAMMERS!

P.S.
On a more serious note, this way of thinking is dangerous. It’s a weapon of an argument and it is now pervasive in our culture, in plenty of more subtle ways. Blaming people for imaginary intentions. If you ride an imaginary horse while playing a game your INTENTION for doing so is “mock people who suffer from mental illness”. And of course you cannot even defend yourself from the accusation, because the accusation pretends to reveal an HIDDEN purpose, and so that won’t be admitted. Like a dialectic bullet of entitlement. Beware, because this way of thinking is spreading.

A few things about E3

When I was a kid I used to be super-excited about new games being announced, but because of how I’m wired it wasn’t due to me being a kid, but to the different scenario and then things before us.

I was excited when Quake was announced, with the promise of a true 3D engine and a medieval setting with dragons. And I was excited when Final Fantasy 9 was announced, as a return to a more medieval “fantasy” setting, that I liked so much better than the futuristic mishmash more typical of Square, still without losing the sense of wonder and with character design going in the opposite direction of the VIII chapter.

And, in general, new games would push the boundaries of what could be done. Look at the timeline. Just one or two years between each, we went from Wolfenstein 3D, to Doom, to Quake. Since the early 2000s the progress curve has been flattened, and new games simply fail to hype, not because I’m older, but because the value simply isn’t there.

Fallout 4 is a good example. Same engine, but new hardware allowing them to add more foliage and geometry. Still no shame exhibiting horrendous animations. Still terrible combat. Dialogue system turned to utter shit. Removal of all skills. But hey, one really good idea: turn all the clutter into actual useful resources.

And I almost agree with Sarkeesian (who at this E3 has been working hard to troll the internet with the most stupid claims ever), if the modular crafting system wasn’t all about armor and weapon, and more about survival and other tools, the system and potential gameplay would have been nothing short of amazing. But, alas, “streamlining” is the buzzword of shitty design. And that’s what we get nowadays.

Then, Elder Scrolls Online? No one cares about that, and still has no vision of itself and what it is supposed to be. Yet Another Card Games (announced with an handful of concept art screens)? No thanks. Another program launcher to launch programs? No thanks. Dishonored 2? Just CGI trailer, no gameplay being shown, nothing at all being said about the actual game beside it has an option for a female protagonist.

And there’s Doom. Could be worse. This tweet already shows a lot. The idea of an “editor” that simply allows you to paste together pre-made rooms is fucking terrible if they don’t actually give players a real editor when you can edit actual geometry, and from what I read on twitter this is very unlikely. So it’s basically all a fraud. Pasting together rooms is fun and exiting for about 10 minutes. That’s not what made Doom map-making popular.

At least they did get the fact that Doom core is about gameplay and you can’t turn it into a scripted, linear game. So focus on gameplay, action and atmosphere. Problem is that what they’ve shown is problematic. I also thought that even if they do that, then they’d basically have Bulletstorm.

That’s also a problem. That demo looked “nice”, but a kind of nice that could easily be done with Unreal 3 engine (and it would probably run immensely better than whatever tech has ID now). The level design was really poor, and that’s THE feature of a Doom game. And only an handful of monsters on screen. That means they are probably on the right track, but the game currently is very shallow.

EA presentation: utter shit. Nothing to comment.

Ubisoft: look at The Division. This year they replaced their fake/fraud gameplay trailers with one that is actually in-engine and running. It’s obvious because they announced it playable at the show, and because you can observe some flickering textures (glitches are usually a good sign of a non-doctored footage). The problem is that it looks immensely downgraded from the previous two years demos. And now that it look barely average it also lost most of its coolness.

Then Ghost Recon. This is interesting because of the interplay with The Division. On one hand we have a game that comes out of “bullshit trailer” to show real footage, on the other we have a game that just enters now the bullshit trailer phase. The effect is that now people suddenly stop caring about The Division, while Ghost Recon can steal the show.

Until Ghost Recon also exits its bullshit phase, I guess.

Then Sony. They obviously win by the biggest margin imaginable, but. The Last Guardian is not there to awe us with a scripted jumping scene. Is that Uncharted? If depth of interaction is replaced by scripted scenes then we simply get a shitty game.

Final Fantasy VII. Beside universal hype there’s the fact they’ve shown nothing at all. The CG wasn’t even THAT good if it didn’t have that brand. So? That’s a game that can be a total failure or total success depending how you do it. And no one can guess how they are going to do it. A good idea would be to keep it classic, turn based, but with polished and deep systems. Streamlining here will simply kill it. Making it “realistic” or real-time would kill it too. So the way it would work great would be like Pillars of Eternity to Baldur’s Gate: something that at least aims to enhance the core, maybe radically, but without transforming it. So, great idea, but with very good chances of fucking it up.

Shenmue? Beside the ridiculous contradiction of an “indie” kickstarter begging for money on the biggest stage (it’s like EA launched a Kickstarter for the next Fifa game), this is still a game series that was built on the hugest budgets imaginable. How can this work out for a respectable Shenmue 3? No idea, no explanations given. Just BELIEVE!

Horizon? That looked fucking cool. And because I’ve seen this happen, and because this is the Killzone team, that’s also load of bullshit. So wait next year (or two) to see what the real game looks like.

See the pattern? This E3 is about two things:

1- It is about a lot of hype for vaporware games. Games only shown as CGI, that barely exist as ideas. That’s how hype works: if you show something completely undefined, people will complete it with their wishes and imagination. That is going to be nothing like the final product. An endless cycle of hype and disappointment.

2- Most of all other games, and those that are real, are all games that look behind instead of ahead. From Doom, passing through The Last Guardian, to Shenmue, we only have classics of the past. But are they connected to something? Do they know their roots or are they just aping their own identity?

No new game seems to actually show you something that you REALLY can hype. That you see and think it is INDISPENSABLE right now. Battlefront looks good, but it’s Battlefield with Star Wars skins.

The industry seems only being able of looking behind and digging out old bones. Having an history is extremely important, but what I observe is BOTH a critical failure in understanding what’s good in what’s left behind, and another failure on the vision of things ahead.

And only hardware and graphics can brute-force things onward.

Anime Decadence

A week or so ago I decided to revisit a Japanese anime that I loved when I was a kid: Saint Seiya.

The rewatch has been a surprising experience because the anime not only is still very fun, but the art style can still be amazing today. I went digging for some volumes of the manga, and this is one of those RARE cases where the adaptation (the manga comes first) is way, way better than the original. The anime does the exact contrary of what typical adaptations usually do (that is, downscaled, simplified versions). For example you’d expect the armor complexity to be simplified for the anime, compared to the manga. It’s the opposite, the anime armors have been redesigned and are way more beautiful and complex than they are in the manga. The same for the story, where in the manga some scene can be thrown away in a handful of pages, in the anime it’s much better developed, with inspired direction, great use of music, much sharpened tension and lofty drama. It’s no wonder that this series was popular all over the world. It’s plain obvious that the team behind it had many talented people.

In fact, this anime is so great that I began seriously wondering WHAT THE FUCK happened to Japanese animation in recent times.

Look at this. Here’s a screenshot from something done in 1987. Almost 30 years passed, and this is a common television series, not a movie or an OAV:

And now look at how it becomes in a movie from 2005:

ARGH! WHAT HAPPENED?! Twenty years and everything’s gone to shit.

I’m pointing at this because I see more of an overall, pervasive trend, instead of a single case. There’s something beautiful in how the old anime were drawn, the medium itself and the physicality of it, those ink lines that are never uniform but more coarse, with a varying thickness. More organic to the image. Colors and light more natural compared to brightened, flashy ones and the sharp cut lines of modern animation. That first shot from 1987 looks as beautiful today as it did at the time. It doesn’t become obsolete.

Of course I’m aware there’s plenty of good stuff today, amazingly drawn, colored and animated, but I also see the pervasive trend that is widespread around the most common, commercial series, and that’s the bad part. Saint Seiya WAS a common, commercial and popular series. There’s something in how anime were made in those past years that makes every shot so beautiful and that instead looks plain ugly and flat in modern animation. As if all life and soul have been sucked away.

See this other example from a more recent Saint Seiya series (or this other one):

And compare to this:

Or even compare this and this. They seem from a completely different source, but only two moments just a few episodes apart. Yet, the second one, even if displaying a much lower quality, retains the charm of those bold lines. A charm that is completely gone from modern anime. What I mean is that it’s not just a matter of quality and detail, but of the actual texture, the physicality of the work itself, the tools used. You can take any anime from the eighties and they all have that special something, a beauty that is timeless and unsurpassed.

Of course there’s more to this discussion. It’s about technology and art, and it is common across the media. It applies to anime as it applies to cinema. The film grain of some old black and white Super-8 Kodak film gone out of production just can’t be achieved now. The secret is that movies can be better than life. Reach for an ideal dimension that is more. The medium itself, the process, has a unique beauty to it. Its own soul and unique aesthetic. Modern technology achieves higher fidelity and realism, but it also loses something in the process. Realism can be a value, but it does not have to be. Modern processes replace obsolete ones.

Something invaluable is lost. Things get better but there’s always a loss. A beauty irreplaceable, but forgotten.

(Since I’m taking screenshots as I watch, you can “manually” browse them. Currently they start from http://cesspit.net/misc/anime/seiya03.jpg and they go up to 39.)