Now that I have a computer that isn’t completely shit (and has a working keyboard), I’ve been able to try upping the graphics on a lot of the games I play. While my first choice was to max out the graphics in Skyrim, after realizing that I’d have to mess around setting up Mod Organizer and building a new mod setup again, I decided to see what other games I could add shaders and stuff to. And somehow, after skipping over things like Warframe and Destiny 2, I ended up looking into Minecraft.
Why Minecraft? Because Minecraft is as mod-able, if not more mod-able than Skyrim, and also has a billion different mods and texture packs. All of which can be as easy or as hard to install, just like Skyrim, and require you to read instructions carefully. Unlike Skyrim though, there aren’t a handful of places where you can get all your mods from, like the Steam Workshop or Nexus Mods, Minecraft downloads have always been a bit all over the place, and since you’re downloading .jar files, you have to be extra vigilant – the majority of Skyrim mods tend to be somewhat safe (even if they are dubious in quality) because you’re often only downloading .esp or .bsa files which are only really tied to Bethesda games, while Java has a far larger range. Most Minecraft mods tend to be stuck behind annoying ‘adfly’ pages which want you to watch an advert before actually taking you to a link.
Texture packs on the other hand are fine. It’s just image files. Just make sure you click on the right download button.
But the ever vigilant person that I am (aside from when I have plastic cups of diet cola), I went and installed Optifine for Minecraft 1.12.2 (the version that I have Forge and Pixelmon Reforged installed) and Minecraft 1.14, the newest compatible version. I also went and grabbed a couple of random shaders and some texture packs, ranging from 16×16 packs to a couple of fancy 128×128 resource packs (frankly the 512×512 texture packs are a bit too silly), and started experimenting.
Weirdly though, I didn’t feel that the super high quality texture packs were worth it, especially photo-realistic ones. Because there is a very strange point in Minecraft where things become a little too realistic, but at the same time everything is just cubes. It’s especially bad when it comes to animals and other mobs, where the block models just look awful. You can get away with a photo-realistic grass texture because grass is everywhere and it does merge together well (especially if the texture pack has extra textures to randomize with) but the smaller scale you go, the worse things seem to look.
It’s almost an uncanny valley effect. Photo-realistic texture packs are supposed to look more realistic but somehow end up looking less realistic. And frankly, a lot of these resource packs really need a shader or something to add sunlight and better shadows, so that everything really shines. But even then, I’ve found 32×32 and 64×64 packs do the job perfectly fine.
The shaders though? Totally worth grabbing. I don’t know why, but there’s something about proper sun rays, fine-tuned lighting and fancy water that really make Minecraft shine, even if you’re using the vanilla Minecraft textures. It’s weird, but I think that a good shader does far more for Minecraft than a good resource pack does.
Heck, Optifine on its own is probably worth getting as well, even if you don’t have a great computer, since you can turn off all the fancy settings and it has some other settings too. Although, if I’m really honest? Some of the best Minecraft texture packs are actually the smaller 8x8bit ones.
So, basically, shaders are worth it, but realistic resource packs aren’t worth it. Not without spending forever making Minecraft less Minecraft-y.
But frankly, I’m indecisive when it comes to texture packs, and I’m still downloading and testing different ones. Thankfully, Minecraft has plenty of fall-backs should something have missing textures or whatever…