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May 3, 2012 6:11 PM   Subscribe

(Minecraft Filter) So my kid started playing Minecraft, and now he wants to get into the world of mods and skins. Halp!

Mods? Skins? Textures? Maps? Aargh, what does it all mean?

He's found loads of places that offer these downloads but of course I have questions. How do I know these downloads are legit? How do I know they're not going to crash my Mac? If we are doing a download, how do I know where to place the file, or will it automatically go where it needs to go? And the biggest question of all: How can I, a non-gaming mom, ensure that if we do this it's safe? (Talk to me like I'm your 90-year-old auntie who's never even seen a computer, please.)

I have seen this question and it is moderately helpful - but has anything changed since 9/2011?
posted by BlahLaLa to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm afraid I can't help with mods, because dealing with them makes me insane, but my daughter uses Skindex for skins. She likes to use the editor to make her own.
posted by upatree at 6:20 PM on May 3, 2012


Short version: The situation hasn't changed since that last AskMe. Mods can be potentially dangerous, because they directly modify the game. That said, I've never heard of any actual malicious mods, and it'd be difficult for anything malicious to do any real damage.

Give him his own user account on the Mac so he can't break anything that matters. Modding the game is a bit involved because there's no official mod support, so you have to go in and muck around with the game files. I'm sure there are guides on how to do so all over the place.

Texture packs are safe (although some texture packs require mods to work) but they also require a bit of mucking around. The game isn't very user-friendly at all as far as this stuff is concerned.

There are a few apps available to help manage mods and skins. I've used MagicLauncher before (on Windows, not on Mac, but there's a Mac version) and it works pretty well.
posted by neckro23 at 7:13 PM on May 3, 2012


There have been pieces of software from legitimate companies that were not legit so there's pretty much never an absolute certainty of safety on any piece of software. If you're computer is turned on, you're taking a risk. (See also, Underhanded C.)

The good news is that the communities that support this kind of thing have more than their share of tech savvy alpha geeks who are far more likely to notice and to blow the whistle in a hurry. The trick, I'd say, is to find a real, vibrant community out there and restrict your downloading to that.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:34 PM on May 3, 2012


I am computer-stupid but I found the Yogbox (a collection of good mods, which is safe and virus free) to be a great addition to the game. It should keep him busy a good long while!
posted by The otter lady at 7:46 PM on May 3, 2012


If you want maximum flexibility with minimum fuss, I would say to only allow mods that can be installed with the technic launcher.

They've rolled up a bunch of the most popular mods in a convenient package and you can pick and choose which to install. Their site isn't particularly kid safe, but the mods and program are.
posted by empath at 7:47 PM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Skins are safe. Some really sleezy site could pretend to offer skins when really offering nasty ads or viruses or something, but that's no different from any other website. Your other question says you're on a Mac, so that's a help. A reputable site like Skindex should be safe.

Have your son pick a skin he likes like this one and set it by clicking the little Up Arrow button. That will take him to a login page on minecraft.net where he types in his username and password and his skin is magically set. This is a good teaching moment: "only type your Minecraft password on this website or at the game itself". (Or just log in once and click "Remember Me").

For extra credit, your son can also download a skin to a local image file, then edit it in the paint program of his choice and upload it. Boom, custom skin! That could be a fun and creative thing for him to do. The free Paintbrush.app on the Mac should be enough, but there's probably custom skin design tools that are easier to work with.

Mods are more complicated. There's a real risk that a malicious mod could attack your computer. And installing mods is a fairly challenging process of hand-unpacking and re-packing files. If your son is patient and does some research or gets some help, he should be able to figure it out.

I don't know of a single reputable site for mods, although MinecraftDL may be promising. I mostly get my mods directly from the Minecraft forum for mods; authors post download links. There's a theoretical possibility something bad could happen by installing a mod from there, but I think in practice in that community it's OK. I personally don't worry about the risk.

Something I want to add: it's very cool that your son is interested in tinkering with Minecraft and you're supporting him in it. It's a great way to learn more about computers and how they work. And it's a chance for him to make stuff; not just passively play a game, but actively modify it. I've had a successful 20 year career in software engineering and I got my start by tinkering and hacking with games. Encourage him however you can.
posted by Nelson at 7:44 AM on May 4, 2012


Mods are more complicated. There's a real risk that a malicious mod could attack your computer. And installing mods is a fairly challenging process of hand-unpacking and re-packing files. If your son is patient and does some research or gets some help, he should be able to figure it out.

People keep saying this, but seriously, just install the technic launcher. They take care of all of that for you. You literally just check off which mods you want and it installs them.

Something I want to add: it's very cool that your son is interested in tinkering with Minecraft and you're supporting him in it. It's a great way to learn more about computers and how they work. And it's a chance for him to make stuff; not just passively play a game, but actively modify it. I've had a successful 20 year career in software engineering and I got my start by tinkering and hacking with games. Encourage him however you can.

Seconding this. The kids that are playing minecraft now are going to be the Steve Jobs's and Bill Gates's of the future. You can put money on that.
posted by empath at 7:47 AM on May 4, 2012


empath: does Technic Launcher let you pick and choose any random mod? I just tried it and it seems to let you choose from one of six or so popular modpacks. That's a good way to ease into modding and will definitely add a lot of variety to the Minecraft experience. But there's a zillion mods out there; part of the fun for me is finding them and trying them out. OTOH it's a lot of work; Technic Launcher is pretty slick.
posted by Nelson at 8:37 AM on May 4, 2012


Each of those mod packs has about a dozen or two dozen mods included, between them, it covers pretty much all of the popular mods. Obviously if you're comfortable with computers, go nuts, but this question was for a mom who doesn't want to get that involved and a young kid.
posted by empath at 8:45 AM on May 4, 2012


I'd also recommend the Technic packaging. It's got several of the most popular mods in it. It's as easy to install as minecraft itself. It's been tested and has a lot fewer rough edges than the raw mods. There's also no questionable content in it, malicious or inappropriate. Best of all, it installs alongside "vanilla" mc, so he can easily go back to the unmodified game if he wants to. Minecraft upgrades separately from Technic---an update to MC doesn't break and of the Technic mod packs. This can be a significant problem as there is often a delay of days or weeks between MC updating and the mods compensating.

Technic is a package of mods, with no choices or options which to include. It offers several packages, including Yogsbox, Tekkit. He'll be able to play with many of the most popular mods talked about on the fora.
posted by bonehead at 9:20 AM on May 4, 2012


Thanks, guys. Much appreciated. We're gonna start with the Technic package, for the reasons mentioned, and in particular the Yogbox. I definitely feel out of my comfort level, but am willing to give it a try.
posted by BlahLaLa at 4:28 PM on May 4, 2012


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