A Rant About Sky Factory

[Edit: I have partnered with the FTB Team to make Sky Factory an official FTB modpack. This solves nearly all the problems listed in this article, and from here out updates will happen much more often because I now have a whole team of people to help!]

About two years ago I made the first version of a mod pack for Minecraft that I called Sky Factory. It was the realization of a Minecraft experience that I had been envisioning for a long time but didn?t have the tools to accomplish at first. When the mods I needed were finally made, I dropped what I was doing and made the first version that very same day, and it?s been a big part of my channel ever since. Apparently other people like it too. It?s been installed over 3 million times and has accumulated tens of millions of hours of play time. We are now approaching the release of Sky Factory version 2.5 and some people are getting rather vocally impatient as they wait.

Upfront I want to make a few things very clear: I love Sky Factory. I love making it, I love playing it, I love sharing it. I plan to keep doing all of that. Unfortunately the impatience of the people waiting for their next Sky Factory fix has gotten to be a burden, and is quite frankly making it hard for me stay motivated to work on it. For every person that says ?hey man, I love Sky Factory, thanks for making it?, I get 100 people that say things like ?what?s wrong with you, it shouldn?t take so long?.

A lot of this stems from unrealistic expectations, or misunderstanding about how making a pack like this works. Let me break down the basic process of how a Sky Factory update works:

  1. Review the previous version. Assess balance, things that were broken, and identify weaknesses that need to be addressed in the next version.
  2. Update current mod set. Go through, mod by mod (there?s almost 200 now), and check each version against the current versions and download any that have new versions since last release.
  3. Fix the resulting mess. Find which mods are crashing, which ones conflict with which, and find out what version of Forge you have to run to get it all to work.
  4. Browse mods. See whats new, what?s updated, and assess for potential inclusion
  5. Define the vision for the next version. Contact developers about making custom mods to fit the vision, or see if existing mods can be tweaked.
  6. Put together a pre-alpha. This is the pack with updated mods, plus a collection of new mods to try out and see how they feel together.
  7. Fix what breaks, and/or reject mods that are beyond hope. Try again.
  8. Repeat step 6 and 7 until you have a pack that feels like it might be somewhere in the ball park of what the final product will be.
  9. Begin Apha testing. This is a very small group of people that are going to do full play-throughs and find problems and give feedback. This is also to wait for the results of previous steps to come about, such as a mod being ready that we might be waiting on.
  10. Fix what breaks, and/or reject mods that are beyond hope. Try again.
  11. Repeat steps 9 and 10 until it feels like a solid pack.
  12. Do the work to upload the alpha to the launcher. Identify features that aren?t supported by the launcher. Work with launcher people to add support, or find work-arounds.
  13. Begin beta testing. This where we let a few thousand people play it. This is also when it gets tested on servers. A whole host of issues come up when a lot of people get at the pack, in a way that alpha testers never can.
  14. Fix what breaks, and/or reject mods that are beyond hope. Try again.
  15. Tweak balance. Observe the results and feedback of the beta testers and identify things that stick out as too powerful or not powerful enough, or things that would get in the way of replay value. Tweak accordingly.
  16. Repeat steps 12 to 14 until it feels like a finished mod pack.
  17. Announce the release date.
  18. Flip the beta to public.

I could dive into more detail about what each of these steps involves because this is a very simplified list, but understand that each of these seventeen steps can take anywhere from one day to three months EACH. Also remember that it?s been two years and we are only at version 2.4. This is not a fast process and never has been. At the time that I am writing this we are currently at step 12. This is not getting released tomorrow.

An added complication to all this is the fact that I do not make any money from Sky Factory. It is a labor of love that I do because I want to, not because it pays my bills. Yes, the success of it has without question been good for my channel, but that?s an indirect benefit. My rent gets paid because I stream, not because I make mod packs. I have to keep streaming. That comes first. And I?m very protective of my content. I?m not going to do a live stream of the most boring parts of pack making. Yes, EVEN if you say ?but we won?t be bored, we promise?, or ?but we watched you do that one other boring thing and it was fine?. The fact of the matter is that there are some parts of this process that I don?t feel like I can make entertaining. So I do it off camera. That isn?t going to change. There are also parts of this process that I want to be kept private. Passwords, IP addresses, and surprises I want to save for the final release. All of this can?t be streamed yet.

Even if I could brute force the entertainment value, and even if none of it was private, I still wouldn?t stream all of it. Nearly every day I get asked ?how do you not get sick of Minecraft after playing it every day for so long?. The answer is that I play the game in a variety of ways to keep it fresh. I play different modpacks, different game modes, different servers. Sky Factory has been a part of my life for over two years now. That?s two thirds of my entire streaming career. If Sky Factory was the only thing that I had been able to play this whole time, I would have burned out and quit Minecraft a long time ago. Some days I just have to do something else. And sometimes that means playing on my sub server instead of play testing the latest version. If I can?t do that, then Sky Factory doesn?t get made at all.

If you don?t want to see me playing on my sub server, or don?t want to see me playing other games or other mod packs, I completely understand that but I?m not going to apologize for it. It needs to happen. Trying to do it any other way would result in a pack that wasn?t as good, or in me giving up entirely. You are welcome to find other streams to watch if Sky Factory is all you want to see. But rest assured that Sky Factory is still being worked on, and I will release it to the public as soon as I possibly can.

#soon

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