What having a popular Minecraft Mod taught me

So, it’s been about two years since I started work on Actually Additions. The first one and three quarter years haven’t been all that exciting. Some users here, some bug reports there, some servers I was invited to and some people that said nice things.
But over the last couple of months, mainly through its introduction into the HermitPack, the Direwolf20 1.10.2 pack and Direwolf’s recent spotlights, it has gotten quite the attention, up to a point that it now has over 700,000 downloads and is present in more than 20 pages of user-made modpacks on CurseForge.
So, what have I learned?
A lot, actually.

About criticism

Once the thing you make gets semi-popular, things like comments, reddit threads, or depending on the thing you do, news, will start to pop up covering and criticising the thing you made. Usually, this is good news; what’s better than a whole bunch of people telling others how great the thing you made is?
I can assure you: This is not how it’ll go.
No matter how perfect the thing you made is, negative criticism will probably overweigh. Both actual criticism and the feeling you get in your head when you weigh positive and negative comments.
The former is normally a result of the fact that people who are happy with something are just happy with the thing. And that, with people on the internet, generally means that they’ll shut up about it. Whereas people that have something negative to say about something, even if it’s totally unrightful (usually especially then), will try to get it out to as many people as possible.
The latter is just the way humans’ brains usually work. Someone saying “This thing is nice!” makes you feel good for a couple of minutes, but “This thing is awful!” makes you (well, at least me) feel sad for about an hour until I finally somewhat let it go. One negative person in a crowd of positive people would stick out to me like a huge tower on a flat island.

But the advice I want to give here is just let it go. Seriously. There is two types of negative criticism to differentiate between here, though:
The first type is someone saying something like “I’m unhappy with this thing because of A, B and C, and I think it could be made better by doing X, Y and Z.” This is good and helpful criticism and it’s something that should be appreciated by you, the developer. Honest criticism and the suggestion of change is such a great help in doing anything, because you can fix and tweak stuff to actually work better the way the person pointed out. You should never ignore this type of helpful criticism because it is the best kind of criticism to help the thing you do become better and more useful. However, a thing to note is that you should also not listen to any and all criticism like this. What you should do is take it seriously and consider it, just don’t jump to conclusions too quickly because maybe the suggestion the person has, however perfectly presented and laid out it is, might still be flawed in one way or another.
The second type, however, is what you should try to ignore as best you can. I couldn’t do this for the longest time, and I only learned this about a month ago, but when someone comes to you and says “I’m not going to use this because it sucks”, just let them be. If they don’t even tell you why they don’t like a thing, then just ignore it. People who do this type of criticism and mean it seriously don’t serve any use with the thing they say, they’re merely trying to get attention or they’re having a really bad day. If you don’t ignore this type of criticism, especially if you’re making a thing that can be showcased in Youtube videos, you are going to have a bad time. And by “bad time” I mean that the risk of you getting seriously depressed is very high. It might not seem like it to outside people, but trust me. For most people I talked to about this, that just is the way things are.

About balancing

This might only be a modded related thing, and maybe it’s also only exclusive to Minecraft, but balancing is a big topic, especially if you use, say, the same energy API. This has a lot to do with the point mentioned above: People will criticise the balancing inside of the thing you made. Which is fine, again, if you differentiate the types of criticism right.
But people will also start to criticise the balancing between the thing you made and another thing that another person made. This is usually a problem because you can’t balance one thing around all of the other things in a good way, because all the other things also are trying to balance around all the other things simultaneously. This is why things like unified power systems (Tesla, RF and the like) are usually problematic for Minecraft.
This type of thing is just something that you will have to work out. You are going to have to make adjustments to whatever you made, but the thing to keep in mind here is that you’re not the only one that makes adjustments, so you should always seek advice from whatever you’re trying to balance against, and you should also accept the criticism from your users. Don’t pretend the issue they have isn’t a real issue and just move on, because as said above, helpful criticism and the acceptance of it is what keeps the thing you do good.

But to me, the much bigger problem is the fact that, as in most things, if something else is cheaper, easier to use or just easier to get than whatever you’ve made, people are going to be moving on to that. Most people are not going to stay with the thing you made, because to them, it seems less practical.
But you should never take this as a reason to make your thing cheaper, easier to get or easier to use. Because, if you do that, you will become part of a spiraling mess that will have everybody trying to be the best and the easiest, and thus, at least for games, making them – well – somewhat useless.
What I’ve done with Actually Additions, for example, is implemented the compicated oil setup. It’s pretty tricky to automate because it requires a lot of in-world operations, but it is also a challenge for people who want to accept it as such. A lot of people have asked me to implement an easier option, but I have stayed strong, which is sometimes the right path to go.
Not always is listening to criticism the right thing, because if you listen to any and all type of criticism about something being “too hard”, at least for games, the result of that will have everything be too easy to get or use, too cheap and most importantly: Not a challenge anymore. And – at least in my opinion – if you don’t have a challenge in a game, the game doesn’t serve its purpose of consuming time and being fun.

Making things right

One of the most important things, to me, is how someone goes about dealing with the users of the mod they make. There has been a couple of issue reports and messages that have had rude or just plain wrong bits and pieces of information, and I know that sometimes, I have had a minor or major fight with users. Not because I am not a nice person or because they are not nice people, but because misunderstanding is a big problem in chats.
To anyone of you that is planning on ever having any kind of project that accepts issue reports, and I mean this 100% seriously, do not try to joke around or be funny in their comments. Seriously. A lot of people will probably understand and find it funny, but there is often times the odd one out that won’t understand and – who can blame them for that – think you’re a prick when you’re actually not.
There has also been a couple of times where I’ve just had a bad day and been a little rough with people, and so as a result of that I was a little, shall we say, unspecific about what I said. What I’ve started doing is just leave the issue tracker alone for that one particular day and come back later when I’m feeling more like it’s a good time for social interaction.

What you should always do, though, is try to make things at least somewhat right. I don’t want to go with the whatever, it’s just a single person thing a lot of people go with, because it creates problems. For one, that single person can go around and tell other people how much of an idiot you are and then you’ll have less of a reputation. But also, what is more important to me, I usually feel bad when such a stupid thing as a mere misunderstanding results in someone not liking me or what I made. It sucks to be flagged wrongly just by one single thing you did and I think both you and the person that thought wrongly of you deserve a second chance.

Seek help if you need it

Both the emotional kind, and the knowledge kind.
If ever you are sad or depressed about something that’s bringing you down, either bad criticism or a bad reaction to something, seek someone who will probably understand and try to help you. With Minecraft Modding, whenever I’ve been annoyed at something in the past, people like asie have been there for me and supporting me, because they know what it feels like, for example, to have negative criticism thrown at you. There has been times where I’ve been really annoyed at a certain issue reporter or someone in a video saying something negative about my mod, and this might sound stupid, but sometimes stuff like that is capable of hitting you really hard and making you feel just sort of depressed. I have finally gotten away from this for the most part, as I already said, but it was hard and took a long time.

But also, if you’re ever in trouble implementing or creating something that you really want to do, don’t fear asking a question. It might be tough, either because you really respect the person you’re trying to ask or you think it’s going to be a really stupid question, but it usually helps way more than not asking in the first place. Most people, especially the ones you are friends with, will either try to help you or redirect you to someone or something else that will probably be capable of helping you.

The thing you have to remember here is that you’re never alone. At least one other person you know will probably have had the same problem you had at least once in their lives, or they know someone who had that problem, and so someone is definitely going to be able to help you.

So, this is my take on Minecraft Modding, well, and making things for other people in general. Obviously, you don’t have to agree with anything I have said here as it’s all just personal opinion, but I hope at least some of the stuff I said is either somewhat relatable or somewhat understandable.
Modding Minecraft is one of the things I enjoy most in life currently, because it’s just so amazing to see so many people use and enjoy the thing you make, but it took me long enough to finally be able to appreciate that without constantly being reminded of the substantially smaller group of people that don’t like the thing I made.

But yea, I guess the thing I was trying to say with all of this is: Keep enjoying what you do, guys.
Thanks for reading. <3