The only thing more pervasive in E3 press conferences than Skyrim these past few years has been Minecraft. And frankly, the second I see a block-headed pig or a pixelated pickaxe my eyes glaze over in exactly the same way they do when that tarnished logo fades in, accompanied by a familiar orchestral sting. I love Minecraft (and Skyrim, for that matter) but I'm just a bit tired of having them trotted out again and again, following more or less the same little routine every time. See that mountain? You can dig there.
Surprising no one, Microsoft brought their blue-ribbon hog out on stage yet again at their E3 press conference this year, but for the first time in a long while what they offered actually caught my eye. Literally. Minecraft's 4K Super Duper Graphics Pack looks stunning. Granted, it's not the first time I've seen the game looking that good. And that's a big part of my interest.
Mods amping up Minecraft's lighting, shaders, and related effects have been around for ages (Sonic Ether's Unbelievable Shaders being one of the most popular examples). Unfortunately, modding Minecraft can be a messy process, especially when all the different versions of the game are taken into account.
Getting the visual enhancements I wanted to use running on the version of the game I wanted to play was an absolute nightmare the last few times I tried it, and even when it worked it ran like trash. It was an infuriating process with very little payoff. Certainly not something I'm eager to repeat the next time I get the Minecraft itch.
More than the promise of updated visual effects, the real siren song of the Super Duper Graphics Pack is that it won't be a huge pain in the ass to actually use. Being officially developed and supported it can (ideally) accomplish what's often out of reach for even the most skilled and devoted modders: optimization and accessibility. It remains to be seen how this pack will perform across different hardware, but I'm honestly looking forward to finding out.