Sky Factory 4
A Java modpack downloaded by millions!
I’m standing on top of a tree, which is standing on a single block of dirt that is surrounded by a vast area of nothingness. A void, bereft of all matter. To the east, the sun is rising. To the west, the moon falls below the horizon. There is no sound, and nothing to do but chop down the tree. The leaves of the toppled tree decay into saplings, which I collect, and plant a new tree to begin the process again.
Days and weeks pass. My platform is now so big that I can barely see from end to end. One area is covered in pigs, snuffling out truffles that I can turn into coal, glass and redstone. Another part is home to a huge arboretum filled with tiny bonsai trees, growing yet more resources for me. A third area houses a humming nuclear reactor. A fourth is where my airship is parked. I’m building a home in the sky – out of nothing. This is Sky Factory 4.
Let’s start with the basics. Sky Factory 4 is a modpack – a pack of Minecraft Java edition mods carefully designed and configured to work together, and is available through the Twitch launcher. It was created by prolific modpack-maker Darkosto, working with Bacon_Donut, who put together the original Sky Factory back in 2014. The original – along with its successors – has been downloaded millions of times.
“You start out in an empty, infinite world on top of a tree and block of dirt directly below it,” Darkosto explains. “This has been a core concept of all the modpacks in the series. The idea was to create everything from nothing. Vanilla Minecraft asks you to mine and shape the terrain around you, but Sky Factory prompts you to do the opposite.”
If you’re totally new to modded Minecraft, dropping into Sky Factory 4 might initially be a little overwhelming. There are a lot of new things to learn. Why is the inventory screen covered with pages and pages of items? Why do I have a minimap in the corner of the screen? What’s this book in my inventory all about? But as you settle in, perhaps with the help of a friendly tutorial like this YouTube series created by Chosen Architect, you’ll start to get used to how it all works.
“The biggest draw of playing modded Minecraft is the depth it allows,” Darkosto says. “Have you ever felt that something in the vanilla game didn’t do exactly what you wanted? Have you ever felt that something was missing? Do you want more progression? Do you want the game to be harder or easier? All of those things can be done in modded Minecraft.”
In previous versions of Sky Factory, the early game revolved around carefully sieving dirt, gravel, and sand to extract resources. But in Sky Factory 4, gold really does grow on trees – gold trees, to be precise. With the dirt tree you start on, you can make a cobblestone tree, from which you can make clay, bone, and gravel trees, and so on until you’ve got trees that are growing emeralds, diamonds, and gold.
That book I mentioned before? It’ll help you work your way through the pack, and see most of what’s on offer. “We’ve gone through and created a whole new set of advancements that walk the player through early game progression and shows them a number of useful items later on,” says Darkosto. “A lot of people tend to miss this and get a bit lost.”
Different parts of the book are themed around different specialisms – storage, farming, machines, exploration, and more. Once you complete a page, you’ll be granted a “prestige point” which can be used to unlock powerful, permanent upgrades that you’ll have access to in all future games, like pots that can automatically harvest trees and drop their contents in an attached chest. Or jetpacks. Or in-game computers. Or a portal gun. Or just a really huge torch.
But completing advancements isn’t the only way to get prestige points. You can also try your hand at time travel. “This was a feature specifically requested by Bacon_Donut,” Darkosto explains. You can literally build a time machine, called a “Parabox”, which generates additional prestige points. You can run it for as long as you can meet its increasing power demands, but the moment you turn it off it’ll reset your world to exactly how it was at the moment you turned it on as if nothing had happened.
Building this feature was a major technical challenge, Darkosto says. “I wanted the game to remain open – having to restart the entire modpack and wait wasn’t an option for me.” So he persuaded a mod developer named DarkHax to build a mod that could briefly pause the world and reopen it when time travel happened. “A lot of the projects I work on ask mod developers to do some pretty crazy stuff!” Darkosto admits, adding that it took a full ten months to develop Sky Factory 4, from beginning to end.
Now it’s out, what’s next on Darkosto’s to-do list? “The last couple of projects I’ve worked on have been for other people,” he says. “Next I’d like to work on a small, light project of my own design. I have some ideas of some pretty neat concepts that mirror some of my first encounters with modded Minecraft. I fell in love with hardcore modpacks like Crash Landing, Blood N Bones, and Ultra Hard Survival 3. They all had a simple yet effective charm to them. I want to do something like that and try to polish it more than I have ever polished any previous pack.”
“I still play modded Minecraft on a regular basis. Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time streaming other games, but none have left me feeling the same as Minecraft does,” he adds. “Ultimately, my favorite thing to do is create new things, and making Minecraft modpacks has filled that void for me. Watching other people enjoy the modpacks gives me a huge sense of satisfaction that I’ve never experienced before.”
Sky Factory 4 is available now through the Twitch Launcher.