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Creating Games


The power of Minetest is the ability to easily develop games without the need to create your own voxel graphics, voxel algorithms, or fancy networking code.

What is a Game?

Games are a collection of mods which work together to make a cohesive game. A good game has a consistent underlying theme and a direction, for example, it could be a classic crafter miner with hard survival elements, or it could be a space simulation game with a steampunk automation aesthetic.

Game design is a complex topic and is actually a whole field of expertise. It’s beyond the scope of the book to more than briefly touch on it.

Game Directory

The structure and location of a game will seem rather familiar after working with mods. Games are found in a game location, such as minetest/games/foo_game.

├── game.conf
├── menu
│   ├── header.png
│   ├── background.png
│   └── icon.png
├── minetest.conf
├── mods
│   └── ... mods
├── README.txt
└── settingtypes.txt

The only thing that is required is a mods folder, but game.conf and menu/icon.png are recommended.

Inter-game Compatibility

API Compatibility

It’s a good idea to try to keep as much API compatibility with Minetest Game as convenient, as it’ll make porting mods to another game much easier.

The best way to keep compatibility with another game is to keep API compatibility with any mods which have the same name. That is, if a mod uses the same name as another mod, even if third-party, it should have a compatible API. For example, if a game includes a mod called doors, then it should have the same API as doors in Minetest Game.

API compatibility for a mod is the sum of the following things:

  • Lua API table - All documented/advertised functions in the global table which shares the same name. For example, mobs.register_mob.
  • Registered Nodes/Items - The presence of items.

Small breakages aren’t that bad, such as not having a random utility function that was only actually used internally, but bigger breakages related to core features are very bad.

It’s difficult to maintain API compatibility with a disgusting mega God-mod like default in Minetest Game, in which case the game shouldn’t include a mod named default.

API compatibility also applies to other third-party mods and games, so try to make sure that any new mods have a unique mod name. To check whether a mod name has been taken, search for it on

Groups and Aliases

Groups and Aliases are both useful tools in keeping compatibility between games, as it allows item names to be different between different games. Common nodes like stone and wood should have groups to indicate the material. It’s also a good idea to provide aliases from default nodes to any direct replacements.

Your Turn

  • Create a simple game where the player gains points from digging special blocks.