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What is simulation distance in Minecraft: Java Edition 1.18?

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Minecraft is a game that has become increasingly complex over the years despite retaining its simple premise and gameplay, and much of this complexity is seen behind the scenes in the game’s internal framework.

Among the many options and settings of Minecraft is a parameter called “simulation distance”, which may not be particularly obvious when it comes to what the setting actually does. Things like weight, graphics and FOV are simple enough, though Minecraft settings as distance simulation can get into the little things most players won’t have to deal with.

Clearly, the simulation distance is similar to the rendering distance. The rendering distance dictates how far from the player the game displays visible pieces and loads them, but the simulation distance dictates whether they are “active”.


A further look at the distance simulation in Minecraft

Where rendering distance dictates loaded pieces, simulation distance dictates hooks and piece activity (Image via Mojang)
Where rendering distance dictates loaded pieces, simulation distance dictates hooks and piece activity (Image via Mojang)

Players in Minecraft have their visions chunks loaded in via the rendering distance setting, but the simulation distance decides whether these parts actively interact with the environment. The distance of the simulation dictates which of the loaded parts have updated entities or specific blocks. For example, a piece activated by simulation distance will spawn entities such as mafias, and blocks such as water or lava will be marked and flowed where applicable.

Pieces that are loaded at rendering distance in Minecraft, but are not active via the simulation distance, will essentially only appear as a landscape. Things like plant growth, animal maturation, or mafia spawning will generally not be actively visible until the piece in question is close enough to the simulation distance of the player. This is a way for Minecraft to save on player memory usage, as parts outside the standard simulation distance are not viewed often and are far from the player.

Players can increase their simulation distance in Minecraft as they wish, but they should do so with caution. Increasing this particular setting is significantly more burdensome than increasing the rendering distance.

This is because the game actively manages many mobs and other entities on these parts even when players are not near them, and this takes a significant toll on CPU power compared to visual rendering that controls rendering distance.

If Minecraft players have the hardware to handle things, increasing the distance of the simulation in the settings can make the player’s world feel more alive, but if the frames start to fall or there is a significant hang as a result, players should reduce the setting.


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