Another installment in my voyage of discovery with Minecraft as my daughter looks on in dismay.
After my time spent lost I was interested in the idea of a “day’s travel” in Minecraft. When playing in survival mode, you essentially have to get into shelter when the sun sets and hole up until the sun shines again. (So always travel with a bed so you can skip the night sleeping.)
The concept of a “day’s travel” as a unit of measure is affected by some factors, including how easy your path is. It just so happened that I had a camp that I setup that was almost exactly one day’s travel from our house. However, part of the reason it took that long was that the going was rather rough, with several large ridges to climb over and a lake to work around, along with the usual dense groves of trees to make it through.
So, I decided to see how much quicker the trip to that camp would be if I built a road straight there. I had collected up quite a bit of cobblestone and so started laying a three block wide path straight south from our house to the camp.
I did not get very far however. Just south of our house I ran into a deep canyon, one of the first obstacles I had to go around on my original journey. I was not going to allow this obstacle to force a detour on me yet again, but the gap across it was too wide to allow me to build out a bridge by placing block on the far side and filling in towards myself.
However, I had seen my daughter essentially build a bridge beneath herself as she moved forward. It looked like I just had to get close enough to the edge to be able to turn around and see the face of the block below me so I could highlight that face and place a new block against it. So I got closer and closer to the edge… and promptly fell off to my death.
Of course, when you die in Minecraft, all your gear and inventory and a bit of your experience stay right when you died and you have to go back and get them. Corpse recovery for a new generation.
Fortunately where I died wasn’t too far from the house and spawn point, so I grabbed a spare pick and a sword, just in case, headed back to the canyon, and started digging down in stair step style in order to get my stuff, which included a diamond sword and pick, my most valuable possessions.
At that point my daughter wandered up and saw me quite animated as I tried to safely get down to my lost gear and asked what happened. When I related my issue, I got a big eye roll and then a condescending, “Go get your stuff and I’ll show you how to do this.”
Re-equipped and back up at the end of my road at the lip of the canyon, she told me to hold down the shift key and then move to the edge of the precipice; having the shift key down would prevent me from going over the edge. Once there and turned so I could see the face of the block from which I wanted to extend my road, my daughter told me to start building. So I let go of the shift key and promptly fell to my death again.
“Dad! Keep holding the shift key!” she wailed in exasperation before walking back to her own computer to build the bridge for me before I could damage myself further. I collected my gear again while she built a single block wide path across the gap. I told her it ought to be three wide because, as we have seen, I tend to fall off of things. She agreed.
I practiced a bit with the shift-move thing, just to be sure I wasn’t going to screw up again, while she went on building out my road further south. Her plan was to lay down track so we could take a mine cart to the camp and, after going a short ways ran back to the house to build some track, including some powered track and the accompanying redstone torches, so she could start building that part right away.
She used up her track rather quickly and then went back to laying what would be the rail bed for the mine cart line to the camp. However her vision of how the track would look was different from my own. She started building over the various low to medium ridges and then around one tall ridge, taking a long detour around a lake and disappearing into the distance before finally getting back towards the camp.
I, on the other hand, was planning something as straight as a Roman road that would take no account of nature, in the grand tradition of Soviet agriculture. I would go through mountains, driving steel like John Henry to build my three block wide tunnels. And other metaphors. Also, straight meant we would need less track, an important item for me as we were running out of iron.
In fact, that iron shortage got me off of my road project and focused on mining. Up until that point my mining had been pretty haphazard, and had left holes in the fields around our house to the point that I started marking them with torches so I wouldn’t accidentally fall into any of them. I decided I needed to be more serious and began to delve deeper into the earth, well below the levels at which I had been mining. As I got down I dug into an open area, which I lit up with torches and decided to use as my underground HQ. I tried to block off various dark areas on the periphery to keep the monsters from showing up en masse and then started digging parallel shafts every three blocks in my search for ore.
It did take me a while to block off all the possible points of ingress into my mining camp, and I managed to die again, this time by catching fire by falling in lava while fighting a couple of zombies as I was trying to block yet another hole in the perimeter.
Fortunately I had built a well lit path down to my lair, complete with steps, so I was able to return, sword in hand, to clear away the zombies and reclaim my stuff.
Around then my friend Xyd, who comments here from time to time, sent me something about mining being optimum at level 12 in a world, as that would yield the most ore with the least likelihood of having lava spill down on you, so I took one of my side shafts and began digging downward to level 12, as indicated by the client informational overlay activated by control-F3. (I think it is control-F3. I mapped it to a special function key and promptly forgot the original key combo)
From there I starting digging a main shaft from which I dug a series of side shafts, every three blocks again… or two blocks between shafts… so as to find the maximum ore with the minimum digging. And I did find a decent amount of ore, though it was not without some hazards. True enough, I never did have lava pour in on me, but I did have to learn to be careful as I dug the side shafts as often enough I would end up with the ground level disappearing into an open area featuring its own supply of lava.
That sort of thing generally meant taking some care, though I did find that those open areas tended to have a decent supply of ore in the walls. Of course, I managed to make the cardinal mistake in one such area. A couple of blocks away from a pool of lava there was some gold ore in the floor and, in my haste I stood on it, dug straight down, and fell right into the pool of lava below, dying and losing all of my stuff. When it is in the lava, it is gone for good.
All gear is perishable, but I happened to have a couple of diamonds in my inventory when that happened, which stung a bit. Still, I rebuilt and carried on, learning yet another valuable lesson in wariness. I collected more iron and gold ore, plenty of redstone and coal, the occasional diamond or lapis lazuli, and lots and lots of cobblestone. All of which I hauled to the surface and stored. Even the cobblestone, which I figured might be useful for a building project.
And then the project presented itself. Xyd found his Minecraft world and sent me a screenshot of the castle he had built up.
That looked pretty impressive and made me think about building my own castle. Our house was fine, but a castle would be something fine. So I took a bunch of that cobblestone I had been collecting and went a ways from our house, close enough to see it but far enough that it was at least a bit in the distance, and began to build something approximating a castle.
This became a lesson in geometric progression. Basically, you need a lot of materials to build a big structure. A stack of 64 blocks of cobblestone seems like a lot, until you realize that only represents an 8×8 single layer patch of building material. In a structure that started with a base measurement of 27×27 and then added towers at the corner, stacks of material disappear quickly. At a couple points I had to go back to mining, less for the ore and more to cover the amount of cobblestone I needed.
Sometimes things seem deceptively easy. Behind the castle there was a hill between it and an open plain. So I decided I would just clear the hill away and have a big open plain to use for farms or whatever. After burning through half a dozen shovels for dirt and axes to clear trees, I started thinking about that estimation problem about how many dump trucks would it take to move all the material that makes up Mt. Everest.
And then Xyd shared his Mincraft world with me and I got to see his castle up close. The screen shot doesn’t do it justice. I climbed up to the top level (and eventually fell off, because me) and found that I was on the same level as the clouds in the sky. I stood there in the middle of them as the drifted by.
Meanwhile, he had also built up an astonishing level of automation inside his giant structure. Through the miracle of redstone and hopper technology, you can dump your ore in a chest down in his mines below the castle, where it will be automatically picked up by a mining cart, transported, sorted, smelted, and put in the appropriate container for later use.
Yeah, that is some crazy stuff. I let my daughter run through that and she was immediately trying to figure out how all of the automated processing systems worked. She has generally been more about PvP and action and building in general than such detail, but she was already trying out prototypes based on what she saw.
And that gave me some ideas for my own castle in progress. My initial goal will be to include a three block wide shaft down to level 12 for mining, which will give me enough width for stairs and a mine cart track, so I can at least work on setting up a system to haul my ore to the surface. I’ll work on more complexity later. And digging that shaft down will generate more building material for the structure itself.
So much to do.