I am beginning to see why Notch chose the name Minecraft.
At least in survival mode, I spend some time building or exploring or farming or whatever, but I spend more time mining than anything else. There is something of a Zen serenity to it, just digging away under ground. I can put on an audio book, head down to the mine and swing that pick axe for hours and feel content.
Of course, that generates a lot of raw material.
My castle began spawning more and more chests as I stored away piles of cobblestone and other materials. Of course I had to store it away, all of it can be used as raw material for some future building project. I’m not even sure how you can get rid of things in the game, aside from dumping them in lava.
As I accumulated, I began to think about starting a new building project. I had been out exploring a bit more and decided that this time I would head due east, into the sunrise, start a new camp, and build a newer, bigger castle complex, leaving the old one behind for now.
So I loaded up on cobblestone and started building the eastward road. Building was the optimal term, as to the immediate east of my castle, over a single ridge, was a wide, low valley. So I essentially built a cobblestone bridge across the valley, two blocks wide so I wouldn’t fall off, with regular side pedestals for torches. For a while I was expending cobblestone at quite a rate.
And then I hit the next set of hills and my road building turned into tunneling and cobblestone and dirt began to accumulate again. And as I dug further and further, it became more and more annoying to run back home, or at least back to one of my shelters along the route. So I decided that it shouldn’t just be a road, but a railroad. And so another mine cart track project was born.
When I started that I was worried that I would run out of gold bars for making powered track to keep my mine cart rolling. However, the resource that quickly began to dwindle was iron. For every powered track your mine cart can roll over a flat track somewhere between 27 and 32 blocks before it starts to slow. Or so I have read, given that you launch your cart with three closely spaces powered track segments to get the cart up to full speed.
I thought I had a lot of iron, and then I started building rails.
Eventually I hit a mountain plateau area just as I was getting very, very low on iron. I decided to stop there, make a new base camp, and then start building… and mining.
I rode back to the castle, put together a mine cart with a chest, filled it with cobblestone and my last bits of iron, and pushed it onto the powered rails… only to watch it slow down and stop halfway to the next powered segment. That 27 to 32 estimate only seems to apply to carts you’re riding in, not cargo mine carts.
So I got into a mine cart of my own, launched down the track, and basically pushed the other cart down the line.
There I unloaded, built a bit of a perimeter, hung out the usual array of torches, then used my remaining iron to build tools to go mining. A new mine was born, and I dug down to level 12 and began pushing shafts off in search of minerals… primarily iron.
However, things were not going well. There was a lot of lava where I hit level 12, which meant working around hot zones. Meanwhile, I wasn’t finding much iron at all. I did start finding some emeralds, which I had never run into in the wild before, but iron was scarce. I started using cobblestone picks to dig, saving my remaining iron versions for times when I might need it.
Feeling like I needed some better plan, I went to Google to search for where the best level was to mine for iron ore. The consensus seemed to be that for straight up shaft based mining, level 12-16 was still the sweet spot. Just dig three high shafts every third block and you’ll find a lot of stuff.
But there was an alternate suggestion. If you did not want to dig a mine, caves were offered up as an alternative, less work option for iron. You can spot the ore and only have to dig selectively rather than burrowing constantly, and wearing out your tools in the process.
And, as it turned out, caves were something I had access to in abundance. As I was digging my way down to level 12 I had to cross a wide underground cavern. So I can up digging at level 12 and began exploring that… and by exploring I mean looking for veins of ore and putting torches everywhere.
You can see my cobblestone bridge across the cavern at the very top of that screen shot, with the torch on it.
And, sure enough I was able to spot quite a bit of iron ore on the walls of the main cavern as well as its many side passages. My iron crises seemed to slacken for the time being. Of course, being in an open cavern meant dealing with friends.
Zombies seemed to pour out of the darkness at me from time to time, in groups of four or more, accompanied by the occasional sniper skeleton. And I could hear more zombies through the walls. Sound is really an important thing in Minecraft. There are a lot of games I can play with the sound off, but Minecraft isn’t one of them.
I also spotted some moss covered stone on one side of the cave. I remembered seeing something about that, and at least it was something different, so I started digging my way up to harvest that… and as I did I opened up a room full of zombies. They came pouring of of the room and I had to run away and build a wall in order to catch my breath and heal up.
Fortunately, they seemed to get hung up in the various water obstacles in the cavern, so I was able to work my way back, slaughtering them as I went. Eventually I worked my way back into the room, put up torches, and found myself confronted with a monster spawner.
I wasn’t sure what to do with it, and it looked ready to unleash some more zombies, so I hit it with my pick… and it went poof. I was left in a room with a green moss floor and a chest.
I looted the chest, which had an enchantment book, a saddle, and a music disc along with some raw materials. So my first encounter with a number of things.
From there I kept searching for ore, and managed to build up a stockpile of iron. I should be able to mine for a while.
So I surveyed my new area, which felt so far away from our original camp. It was on a hill, with snowy peaks to one side, a forest across a wide river on another, and swamp visible in the distance. More biomes to explore.
And then I decided to see exactly how far I had gone. Minecraft keeps all sorts of stats on what you have done in a given world, another reason to love the game. Among the stats is the distance you have traveled by mine cart.
So I got my mine cart out on the track, noted down the number in the stats, then road it all the way back to my original castle and looked at the number again, then did some subtraction… then put the numbers in the right order and did some subtraction again… and ended up with 0.91 km.
910 meters. A little over half a mile. About a 10 minute walk at a modestly determined pace.
And my rail line to the village from last time is only 460 meters, or roughly half the distance.
It is a big world and I have barely been anywhere at all in it.
But there happens to be a village off in the distance from my new base.
So I will have to head there soon.