Minecraft and the Gift of Fire

This started when, amongst his pile of advice, my pal Xyd mentioned that I should not venture back into the nether without flint and steel to hand.

I wasn’t even sure what flint and steel was, how I would make it, or if I would even be heading back to the nether again in any case.

But, as I have mentioned previously, lighting is a big deal and Xyd had also alluded to alternate lighting options beyond putting torches on every surface in sight.  I had seen glowstones in his world, so decided I should look into those.  Of course, those appear to source from the nether, so clearly I needed to figure out the whole flint and steel thing.

That was quickly done thanks to the web and soon I had combined a piece of flint with an iron bar to somehow create a flint and steel.  But I wasn’t quite sure what it did or why I would need it in the nether.

Of course, I figured fire would have something to do with flint and steel.  I have something similar at home for starting a fire when you lack matches.  My minimalist nod to survivalism, I’ll be able to make sparks as the world burns.

So after making flint and steel, I decided to see what sort of sparks it would make and managed to immediately set myself on fire.  It turns out that it is more like “flint and steel and some lighter fluid” when it comes to how it actually behaves.  I could point it at stone and cause a flame to appear and persist for a bit.  So I decided to take my new toy outside to see how it worked on things more flammable than stone… besides me, that is.

So I went outside a lit a tree on fire… and it burned!

Tree on fire!

Tree on fire!

In fact, it burned so well I started to be a bit afraid that maybe I had started a major forest fire just outside of my castle.

The fire seems to be spreading

The fire seems to be spreading

Sure, that would clear out some landscape and deny the skeletons a place to hide during the day, but I didn’t want to have to go out and start cutting fire breaks to control this blaze.  So I monitored the burn.

Still burning that night

Still burning that night

And while it burned along merrily, it did eventually go out.

Satisfied that I wasn’t going to wipe out the landscape… I started setting fire to more trees.  Trees that were hanging over my mine cart line, the remains of trees after I had cut down the trunk, and the occasional tree that just looked at me cross-eyed.

Finally cleared that bit above our house out

Finally cleared that bit above our house out

I rolled back and forth tossing flame out of my mine cart like a heavy smoker on a country road.

How dare you grow near my rail line!

How dare you grow near my rail line!

Soon a satellite view of the square mile where I live in Minecraft would have shown many little fires dotting the land.

Eventually I tired of setting random trees alight and went back to what I had planned to do, which was head to the nether in order to find glowstones.  But I had already moved my operations to my new encampment, so decided to build a portal to the nether there in order to begin my exploration.

Not that I completely stopped burning trees, but I slowed down some

Not that I completely stopped burning trees, but I slowed down some

Fortunately we had enough of the materials left from when my daughter built our first portal, so I was able to haul the ten blocks out and assemble a new portal in what I hoped was an appropriate portal containment unit.

Authorized personnel only

Authorized personnel only

I put it all together and then was just staring at a frame of blocks.  Clearly I needed to do something.  Then I recalled that Xyd had later told me that the reason I never wanted to be without flint and steel in the nether was that sometimes mobs can essentially turn your portal off, and flint and steel is how you reactivate it if it is down.  So I clicked my fire throwing device at the portal and it went live!

Off I went to the nether.

And I caught fire again as soon as I entered.  There was some burning netherrack right there at the portal.  I put some cobblestone down on top of that to put it out so as not to repeat that performance.  Then I smoothed out the area around the portal, just because that is the way I am, and put some torches around it for good measure.  Then I remember somebody mentioning that netherrack burns… after all, I had just seen it burning right there in front of me… so I gave that a try with my flint and steel.  Sure enough, that starts a merry blaze.  So I collected some netherrack to bring back with me, but then went back to my glowstone idea.

Glowstones look to form on what I might call the ceiling of the nether, for lack of a better term.  And the ceiling was a long way up from where I stood.  So I started looking for a way to get up there.

I could have, theoretically, just built some stairs.  However, I was a little nervous going up that high just on some stairs I was building as I went, and doubly so over the ocean of lava.  Don’t want to fall in!  And all the more so since I realized later I still had 20 diamonds in my inventory.  Note to self: Check inventory before you go places like this.

I ended up digging my way up to the top of a high point on the terrain, from which I managed to build myself a platform to try and get at the glowstones.

Getting closer to glowstones

Getting closer to glowstones

As I got within range, I smacked one with my pick… and it shattered like glass.  Uh oh!

However, it left some glowstone dust behind which, a little research showed, could be used to create new glowstones.  Once I completed my harvesting I made my way back to the portal and stepped through… only to find myself at our original portal.  Somehow the new portal I made was linked to the old one.  I could step into either surface portal and end up in the same location in the nether, but from the nether portal I would only land at the original.

I gather, from some quick searching, that the two portals might be too close together.  But for now I have essentially instant travel back to our original base.  I just have to make sure I keep a mine cart with me for the trip back.  (Which takes just under two minutes, leading me to believe that mine carts travel at about 17.75 MPH.)

So I got to drop off some flaming netherrack to brighten up the front yard of the castle.

Netherrack enhanced lighting

Netherrack enhanced lighting

Then I rode on over to the new camp and put together a glowstone… and was unimpressed.  Sure, it glows, but it isn’t as bright as all that.  Flaming netherrack though, that puts out some light, and it is dynamic too.  I just have to remember not to put it next to a wooden structure or in a building under a wooden ceiling or near a tree.  Also, if you just put a block of netherrack on the ground and light it, it will set fire to passing wildlife… and possibly yourself.  Put it on top of another block.

All that was left of the sheep was a fading "baa," some wool, and a bit of cooked mutton

All that was left of the sheep was a fading “baa,” some wool, and a bit of cooked mutton

Now I have another… if somewhat hazardous… light source to play with.  And glowstones.  I think I must be doing something wrong with the glowstones.  I’ll have to work on that.  I came back with 120+ glowstone dust, so I can make a few to experiment with.

Also, one final oddity.  I noticed later that places where I had set fires and then left while the fire was still burning… which included several spots along my rail line… seemed to retain the glow of the fire after the fire had burned out.

The magic glowing birch tree

The magic glowing birch tree

I am not sure if this is a bug or a feature… well, okay, it sure feels like a bug… but it makes my mine cart trip between bases much brighter at night.

13 thoughts on “Minecraft and the Gift of Fire

  1. Syl

    There was no netherrrack back when I played MC, I think, so glowstone it was! And yes, it’s not the greatest lightsource but with a good skin pack, it works great in huge church-style chandeliers and such. :)

    About burning trees…I ended one of my friend’s fledgling MC career by accidentally setting fire to his gigantic lothlorien home tree. Not even by lighting any fires but placing a small lava pool several blocks away and well, apparently lava splash sets blocks on fire.

    To this day, he doesn’t know about this. He still thinks it was a very ill-fated lightning bolt from our weather plugin. x)))


  2. Fenjay

    I use flaming netherrack outside several of my structures to act as beacons and raise the light level.

    I tried making a netherrack fireplace in my wooden house. After putting out the fire and rebuilding the top two stories, I looked at the wiki to see how far fire will reach out to set a wood block on fire. I should have reversed those two steps.

    Regarding glowstone: I *think* it has to be powered. Maybe?


  3. Talarian

    Glowstone doesn’t have to be powered. I find it makes for nice floor track lighting, or embedded in a wall or some such. It’s technically brighter than a torch, but I agree that it doesn’t feel all that bright when it’s a single block out in the world. I wonder if a brighter texture on the glowstone itself would fix that issue.

    Also, I was concerned you’d started a forest fire. Then I learned you’re a pyromaniac. So, well, enjoy the fire? :P


  4. Talarian

    Also, if memory serves, Nether Portals will “link” if they’re within 1024 blocks of each other in the real world (or 128 blocks in the Nether), so the only way to guarantee not overlapping is don’t build nether portals too close together. Unless you like the one-way teleport, which can be handy.


  5. Gryph

    Oh, that’s fabulous! And it’s making me miss Minecraft, I haven’t played in ages. When I was active, you had to have an enchanted pick to get glowstone whole instead of the dust.

    Man, I really do miss playing now…


  6. anon

    “Soon a satellite view of the square mile where I live in Minecraft would have shown many little fires dotting the land.”


    I’m not sure if you consider this cheating. Personally, I consider it making better use of my time. It does make it a bit easier to find things like villages and temples, but it doesn’t forgo compasses and in-game maps completely.

    Since you have blogged about MC a few time recently, you may also find it easier to show your point.


  7. Whorhay

    I had a monster in the nether extinguish my portal when I hadn’t brought a flint and steel. I’m here to tell you that you can get the same mob type to relight it for you, but it’s a pretty painful process and you are very likely to end up dead.


  8. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Jeromai – My buildings are made mostly of stone, so the worst I did was set some decorative wooden cross beams alight. But now I can aspire to more! That house really takes off fast.


  9. .xyd

    There are also lanterns which you can construct from glowstone and redstone but they require power. A lever makes a more aesthetically pleasing power source (IMO) than a redstone torch, and they’re cheaper to make! (since, well, redstone is just so rare and all…)

    My own personal room lighting trick puts tons o’ glowstone underfoot covered by carpet. Ahh, bask in the glow of a torchless room. You could also just forego light and the aggro mobs that accompany darkness by putting your house in the nether. Probably pretty hard to keep a farm alive there though…


  10. Nathan Morton

    Not sure what version you’re running (if latest or not) but in the latest glowstone puts off a light level of 15, which is about double that of a torch. That said, I generally only use it for interior lighting.


  11. TheGreatYak

    Since you’re already trading with villagers using the products of your cane farm… The tool smiths will offer as a mid level trade iron pickaxes with silk touch or efficiency. Silk touch is really good for harvesting glowstone blocks (or any ore block where you want to retain the raw block and not acquire the ore). The same tool smiths will also max level out trades for diamond pickaxes or shovels, which is useful if you really don’t want to spend time looking for diamonds in the mines.

    The villager priests will often have glowstone for trade too.

    Level out trades with a librarian and you can get some good enchant books, there’s some mechanics there with anvils and enchant tables that have changed a bit, not sure if they change more in 1.9 (which has preview snapshots available now).

    You may want to spend some time fishing under the open sky too, you don’t always catch fish…


  12. eldaeriel

    i’m fairly convinced it was the video linked by Jeromai that first got me into Minecraft – the idea of a game where you could build something and then accidentally burn it to the ground was far too intriguing to pass up – I did spend the first few months resolutely refusing to get a flint and steel though (just in case… :))


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