Minecraft and a New Age of Exploration

Last week I put up snapshot of the rendered map of our world in a post to show how much… or how little… of the potentially huge part of our minecraft world we had explored.

Strange World - Sep. 7, 2015

Strange World – Sep. 7, 2015

And in that world, the part we actually live in was a pretty small circle even within 6km wide, 5km tall rectangle of space.  That was maybe a square 2km by 2km at the most, not counting Skronk’s sand supply base south of his main settlement or other such outposts.

Local neighborhood

Local neighborhood

I also mentioned that a new friend, Aaron, had joined us in the game.

He spent some time setting up his own base… another source of new ideas for me… and the set out to do some exploring.

Up until that point Xyd and I had done some exploration, mostly by digging through the nether a ways and putting up portals to the overworld, taking advantage of that 8 to 1 travel bonus you get down there.  There are a number of such portals set out around our map.  You can see a couple of lone squares where we popped up but never bothered to make the overland trip home.

Aaron though had a different plan.  His declaration was “I’m kind of a ‘the journey is the reward’ kinda guy.” and so after he got his base settled and was equipped, he set off to walk further afield than we had previously, uncovering some as yet unseen biomes in our world.

So this week the map of the explored segments of our world looks like this.

Paths of the explorer

Paths of the explorer

While the east/west axis of exploration hasn’t expanded by much… I’m not going to count that lone ocean square that Xyd found… the north/south axis now stretches from about 8km north of the spawn point to 6km south, for a good 14km run.

I am actually not sure who did the northern run.  I suspect that was a special effort by Xyd in the nether, since I spotted one of his usual little towers at the north end of that run.  But I haven’t found his portal in the nether, so I cannot be sure.  However, on seeing the mesa biome with its colored clay layers, I made my own effort to tunnel through the nether and put up a portal there.

In the Mesa biome

In the Mesa biome camp on the map

That wasn’t a huge effort as Xyd had already started digging in that direction previously, so I took the furthest point I could find and continued moving from there.  My portal, of course, came up at level 14 in the world, so I had to dig up to the surface, build a shelter, take that portal down, and put it up again where it was more easily spotted.  I have plans for some of that colored clay.

But on the southward trek, Aaron reported back that he had found a couple more rare biomes.  The first was plain of ice spikes, where you can go and harvest packed ice if you have a pick with silk touch.

Ice spikes on the map

Ice spikes on the map

The other was a mushroom island, where giant mushrooms grown and where giant mushrooms grown and where you can find the rare mooshroom cow.

The island

The island

Aaron also mentioned that, in the interest of not having to make the many day journey back and forth, he had built a nether portal at each location, built a structure around each, and gave us the coordinates in the nether where the portals showed up.

I decided to go find the portal to the ice spikes, wanting to see that biome, so I headed down to the nether to look for the path.  Due to the 8 to 1 nature of things, the area around our spawn point portal is starting to fill up with portal protecting structures, which are becoming more elaborate in and of themselves.

Some nether forts

Some nether forts

I am not sure if you can see, but the fort in the back has a tree growing out of its roof.  Wood in the nether is never an issue, right?

There, I started looking for a path to the coordinates he gave, encouraged by his description of the terrain around the portal, which he said was one “…a decently wide plain with netherack and soul sand.”

A plain sounded good, as maybe then there would be a minimum of tunnels and lava.

But as I tried to thread my way through, I kept running into the usual barriers, mountains of netherrack and seas of laval.  So I decided to blaze my own trail.  It was just about 700 blocks away.  How hard could it be?  In fact, a trail had already been started in that dirction by Xyd, leading to another one of his portals under the sea, that got me 200 blocks closer on the Z axis.

From there however, I had to dig.

Well, actually I had to bridge first, as that portal was on the edge of a river of lava, so I opened up a passage over the lava and started moving backwards, pinky finger holding down the shift key to keep me from falling off, laying a single wide bridge of cobblestone with a guard rail on either side.

Oddly, heights still make my stomach flutter in Minecraft.  I can feel my body reacting to the idea of being way up high over things and in peril of falling off.  Not that height makes a difference over a sea of lava.  Fall one meter or one hundred meters into it, you’re dead and all your stuff is gone either way.

After that bridging effort, it was time to start tunneling through a wall of netherrack.

From one angle, that is actually the easy part.  Netherrack comes apart nicely with one hit from and iron pick, so the work goes fast.  There is just the whole bit about being careful where you come out and not stepping out over open space should there cease to be a floor and just figuring out where you are in the nether overall.  Landmarks are scarce unless you build them yourself.

Oh, and the ever present threat of lava.  Netherrack is well stocked with squares of lava just waiting to flow out over the hasty tunneler.  I actually had to bypass an area that had three such squares close together which conspired to keep plugging up the hole… you just have to put something in the lava square and it ceases to be… from being a reasonable proposition.  I just blocked up that little segment of tunnel and went around.

I got through that wall and was welcomed to another sea of lava work around.

Always more lava to cross

Always more lava to cross

I also started thinking about moving along the X axis.  I was closing in on 600 blocks along the Z axis, but was still 150 blocks away on the X axis.  I had hit something of an open-is area and started to thread my way through things, eventually running into another wall of netherrack.

Back to tunneling.

I made it through that to another open area full of lava.  It was a wide sea, but there were some islands of netherrack above the sea.  I decided to build up to them to help get over the whole thing without doing a full bridge.  If nothing else, I was starting to get low on cobblestone.  So up I went.

Stairs up in the nether

Stairs up in the nether

It is actually easy to build stairs up.  It is building stairs down from a high point that is a bit of a pain.

Upon getting to the top I found that the islands were a bit less substantial and more spread out than I thought.  This was going to require some more bridge building.

As I stood there eyeing the possible path, I thought I saw some cobblestone lit up in the distance.  So I build a quick bridge over to the next island, which turned out to be fairly flat and made up of netherrack and soul sand… and had a cobblestone building on the far side that contained a portal.  I had, pretty much by sheer luck, found the portal up to the ice spikes.

So I went through that and headed outside just in time to see the ice spikes lit by the warm glow of the setting sun.

On the plain of ice spikes

On the plain of ice spikes

I went back and finished off the bridge and paved a bit of the way across the soul sand, which slows you down when you move over it, finishing the nether road to the portal and using up the last of my cobblestone reserves.

The next task will be to try to find the portal that Aaron put on mushroom island.  But first I have to mine some more to rebuild my cobblestone supply.

And while I am doing that, I am also going to refine the huge pile of netherrack I acquired along the way to make nether bricks.  My plan is to use that, along with some of the colored clay blocks from the mesa biome, to build the Barad-dûr within sight of Xyd’s castle complex, so at night the unblinking eye will be staring his way.

Of course, that will need a lot more netherrack.  You have to refine down four to get one block of nether brick.  So I might as well harvest that while I look for mushroom island portal.  That will also give me time to consider how to build a giant unblinking eye out of lava.

5 thoughts on “Minecraft and a New Age of Exploration

  1. Fenjay

    I also tend to make portals to places of interest in the overworld that I’ve traveled overland, then try to find my way back to our principal nether base. It finally came to bite me the other day when a tunnel I was digging up to a plateau suddenly became a lava river. I should have stood my ground and blocked it up but I panicked, caught on fire and burned to death. Lava runs faster in the nether, y’know? :)

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  2. Knug

    The new changes in the new snapshot have made archers a LOT more difficult to deal with. BTW building an ice-based castle/home without a pick axe with silk touch is probably the hardest construction in minecraft, especially on hard difficulty. The rules the game has for how water freezes make this quite challenging. I will try hard to take a snap of the current Bondian lair I’ve built with a large chunk of ice construction atop a snow topped mountain.

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