Theoretically, this should be easy. I just need to lay rails starting at location ABC and ending at location XYZ and my mighty rail loop project will be complete. Actually, it would probably be north from location ABC to JKL, then turn east until I hit XYZ, because Minecraft, like early Pokemon titles, just doesn’t do diagonals very well.
Unfortunately, mere coordinates do not tell the full tale. Terrain has a pretty big influence on where I lay my track. Some days I look at a mountain range before me and decided to simply tunnel on through. Other days I might try to go around if I can. And sometimes I just go up and over. The view is better when you go over, but I have to use a lot more powered rail to get up the side and it messes up my planned rail production ratios.
And then there are the wide open bodies of water.
That is the situation I am in now. Between my current location and the link up point in the mesa biome there is a considerable amount of wet.
From the looks of it, there are two possible routes, both of which are going to require a bridge.
The southern route (red line on the map) is the most direct and, as such, will require the least amount of rail to complete, and rail is a limiting factor for me. Right now I am on another mining binge to collect up iron for the next big building push.
The southern route will also likely only require me to build one more major supply and mining base. Such bases aren’t a big deal, really. In fact, I tend to enjoy building them up. Skronk has noted my tendency to go overboard on them. However, they are a distraction and use up more rail since part of any major supply base is a nether portal connected to the transit hub in the roof of the nether.
On the downside, the southern route will require a lot of bridging.
Again, it isn’t like I haven’t built bridges before.
I even put in bridges occasionally where I might not strictly need them.
But I have gotten a bit picky about them. I hate to do just a two-wide platform across a gap. I want something that is a bit of the scenery in its own right. And the longer the gap to cover, the more materials the bridge will need.
In addition, the south route also goes through a watery area, so I will be building bridges or platforms just to get to the bridge. Finally, the long water gap where the bridge will need to go is a bit dull when it comes to scenery.
The northern route (the purple line on the map) will require a lot more rail as it goes the long way around the top before cutting back to the mesa biome. That means a lot more mining for iron to build rails. I have been pretty lucky in that regard so far though. Iron has been reasonably abundant.
The northern route will also require a bridge, but not nearly as long as the southern route. Actually, with my current plan, the route will need two bridges before it hits the mesa biome, but the second one will be very short. (The mesa biome is another story. I will be building bridges… or digging tunnels… there no matter which direction I choose.)
I also estimate that I will need two, or possibly three, major supply bases on the northern route. Fun to build, and I persist in the fantasy that we’ll get a few more players on the server who might use those bases as start points for their own projects, but they are a distraction from the main project.
However, the northern route also offers some better scenery judging from my initial scouting, something that counts for a lot.
So I am leaning towards the northern route, mostly based on aesthetics.
However, while I am building up supplies, I also have a bit more scouting to do. There is a potential third route north of the peninsula on which I am building. I have to get in a boat and go explore further north to see if there is a closer land connection possible.
Fortunately, contrary to some rumors I hears, boats are still excellent scouting vehicles in Minecraft 1.9.