Zen and the Art of Minecraft Maintenance

In my thrashing around to find a game that would scratch the seemingly unscratchable itch for something to escape into fully I launched Minecraft.

It had been a while.

About a year ago I wrote about finding the pillagers associated with the Village & Pillage update, but my play time tapered off from there.  Over the summer I downloaded the latest copy of the world… coming up on being five years old soon… and cancelled my Minecraft Realms account.  It wasn’t all that expensive at $7.99 a month, but that was also the monthly price for Disney+, so I closed that down and went off to watch The Mandelorian.

So to go back to the world meant running it locally, something I hadn’t really done in ages.  I went looking for hosting for a shared world almost immediately after starting to play.

Logging back into that last save of the world, I traveled back to the core area along the rail lines I had built over the years.  There I found a hole blown in a section of track.

This happens sometimes when you are traveling by mine cart.  A creeper will be close to the tracks and you’ll roll on by and be close enough to the creeper to set him off… and boom, there goes a section of track.  But that is in your rear view mirror and, as some of us were taught apparently, what is behind you doesn’t matter.

That gave me a mission idea.  I decided to go ride the rails once more to check the track integrity and repair places where it had been blown up.  I packed up some rail supplies… track pieces and redstone torches… and set out on my ride.

Replacement track in hand

It is a long ride to roll down all of my overland rail routes.  I have the great loop I made back in the day as well as the rail line that runs from the north end of the loop up the road and rail line that I built to connect the northern mansion.  To cover the whole thing takes about a half dozen day/night cycles in the game even if you’re not stopping along the way.

So I rolled on down the line, running into a couple more breaks in the rails.  They appeared to be clustered around one stretch of track though, so I was able to carry on and just sight see.

I was interested in how the game would perform locally.  For most of the life of our Minecraft world, originally founded back on Father’s Day 2015, it has been online and hosted by Minecraft Realms, which has had its issues over the years.  The servers tend to be a big laggy during peak hours so moving by mine cart can end up with a lot of rubberbanding or stops and starts as the server tries to keep up with your movement, loading up new chunks as they approach.

It was better on my own machine, but not as much as one might have hoped I suppose.  I had thrown Minecraft on a regular drive rather than an SSD, so I hadn’t optimized for performance, but even a local drive ought to do okay.  I got some lags now and then, though I suspect the power manager’s desire to spin down any drive the moment nobody is accessing it might play into that.  I should tinker with that setting.

But it also wasn’t an apples to apple comparison.  Over on Minecraft Realms they limit your view distance so that you only load a relatively few chunks at a time.  On my machine I had the view distance set out to maximum, so I was making the game load up a lot more data.  So that probably plays into the lag I was experiencing from time to time.

It was worth it however.  After years of playing with a horizon that was very close, rolling across the world with the horizon set much further away was… immersive in a way I had forgotten Minecraft could be.

It is hard to find a screen shot that does the feeling justice.  With the minimum view distance it is very easy to get lost in the world, to lose sight of landmarks very quickly, to not know what is just over the next hill because the horizon is so close to hand.  But now I could see much further out, see things down the line or off to either side; towns, animals, different biomes.  It was quite pleasant.

Looking out as I roll along

So I made my way around the loop and then on my way up north to the mansion, stopping every once in a while at one settlement or another to spend the night or explore a bit.  I rolled through a lot of places that were just vague memories.  It was a very relaxing tour, which wound up at the mansion where I found my heard of llamas.  I had forgotten about them.

A bit of my heard and the mansion

I stayed there for a while, poking around a bit and clearing out a few zombies and skeletons who had taken up residence.

After that I went into the nether to take the rail line there back to the main loop, which takes 1/8th the time.  But even wandering around a bit in the nether I found the expanded horizon aspect of the game to be an improvement.  Being able to see further changes the feel of things more than I expected it would.

Back in the world and up in the clouds

I am somewhat torn by this.  I did quite enjoy the shared world aspect when I had the world hosted.  That helped make the world what it is.  But now, rolling around it by myself with my horizons literally expanded, it makes the game seem more appealing.

I suppose there are hosting services that would allow this sort of view distance to be set, but no doubt it would cost.  Minecraft Realms is as cheap as it is largely because it limits what you can do.  There are always trade offs I suppose.

6 thoughts on “Zen and the Art of Minecraft Maintenance

  1. Marushka

    I loved hearing about your Minecraft maintenance adventures. Finding a game with a really immersive world can be a challenge. Terraria is fun to explore, but I’m always sad to hit the boundaries – and recently I’ve been playing Stardew Valley, which doesn’t have the spatial expanse but offers a lot of depth of interaction.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. mikeazariah

    My wife and I make worlds until she gets bored of them, then we either strike out in a new direction or create a new one.

    m

    Liked by 1 person

  3. anypo8

    If there’s a way you can get a static IP cheap or free, I’d highly recommend hosting a friends-and-family shared world locally as I’ve done for a long time. With tools like Bukkit taking care of the worst of the administrative burden there’s not that much to do on an ongoing basis. (Eventually, I augmented Bukkit with my own tools, but I’m weird).

    One big advantage of shared host-your-own is that you can dig around in the database. Many years back somebody on my friends-and-family server stole all my diamond gear out of a chest in my home. I tracked down the nephew who was the culprit by building a Haskell tool to search the DB. It was ridiculous, but it was also really fun to build. :-)

    With modern Minecraft hosted locally, view distance isn’t really much of a thing. It’s really sweet. I’m really looking forward to continued improvements on Veloren‘s view distance, as it looks like it’s going to be a great game once it’s a little further on.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Archey

    I host a friends and family server in AWS. It would be crazy expensive if I ran it 24×7, but we don’t play 24×7, so I auto turn it on around 5-6 pm and off at midnight and it doesn’t run too much higher (about $20/month). And as a bonus you can host an overviewer render out of an S3 bucket.

    I’ve also added some other stuff over the years but that’s the gist, and an option that works pretty well for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ula

    I’ve been thinking about Minecraft again lately, too. I always get tired of it after a little while though when I get to the point where it doesn’t feel like there’s anything out there worth exploring for (for which to explore). Still, I miss the creative aspect. We were enjoying Occupy White Walls for the creative aspect for a while but got a little bored after realizing how easy it is to find and obtain new art. I wish something had creative building plus more intense challenge to obtain things. I have an idea for a game that would meet those criteria, but it would be an enormous amount of work and I doubt there would be a large enough market to make it worthwhile.

    Like

  6. evehermit

    If you are using a local Java Minecraft install, remember you can manually increase the amount of memory allocated to the game. That can greatly improve performance – as my son was just exclaiming a few hours ago.

    Liked by 1 person

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