Category Archives: Minecraft

November in Review

The Site

I got another achievement this month.

A thousand of you hit that button

A thousand of you hit that button

In the context of, a follower is somebody with a account that follows your blog so they can view updates in the reader.  This surprises me both because I am not all that fond of the reader and because I muted notifications about new followers a while back, so wasn’t really keeping track at all.  Also I turned off that little floating thing that has the “follow” button, so I am not sure how people even do the follow thing here at this point.

But now I have accrued 1,003 followers in the last 6 years, which is when “follow” became a thing on  If you know how, you can find a list of all of your followers.  Mine is 51pages long and full of people I don’t recall.  But my third follower ever was Stargrace.  She has been pretty busy of late.  And follower 1,000 was Adam Harkus, who is a guitarist and travels.

Of course, a thousand isn’t all that many people and this month has actually seen another drop in page views.  The previous time I mentioned it, Google was the reason.  There was a date after which referrals from Google dropped by about 25% daily.

This month however Google has remained steady.  Instead the drop has come from referrals from other blogs and related sites.  I don’t know if the election and its aftermath has everybody otherwise occupied or if I am just wrote dull stuff this month… I certainly did not write much about WoW and haven’t been in a war in EVE… but on average a good 100 people a day simply aren’t clicking on links that lead to my site.  Life in blog lane.

One Year Ago

The launch of Fallout 4 caused a dip in porn viewing on the internet.

Nintendo announced they were re-releasing Pokemon Red, Blue, & Yellow on the 3DS Virtual Console.

BlizzCon was approaching and I laid out a “need vs greed” list of things I thought would happen at the event.  But before BlizzCon there had to be the Q3 quarterly results.  The big news was that World of Warcraft held steady and had 5.5 million subscribers.  However, Blizzard said they were not going to talk about subscription numbers any more.  They would be talking about Candy Crush Saga though, having purchased King for 5.9 billion dollars.

Then BlizzCon came and I had to score my list.

It also slipped out a bit early that the WoW Legion expansion would not hit until summer 2016, September 21 being the last possible date listed, which seemed a long ways off.  I wasn’t yet ready to return to the game.  I used gold to grab a WoW Token for 30 days of play time and spend the most of it just earning that money back running missions in my garrison.

I dipped my toe back in Lord of the Rings Online for a bit.

Still playing Minecraft, I finished up the Great Northern Road and highlighted the guardian farm that Aaron built.

In New Eden, the Parallax expansion was released, the last named monthly update in Syndicate to be released.  From then on names were reserved for big expansions while monthly updates were simply know by their date.

There was also the start of the ill-fated Fountain War Kickstarter campaign, which was plagued by hubris, gaffes, bad ideas, and “Grrr Goons” hostility.  Not that it didn’t deserve some of the latter as it was a clusterfuck and was not winning fast enough.  It was finally cancelled before the clock ran down, but it left a bad taste in everybody’s mouth.

There was also a Fountain War video which was better received… but then nobody was asking for $150,000 to produce it.

Meanwhile, another member of CSM X got cut.  Not a Goon.

CCP Quant took his EVE Vegas presentation and made it the first of the monthly EVE Economic reports to be publish.

And actually in the game, the Reavers were down in Wicked Creek to spar with TEST.  We were not there long, but it was one of those deployments that generated its own legends in the SIG.  We were called back because a small war was brewing in Cloud Ring against some foes, old and new.  Some had no sov and were hitting us from low sec.  We fell on them when we could in what was being dubbed the “Kickstarter War.”  Herein lay some of the seeds of what would be called the “Casino War” and, later, “World War Bee.”

Over at Daybreak, EverQuest II got the Terrors of Thalumbra of expansion while EverQuest got expansion number 22, The Broken Mirror.  There was the Phinigel “true box” progression server coming up for EverQuest.  The EverQuest II server consolidation was wrapping up, on Stormhold the Kingdom of Sky expansion was voted down, and the game turned 11, all of which I covered in a single post.

Daybreak also shut down Dragon’s Prophet, which lives on in Europe under another publisher.

Smed, gone from Daybreak, wanted to stop talking about money when it came to video games.

And finally, I had a test… a Star Wars test… for those wishing to date my daughter.

Five Years Ago

I looked back at the Star Wars Extended Universe novel Heir to Empire, which turned 20 years old. That might be my most coherent piece on the site.

In EVE Online, the upcoming Crucible expansion had a chance to remove the Incarna stink from the game. Oh, and ship trails were back. And Hulkageddon V was announced… about six months early it turns out.

I reviewed my 2011 MMO outlook. Rift appeared to be the unlikely winner, while DCUO had already gone F2P.

Speaking of going F2P in under a year, I had my first peek at Star Wars: The Old Republic in the beta. Pre-NDA drop, I used Star Wars Galaxies to describe the game as nothing new. Then the NDA dropped and I bitched some more. I did not find the game fun, cancelled my pre-order, and went back to Rift.

And then there was EverQuest II going free to play on all servers, which made me wonder what else in the SOE line up might follow suit.

Then, suddenly, Vanguard started showing inexplicable signs of life.

On the Fippy Darkpaw server, the Scars of Velious was complete and the Luclin expansion went live. Also, breaking the retro aspect, Fippy Darkpaw players got the same new hot bars that all EverQuest players got with the new expansion. They actually worked like hot bars in other games.

In Rift, we made it to Meridian and then faced our first boss while learning the rules of their LFG tool. Oh, and the damn Yule rifts were up before Thanksgiving. I swear, it gets earlier every year.

We learned of the real money auction house in Diablo III. An auction house focus for the game? I’m sure that will work out great.

And also on the RMT front was the Guardian cub pet in World of Warcraft. I did a couple of price checks on those, but somebody should probably go back and see how prices look a year later.

Oh, and WoW had lost 2 million subscribers. Remember when that was a big deal?  But it was still insanely profitable.

Torchilght II was delayed because we had other things to play, right?

AOL shut down That doesn’t mean what you think.

I announced the winners of my Azeroth travel poster contest.

Google was pissing me off by changing up Google Reader. I am still annoyed by some of the features they axed, but at least they fixed the layout so you could reduce the huge amount of white (read: wasted) space in the new default layout.

And we said farewell to LEGO Universe.

Ten Years Ago

Our World of Warcraft Saturday Night Permanent Floating Instance Group finished up Blackfathom Deeps,The Stockades, Shadowfang Keep, and started in on Razorfen Kraul.

In EverQuest, I picked up The Serpent’s Spine and tried running a new character though some of the new level 1-70 content.  I also set out a minor goal of taking screen shots to compare Faydwer in EQ and Faydwer in EQII that lead to posts about Kaladim and Kelethin.

And in EverQuest II, the Echoes of Faydwer expansion came out.  Once I found a copy and got past the patching process and into the game, I made a fae swashbuckler and went to town.

the Revelations expansion hit in New Eden, my first expansion update in EVE Online.  I followed the general wisdom and made sure I had a long skill training the night before.

The Wii and the PlayStation 3 were both released in the US.

And the maker of the ubiquitous ZMud client announced a replacement product called CMud.  I tried the demo version, but since ZMud continued to work for me, I stuck with that.

Most Viewed Posts in November

  1. Make My Alpha Clone
  2. Pokemon Go Account Hacked and Recovered
  3. EVE Online Passes 50K Players Online Again
  4. Election Night in Fountain
  5. The Demise of BattleClinic
  6. WoW Legion Sales Numbers Stacked Up Against Past Launches
  7. EVE Vegas – Like Finds Like and Other Things
  8. Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
  9. Pondering That Legion Level 100 Boost
  10. Projecting on BlizzCon 2016
  11. Ascension Day in EVE Online
  12. Scoring My BlizzCon Projections

Search Terms of the Month

why isn’t torchlight 2 more popular
[There is probably a long post in that. For me, it just wasn’t as compelling as Diablo III was]

eve online goonsquad war even when “alpha clone” -state
[I really want to know what they were looking for]

minecraft 1.11 were do you find the new woodland mansion
[I think I actually answered that one this month]

swg source code download for private use
[They try to limit that to just scoundrels]

Spam Comment of the Month

Thank you for sharing superb informations.
[I just like the plural at the end there. Give me all your datas!]

EVE Online

I did not end up playing very much EVE Online this past month, which is odd, because we got the Ascension expansion. That was a big deal, with Alpacas and new explosions and such.  But it was also a month where the Imperium was mostly at peace.  I went on a couple of ops into Fountain where we take pot shots at The-Culture.  But otherwise Delve has been pacified, Querious filled, and anybody who wanders into our space gets caps dropped on them.  Since I often only log in for strat ops, quite times can often lead to low play times.


The surprise entry this month, as my activity there of late had been rather listless.  But it too got an expansion which spurred an exploration drive as I sought out a woodland mansion of my own and then worked to link it up with the rest of our infrastructure.  It is a game where having a project can make all the difference.  Now what to do with that mansion?

Pokemon Go

The double experience holiday event helped push things along for me, as have the new daily first and seven day streak bonuses.  And I got a Snorlax from a 10km egg, which is now my highest CP Pokemon, ringing in currently at 2,185.

Current end of month stats:

  • Level: 24 (+2)
  • Pokedex status: 99 (+20) caught, 129 (+16) seen
  • Pokemon I want: Ditto
  • Current buddy: Ivysaur

Pokemon Sun & Moon

A new game for the core Pokemon RPG fans.  And a pretty decent entry in the field, as it walks the tightrope path between sticking to the core essentials and bringing new things to the franchise… besides new Pokemon.  My daughter and I have been playing it, though I think she is up on it because a couple of her friends at school play Pokemon as well.  My influence wains, but I’ll take any play time I can get with her.  And at least one of her friends has said it is so cool that her dad plays Pokemon too.  Hah!


I started out this month gangbusters on Stellaris.  And then I got past the hump and figured out the early game, only to fall into the abyss of the mid-to-end game that can really drag on as empires settle in and wrestle with each other over the scraps, form federations, and then stare at each other while the victory conditions remain way out of reach.  The Civilization end-game problem writ on a galactic scale.

World of Warcraft

Azeroth has been rapidly falling out of favor around here.  I certainly played less WoW than any other game I called out this month, and at least one I did not. (I played some Age of Kings at one point.)  Part of that has been something of a reaction to the pre-flying achievements needing mythic dungeon runs or a crazy rep grind, depriving me of the sort of longer term goal that might keep me going.  And then Blizzard has been breaking things.  I was getting back into pet battles, right up until a patch broke the PetBattle Teams addon.  Without that, sorting through 500+ pets to make a team for a given fight is just too annoying.  And for some reason, I can no longer send things via email to my alts, breaking a crafting thing I had going on.  So WoW may be on its way out for me very soon.

Coming Up

The final month of 2016, the year that will be that year for some time to come, looms.  There is still time for and additional disaster and a few beloved celebrity deaths.  But still, there is limited time left, though I am still predicting some sort of horrible New Year’s Eve ball dropping fiasco that will take out Anderson Cooper, Kathy Griffin, Carson Daly, and Ryan Seacrest live on national TV.  Guy Lombardo never faced such peril.

Otherwise, what have we got for December?  Probably a Steam holiday sale, even though we just had a Steam autumnal sale.  Steam sales have lost their edge.

I’ve got the usual five posts to write, looking forward and back, reviewing predictions and making new ones, and generally wrapping things up for the year.

There is a rumor that Pokemon Go will get new Pokemon in December.  No Man’s Sky is supposed to get an update to make things better, though the current $60 price makes it too pricey for me to gamble on just yet.  There will likely be the usual EVE Online monthly update, maybe with a holiday event.  Holiday events will be going on in all the usual games.

And for some of us it will be wet and cold out, which will give is a fine excuse to stay inside and play video games.

More Minecraft Mansion Fun – Tunnels, Fires, Explosions, and Llamas

I kept on working around the mansion I had found last week over the weekend, both to make it more livable and to connect it to our nether transportation hub.

Livability meant expanding my farm, exploring a bit, marking trails, and taming some of the local llamas.

They look so festive when festooned

They look so festive when festooned

The latter was the larger effort.  As noted previously, I was into the nether and up into the roof after a couple of mishaps, but that still left the long dig to the nearest station or terminal on the nether rail line.  Just looking at the rendered map of the rail loop and dividing by 8, the portal and rail terminus in the nether for the Mesa Biome Station seemed to be my best bet.

The question was how many picks would I go through in order to make it there.

In dying and respawning far from home, I was well away from the Zombie Pigman harvesting machine which can be used to collect gold as well as experience.  Tools with the mending enchant on them can be repaired via experience gain with that machine, so tools rarely break for me as I just go top them up when I get low.  Or I do when I have access to it.  Now I would have to dig to get there.

I wore my enchanted diamond pick down to the very nub, eating through netherrak and an impressive pace, then stored it away to be repaired later, and started digging with the two diamond picks I had been able to make.  I had about 2,000 blocks to go southward, and another 200 westward to hit the portal if my calculations were correct, and my tunnel was 3 blocks high and 1 wide.  So a minimum of 6,600 blocks of netherrack to remove, though that number is low because I had to dig out waypoints along the run to store the netherrack.

As with every such infrastructure project I have done, having to run back and forth from your staging base begins to eat up more and more of your time the further along you get.  So I had a stack of chests with me (no shortage of wood up an the mansion) and would dig out rooms at points to put down a chest to store the netherrack when my inventory got full.  And then, once the second diamond pick was gone, to store the iron picks which wore out quickly and dug much slower to boot.

Eventually though I hit the point where I thought I needed to turn west.  Just two hundred meters to go.  And, as it turned out, my calculation was correct.  I hit the northeast corner of the room where the Mesa Biome portal and rail line were located.  But if I had cut west just two blocks earlier, I would have missed it completely.

That done, I rode a mine cart back to the hub, repaired my tools via the Zombie Pigman machine, and started scrounging about for material to make rails.  I had excess rails all over the rail loop, but remembering exactly where was a bit of a chore.  Once I had filled my inventory though, I rolled back out to the Mesa Biome portal and began laying track in the nether back along the tunnel I had dug.

Laying track goes quickly if the path has already been dug, though it helps if you do not forget to bring along the redstone torches necessary to light up the powered rails that actually propel mine carts down the line.  There was still some running back and forth and I eventually ran out of rails and excess iron, but Aaron said I could tap into the stock he kept at his base.  That was enough for me to finish the run.  As with the ride out to Aaron’s mansion, riding out to mine takes nearly 10 minutes by rail through the nether.  Still, much better than walking overland.

Aaron came out to take a look at my mansion, as it had some rooms his did not.  He also found a secret room on the second floor that I had missed.  But neither of us could find the secret location I knew existed.

In order for me to use the map tool to render a map of our world into Google map format, I have to download a backup of our world from Minecraft Realms. (And if I have to pick the best thing about Minecraft Realms, aside from price, it is the fact that they back up your world regularly with no fuss about disk space.  And you can roll back to a save pretty easily.)

When I download the backup from Minecraft Realms, it goes into the Minecraft saves directory, where it acts like a local world.  I can log into the save and tinker with things if I want, though I usually don’t.  But after I had burned the woods around the mansion, carefully keeping it from catching fire, I wondered what would happen if it did catch fire.

So I went into a recent local save, got out my flint and steel, and ran around the mansion setting it on fire, then let it burn itself out to see what remained.  Here is what I ended up with.

As you can see, fire is not efficient at spreading.  While it burned plenty of the mansion away, it still left odd gaps in the middle of otherwise quite flammable wood.  It also burned away part of another secret room, the one I was looking for when Aaron arrived.   In the burned out mansion on the save I found the key elements of it, which were a trapped chest with two blocks of TNT, one on either side.

Trapped chest

Trapped chest

Being in a destructive mood… I had just set fire to a mansion… I stood back and fired a flaming arrow into the TNT, which ignited the fuse and set off the charge.  *BOOM*

That was the end of that... sort of...

That was the end of that… sort of…

The charges broke the cobblestone blocks below the chest, which turned out to be infested with silverfish.  When freed from the blocks, they came straight for me and I had a running fight for a bit as I tried to slay them with my bow while keeping some distance between myself and the attacking mob.

I survived, but the chest had been obliterated.  I didn’t note down the coordinates, but recalled the general area of the chest and the fact that it was on green wool of all things.

The wool set me off in the wrong direction as close by where the chest room was there lay an Illager statue room, the statue made of wool.  I thought the chest might be buried in the giant head that fills much of that room.  So when Aaron arrived I had already been fruitlessly digging through the illager’s wool brain.  I mentioned the room to Aaron, but neither of us could find it.

Later, I went back to look at the screen shots I took of the burned mansion.  The picture of the chest exploding showed the area to be in a corner of the mansion.  That, along with the wool, had put me in the statue room, which was in a corner of the mansion.  However, the other picture showed a cobblestone wall, which gave me the bearing I needed.  The mansion had a notch so that there were two corners at the back of the mansion, one at the statue room and then another behind a cobblestone jail room. (You can see all the room types on the wiki.)  The wall in the picture with the chest had to be the back of that room, so I dug through the back wall of the cell and found the room.

Another chest with explosives

Another chest with explosives

Now, of course, the question is how to deal with this.  How to deal with TNT that has been placed is a long discussed topic, however many of the threads I have seen are somewhat vague and often so old as not to be trustworthy anymore.

So the chest abides for now, though I think I will go in and clear out the silverfish blocks one by one before I try anything.  No need to have an explosion AND get mobbed at the same time.

Meanwhile, back in the village where I spawned my cartographer, and where I went to collect rails and other materials once the nether tunnel was complete, I found that a second cartographer had been spawned in my rush to breed some new villagers.  I stuffed him with paper and compasses and, thus sated, he offered up for sale a map to a third woodland mansion, this one in the southeast.

The third map

The third map

I sent out a note to everybody about the map, placing it in a chest in the nether transit hub if anybody wanted to go off on their own mansion hunting adventure.  We shall see if Xydd or Skronk take the bait.

A Secluded Mansion in Minecraft

With the Ascension expansion in EVE Online and Pokemon Sun & Moon having landed last week, I was perhaps a bit surprised when I ended up playing more Minecraft than anything else over the weekend and since.

Of course, there was a Minecraft update and Aaron’ mansion adventure to inspire.  After that I decided I wanted to go find one as well.  That meant getting one of the new cartographer villagers to spawn, since each one only sells a map to a single woodland mansion.  I headed to one of the villages I had walled in, lit, and tended to, added a bunch of additional doors (as the number of doors dictates the maximum population of a village) and started feeding the current villagers their favorite things to get them to produce new villagers.  I managed to get a cartographer on the second try and, after he grew up and I stuffed him full of paper to encourage his trading, he offered me a new woodland mansion map.

The maps are somewhat generic looking, giving you a general sketch of the area where the mansion is placed.  It also puts a little marker representing the hold, which shows your position relative to the destination.  The marker gets bigger when you get close, and once you get on the actual map grid, it begins to fill in like a regular in-game map.  I forgot to take a screen shot of my initial map, so here are a couple of samples from the wiki.

A cartographer with woodland mansion and ocean monument maps

A cartographer with woodland mansion and ocean monument maps

Map in hand, I put together some supplies… a full stack of food, a set of tools, four stacks of torches because I like to light things, flint and tinder for when I really want to light thing up, a boat, 10 obsidian blocks, and a stack of wood.  I didn’t have any wool handy from where I set out, so I took a pair of clippers along as well, hoping to shear some sheep as I went.  That actually worked out well, as sheep were plentiful at various points.

My map showed the mansion I was seeking was northeast of where I was (Aaron’s mansion was to the west) so I set out to find it.  I left our explored area north of the prismarine bridge on the rail line.  North of there is ocean, so I was hoping to travel as far as I could by boat, which is both fast and doesn’t require you to stop at night.

And, as it happened, I did manage to make much of the trip by boat, though I did have to cross stretches of land at times, including the last stretch.  I moved northeast when I could, trying to get my little marker to move.  Eventually I found myself lined up on the east-west axis, and just had to travel north.  After a couple hours of travel I eventually found myself on the map grid and closing in on the mansion.  My path was a little more wandering than Aaron’s, as a render of the world after I arrived shows.

Aaron, straight west, me, northish...

Aaron, straight west, me, northish…

I was up past the -26,000 line on the x axis, though still lined up with our core area on the z axis.  But I had found the mansion.

The mansion in the woods

The mansion in the woods

Following Aaron’s example, I built a small house outside the front step of the mansion.  There was plenty of wood to hand, being in the middle of a canopy forest, so I was able to build all the amenities.  I also setup a furnace, fueled by wood, in order to turn wood into charcoal to resupply my torch supply, which had run short.  And even still there was so much forest about that I started setting fire to it just to get a some sky above me.  Slash and burn exploration.

Burn baby burn... also my wood hut

Burn baby burn… also my wood hut

I did managed to not burn down the mansion by removing trees that were up against it before I started setting things alight.

The mansion amid the burned woods

The mansion amid the burned woods… the remaining wood is easy to harvest

With more light shining everywhere, I was feeling better about diving into the mansion.  Aside from the usual monsters that spawn in the dark, there were some vindicators and evokers, the new “illagers,” to take care of.  Both seemed susceptible to ranged fire, so I stood back with my bow and killed them.  The vexes, summoned by the evokers, were the most difficult to deal with.

The mansion cleared, I explored its various rooms and stowed away my loot… including five totems of the undying.

That done, I was there, more than 20km from the nearest outpost, with a big mansion and dwindling supplies.  The mansion was a great place but, when it comes to the usual real estate litmus test, it failed on the top three items, “location, location, location.”  I was sort of stuck.

I did manage to pick up some additional supplies.  Along the way I found a desert temple, which I setup as a living station.  On clearing that out, I obtained some watermelon seeds and a saddle.  I also picked up a potato somewhere, probably from a zombie.

The saddle came in handy, as there were a lot of horses in the fields not too far from the mansion.  A lot of horses.  I think they must have really upped the spawn rate for horses.

A few of the horses within sight of the mansion

A few of the horses within sight of the mansion

I took the seeds and my one potato and started a farm to build up my food supply.  One potato became three, three became seven, and so on until I had a couple of rows growing.

The horse hanging about the farm

The horse hanging about the farm

I also had to dig the usual mine, so I began to tunnel down to level 12 in order to start collecting iron, diamonds, and cobblestone for the next project.  The next project was, of course, setting up some sort of link to home.

I had dragged along 10 blocks of obsidian in order to make a nether portal.  My idea was to do what we did with Aaron in reverse.  I would portal into the nether, get up into the roof, and start a transit tunnel headed south for the main hub.  That seemed easy enough.  I just needed a bunch of cobblestone for a tower up into the roof.

So I built the portal in the foyer of the mansion, lit it, and stepped through carefully.  It came out on a flat outcropping of netherrack, high up, but not too high, over the usual lake of lava.  I build a building of cobblestone around it, leaving a hole in the roof to start my climbing tower.

The tower went along easily enough, my main problem being cobblestone supplies.  I had to go back and mine more in the world.  And then I got to the roof of the nether and began to feel a bit of anxiety.  I didn’t want to bore straight up through the netherrack, lest I hit a lava patch and have it pour straight down on me.  So I expanded my current platform a bit and tried digging at an angle, just to poke up into things.  I was at about level 95 and I only needed to get up to around 119 to be level with our transit hub.

And, of course, I hit a lava bubble.  It wasn’t bad.  It was pouring down the side of my tower, all I had to do was plug it up.

And I missed.  And missed again, and then panicked as the lava flowed towards me, then dropped into the tower and plugged the top to keep any lava from pouring straight down into my portal room.

So now I was in a bit of a fix, with lava pouring all over my work.  So I got myself up on the roof of the portal building and started building a repair tower to get myself high enough to re-route and plug the lava leak.

Lava pouring down

Lava pouring down

After a couple of false starts, I was doing well getting up the side when I heard the cry of a ghast, followed quickly by the sound of it launching a missile at me.  I had fought off a couple of them already, but I was standing in a precarious spot at that moment and its shot knocked me right into the lava flow.

I quickly jumped out and off the side tower, heading down into the portal room and through into the world, hoping to be able to jump into the little pond by my farm before I died.  I did not make it, and my gear was strewn about the foyer as I died.

On the plus side, my gear was safe and close to hand.  On the downside, all my levels had disappeared, and with them my ability to repair my diamond pick, which was already showing yellow on its wear bar.  Levels are used to repair things, and without them my having the iron for an anvil and diamonds to the repair job were not much good.

Still, I was at least together.  I got back up on the repair tower and eventually plugged the lava flow at its source, then finished more drive up into the roof of the nether.  I hollowed out a room and moved the portal up there, by which point my diamond pick was into the red for wear.

I took some time to ride around and see if I could scout a good overland horse path to the ocean, from which I could sail back to our explored area.  That still might be viable, but it will take some time.  It will still likely be quicker to tunnel through the nether to our transit hub and then lay rail.  It just looks like I might end up doing it with iron picks, which mine slower and wear out much more quickly.

So there I am, stuck far from home, building a new one and a road in between the two.

Minecraft, Llamas, and a Mansion

I mentioned in passing last week that the previous Monday saw the release of Minecraft 1.11, the Exploration Update.

Minecraft 1.11

Minecraft 1.11

Two of the new items that came in with this update were woodland mansions and llamas.

I was, of course, keen to find me some llamas.  You can tame them and then dress them up to give them a festive look.

Aaron, keen for a new challenge, was more interested in the woodland mansions.  Finding one, however, was the thing.  They are rare, they are reported to spawn at least 10K blocks away from the spawn point, and you need to find them in territory that has not been generated yet.

Fortunately, the 1.11 update also includes a new village NPC called the cartographer.  They wear the same white coat as the librarian in villages.  Once properly primed, they will sell you exploration maps.  There are two flavors of such maps, one that will guide you to an ocean monument (boring, I know where several of those are, not including the one Aaron took over and turned into a guardian farm), and the other will direct you to a woodland mansion.

Aaron got right on that, breeding a cartographer in his villager mall, though the first I heard of it was in an email from him to the group announcing that he had found a woodland mansion.  Since he was already there, I downloaded a copy of our world and rendered and updated map to see where it was.  Sure enough, I found his mansion.

Woodland Mansion on the map

Woodland Mansion on the map

That is the mansion, with a little dirt structure Aaron build outside the front door to act as his camp.  The mansions are pretty bit structures.

Of course, the other thing the newly rendered map showed was how far from our core explored area he had to venture to find this new structure.

Straight line to the Mansion

Straight line to the Mansion

That long, straight explored part jutting out from the west of the main map, that was path to the mansion.  It is admirably straight.  Of course, I wanted to go see the new thing in the world.  Getting there though…

Aaron reported that the mansion was at about the coordinates x -21,000 z -6,000.  The nearest easily traveled to spot in the explored world was the prismarine bridge on the great rail loop.  It stood at about x -1,000 z -6,300.  So just 20km to travel.  For perspective, the great rail loop is about 22.5 km, full round trip, and it takes a few day/night cycles while moving at minecart speeds.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to walk/row my way out to the new mansion.

So I started checking out our nether roof transportation network.  Traveling in the nether gets you 8 blocks forward on the surface for every block you move there.  I thought that the nether rail line to the prismarine bridge might be a good place to start down there.  But then I discovered a rail line Aaron had dug out to where he planned to create a wither farm at some point.  That line ended at x -754 z -710, which put it well on its way to the nether coordinates of x -2,650 z -750 where a nether portal would put any traveler close to the mansion.

I was there, had my diamond pick with the mend enchant, so started digging through the netherrack towards those coordinates.  I didn’t want to walk, but if I can build infrastructure, I guess that is a different story.  From where I was it was just about 2,000 blocks to go, digging a tunnel 2 blocks wide and 3 blocks high.

Actually, clearing the ~12,000 blocks to get there was less of a chore than doing something with those blocks once they had been dug.  The pile up in stacks of 64 in your inventory and, not liking to leave things cluttering the tunnel, I ended up having to run back to the start point of the dig, where there were a couple of chests, to dump the netherrack as it filled up my inventory.

I dug for quite a while, ending up close to the -1,600 line on the x axis, though I did have to travel back to the zombie pigmen harvesting farm to let experience repair my pick.  That is the joy of the mend enchant.  I also laid some track I found down there to start the line to the mansion and to make traveling back and forth to the dig easier.

At some point I called it a night, but Aaron had gotten back to out nether travel nexus and picked up where I left off, pushing the bore the rest of the way.  He also put up a portal about 250 blocks down the new line, with a stop, so that it came up where he had seen llamas during his trip to the mansion.

A family of llamas

A family of wild llamas in the high peaks

I caught him online the next day when he was just about done with the work.  I rolled down the line to its end point, found it empty, then started to roll back the other way when I ran into Aaron.  The problem with single track rail systems.  He was coming back with some obsidian blocks in order to make the portal.  So we rolled on back to the end again and he put together the blocks.

Aaron building the portal in the nether

Aaron building the portal in the nether

Once together he sparked it up and let me go through.  Of course it was night time, raining, and the portal was in a tree, out of which I promptly fell, leaving us to fight zombies, spiders, and skeletons.  The raid killed off the fire enchant on my bow making killing stuff all the more annoying.

The new portal in its tree

The new portal in its tree

But it was at the right location and on the surface rather than way down in some deep cavern.

during a lull in the fighting I built some steps up to the portal and went back into the nether while Aaron used the bed in his mud hut to advance the world to morning.  Then the sun came up… but since we were in a forest, there were still a few more things to kill.  But after that I was able to actually turn towards the mansion itself.

The entry

The entry

I have to say, that as an auto-generated structure in Minecraft, the woodland mansion is pretty impressive.  Aaron had already cleared out the resident bad guys, so I was able to explore the place relatively safely… there was a creeper hanging out, because there is always a creeper hidden somewhere.

Mansions have a variety of possible rooms according to the wiki, ranging from functional to silly.

The giant chicken room

The giant chicken room

There is even lighting and carpeting throughout, though there isn’t quite enough light by default to keep mobs from spawning.  As a structure it would be a fine place to make your base, especially now that it has rail access to our central hub. (Though even rail travel, moving 8x surface speed, it takes a good seven minutes to get out to the portal.)

Then the question was where to find the next one for those of us who wanted to try our hand with the new illager NPCs.  As it turns out, any given cartographer villager will only give out a map to a single woodland mansion.  In order to find another one, you need to buy it from a different villager.  Time to expand the villager population in hopes of getting another map… and go check out the llamas.

Meanwhile, as an update to the previous Minecraft post about map art, Aaron took what he learned and put together another piece.  Here it is when viewed from ground level.

Some colors in a field

Some colors in a field

Given that, can you guess what the end product looks like when on a map?

(Result here)

Map Art in Minecraft

It is one of those weeks where I already know what I will be writing about for four out of the five days.  Expansions or new titles with four games I cover regularly pretty much sets the tone here through Friday.  But today, today I can take a few minutes to return to Minecraft.

Actually, when it comes down to it, I could do five out of five posts this week about new updates, as the Minecraft 1.11 update, called the Exploration Update, is supposed to land today and, since we’re on Minecraft Realms, it will be part of our world as soon as it is ready.  There is a pile of stuff slated for the update… it is a big deal… but the only thing I can recall off-hand is the introduction of llamas.  (Which, true to life, spit.) So an actual post about that update will probably come next week unless I have a bunch of unexpected free time before the weekend.

Anyway, back to today’s post.

Our Minecraft server is still up and running.  I have a couple of projects on it that I have been pursuing in an extremely desultory fashion, and for a stretch I was the only one logging on.

Then Aaron started on his new project.

While there are paintings you can hang on the walls of your home in Minecraft, they are random, changing every time you put one up.  Something else you can hang on your walls are maps.

A corner in the map room

A corner Skronk’s map room

As I previously noted, Aaron took this to something of an extreme with his giant map room.

This time he decided to combine the ability to map and the desire to have art of his own making on his walls, the first step of which was to clear out a map-sized area of the world.

The empty map

The empty map

That is a cleared out area of the world exactly the size of an in-game map (8 x 8 in chunks or 128 x 128 in blocks) which now serves as the canvass on which he can work.

Our world, as a reminder, is set to survival mode, so there are no quick short cuts to obtaining materials for such projects.  You have to go out and collect them and transport them to where you want to use them.  And store them.  And manipulate them on the ground without the ability to fly.

So Aaron had to build up some infrastructure around his cleared area, including lighting, storage, and a platform from which he could see his work.  Then, when that was in place, he began work on his first piece, something of great cultural significance to us all.

A portrait of the artist as cubist dream

A portrait of the artist as cubist dream

When he sent us this screen shot of his first work in progress, I had to grab a current copy of the world and render a new map so I could see just how big this area was in our world.  Once rendered, I zoomed in and saw his work pretty quickly.

Homer on the map

Homer on the map

While that bit isn’t very big relative to the area of the world we have explored, it is easily the most noticeable of our artifacts on the ground.  While we have some large buildings, if you look at the maps in the first screen shot at the top of the post, you can see that even some of our larger compounds take up just fractions of a map grid.

The only thing that compares for visibility is the 22km rail loop I completed back in June.  And even that blends into the map pretty well, looking like a few gray lines unless I change to a night render of the map, in which case the fact that it is fairly well lit causes those lines to stand out against the darkness.

Unfortunately, the map rendering in Minecraft appears to have a color palette that is somewhat limited compared to what the open world offers.  While Homer and his donut look clear and colorful in the world or my external map render, in the game he is less than magnificent.

Homer as Art

Homer as Art

Well, he still pretty good, but his dark muzzle, carefully colored by Aaron with yellow stained clay, got averaged out to be the same yellow as the rest of Homer.

As a proof of concept though, it seemed to go okay.  The next task for his is to setup a series of color swatches with different materials to see how they actually render on the map.  Then it will be on to the next masterpiece.

The Mineserver Kickstarter Campaign One Year Later

The first 90 percent of the code accounts for the first 90 percent of the development time. The remaining 10 percent of the code accounts for the other 90 percent of the development time.

— The Ninety Ninety Rule, Tom Cargill, Bell Labs
Way back in October of last year the Mineserver Kickstarter campaign was wrapping up.

The campaign was being run by author, pundit, and former InfoWorld columnist Robert X. Cringely and his three pre-teen sons and the plan was to take some off-the-shelf hardware, some available Minecraft server software, combine it with an admin interface of their own, and create an easy to use Minecraft server that you could setup at home and that mom could admin from her iPhone.  The Cringely team had been working on this for a year and it was all done save for some details.

The campaign ended on October 21, 2015 with 388 backers pledging $35,452, well over the $15,000 the campaign sought.  Thus funded, the team was working towards wrapping things up and shipping out units to customers by the end of the year.

Full production will begin at the start of November and our goal is to deliver all Mineservers™ — burned-in and tested — by Christmas.

-Mineserver Campaign Page

The final line on the campaign spelled out the attitude towards their goal.

This is not rocket science… That’s next year.

-Mineserver Campaign Page

So it was off to production.  There were some updates through October and November about finishing up the admin software and sourcing parts and getting units ready.

And then things got a bit quiet in December, until on December 21st there was an update with the title “Man Overboard!

Their Linux consultant, needed to tie the whole package together, had gone missing and had to be replaced.  He was a rare person, being a very familiar with Minecraft, but they found another guy who was very familiar with the hardware, but wasn’t up on Minecraft.  Shipments, already a behind schedule, would be delayed a bit longer.

Again, we’re sorry, but shipping will be delayed about one week.

-Man Overboard update

And then began the long dark winter, as more than a month went by before the next update titled “Better Late Than Never!”  More problems had cropped up.  The compiler they were using for their chosen version of Linux wouldn’t work with the ARM based motherboards they had chosen, motherboards which they had purchased and were waiting for installation.

Mineserver motherboards - January 2016

Mineserver motherboards – January 2016

This was going took a bit of time to solve, but wasn’t insurmountable.  The custom admin software was moving along and they had support for the server flavors they wanted, except for Cuberite, which they expect to add soon.

Server flavor choices

Server flavor choices

While they worked on Cuberite support and a WiFi issue, they put up some test servers so people could try them out for performance and use the routing software to see if it resolved correctly. (It never did for me, I had to use the IP addresses to connect.)

Comments from backers, which started to take a negative turn after the last gap, got a bit darker when a month and a half went by before we heard another word from the Mineserver team.  On March 17th we got an update titled “The Devil is in The Details.”  There was a statement up front that they won’t delay between updates that long again.

Getting the Cuberite server software to work with the admin application had been problematic, it being the odd man out on the Minecraft server front as it is compiles in C++ rather than Java.  This however was what made Cuberite desirable, as it is way out in front of the other options in terms of performance and really needs to be on the box for the Mineserver to meet its supported players claim.

Meanwhile, the dynamic DNS system and a the WiFi support also had issues which needed to be solved before they could ship.  And, finally, there is what they think is an Ethernet issue causing the boxes to drop off the network occasionally.  But the mood was still upbeat.  These were solvable problems, solved already really save for the last one, so the update ended with optimism.

It’s the final bug, we’re approaching it with planning, gusto, and plenty of Captain Crunch, and fully expect to solve this last issue and start shipping next week when the kids are off school for Spring Break.

-The Devil is in The Details update

Three weeks later there was a small update that included a call to help test the Mineservers they have setup and a mention that the Ethernet bug may not yet be solved.

Then there was another month and a half gap, proving that they in fact would do “that” again, before we got the Science Experiments/Finally Nearing the End update.  Cringely’s son Fallon used the Mineserver setup for a science fair entry, which features at the top half of the update, which then goes on to the fact that the underlying management software still doesn’t support the Cuberite server.  Support for Cuberite will be available at some point in June, so they are going to wait for that.

Meanwhile Mojang has released Minecraft 1.10, which comes up in the comments as to how updates like this are going to be handled.  There is no response to that question or, frankly, any question ever that comes up in the comments.  Cringely doesn’t do comments, he just drops updates and goes away it seems.

An early July update said that the Cuberite support had been delayed, but that they continued to work on the product and that it will support Minecraft Pocket Edition at launch, which needs its own flavor of server.  There is a promise of regular updates.

At this point we’re going to start doing updates every Thursday with the idea of keeping you better informed. Thank you for your patience.

-Still waiting for AIM update

By July 22nd there seemed to be a breakthrough, with an update that says Cuberite support is now a thing, and getting it to work right is all that is delaying shipping.  Optimism still reigns.  They have only missed one Thursday update since making that promise  Again we are told, “This isn’t rocket science. ”

The next Thursday update has an admin interface issue solved, but there is still the Cuberite support issue.  A week later, on August 5th, things seem really close, plus now the Mumble voice server software will be bundled in with the Mineserver.

And then summer vacation ends and Thursday updates cease.  I expect that with three young boys heading back to school that the Cringely household has its hands full.

Finally, on September 14th we got an update that says the WiFi doesn’t work reliably.  WiFi hasn’t been mentioned since January, and the comments indicate that some people have been taken aback by this. (One person claims to have filed an FTC complaint.)  Apparently the part they chose isn’t compatible with Arch Linux, so they have ordered a replacement that should fix the problem.

No further updates have been posted, so the status of the WiFi and Cuberite support remains a mystery.

On September 23rd the one year anniversary of the launch of the Kickstarter campaign passed, and on October 1st it had been one year since campaign met its funding goal.

Welcome to crowdfunding.

Ah, but a project’s reach should exceed its grasp, or what’s a Kickstarter for?

-Me, abusing Robert Browning’s quote

Last week over at Massively OP there was a post about 10 questions you should ask before backing an MMO Kickstarter.  In the comments I, along with several other, proposed some additional question, mine being focused on your readiness to accept that any dates promised during the campaign are generally blind optimism at best.  I mean, Star Citizen, right?

Being late is part of the experience.

About a year and a half ago I reviewed the Kickstarter campaigns I had backed, and those that had shipped were universally late.  Not all drastically so.  Defense Grid 2 shipped just a month after the promised date.  Go, go Hidden Path Entertainment!

In fact, I have been meaning to do a follow up on that post as time has passed and a number of promised delivery dates have gone by, but I was waiting for the Mineserver issues to get resolved, since it seemed like that would just been a few weeks off… for the last nine months.

Ah well.

I am not particularly annoyed by the delay.  This is not a rage post, but a summing up of the tale so far.  If I want something delivered on time, I order it from Amazon.  I did rather optimistically plan to move our Minecraft world to the Mineserver at a couple of points, but not being able to do that hasn’t really changed much.  Instead it got moved to different hosting providers.

This is more of a review post to look at how things were handled.  These days I am more interested in HOW people run campaigns as the campaigns themselves, having come up with my own success predictors and such.

The campaign itself went very well.  It got enough publicity, in large part because of the Cringely name, and hit funding milestones that indicated it was going to be a success early on.

No, the problems here have all been post-campaign.  Success is a problem everybody wants to have, but how you handle it can make any victory Pyrrhic.  For example, No Man’s Sky was a huge financial success (yes, I know, not a Kickstarter campaign, but work with me here), however the gap between what was promised and what was delivered will likely haunt the studio and key devs going forward.

For the Mineserver campaign I think there have been two obvious problems.

The first has been over-optimism, which is ever a curse here in Silicon Valley.  At several points during the campaign it sounded like problems were just about solved and we were told that units would be shipping soon.  And then they didn’t ship.

You cannot foresee all problems, and people will forgive you a couple of slips.  But after a while your predictions lose their credibility.

The second problem has been communication.  Updates have been sporadic and the comments might as well be turned off for updates section since they never get any sort of response.

At one point Cringely said he didn’t want to do updates unless he had good news to share.  In my experience though, any update is better than no update.  And that is doubly so when combined with optimism, when an update says there will be a week’s delay and then the next update doesn’t show up for a month.

I think the campaign was on the right track for a bit with the “every Thursday” updates.  But, as I noted, those fell by the wayside and now we are in limbo again, waiting for some news.

So we shall see.

At this point, with our current server happily chugging away on Mojang’s hosting, I will probably use the Mineserver to play with Minecraft mods.  When it finally arrives.

Addendum: We got an update on October 7, there are new problems, a possible solution, and shipping is still a few weeks beyond the horizon.

Up All Night in Leuthilspar

Syl wrote about day/night cycles in MMOs a couple of weeks months years back.  Clearing of the drafts fodler here, as you might guess. Of course, one aspect of that is how long such a cycle should be.  At one end of the spectrum is World of Warcraft, where Azeroth turns on a literal 24 hour cycle, and server time is in-game time.

EVE Online also runs on a real-world 24 hour clock, though I am not sure that a day/night cycle makes much sense there.  It is always night in space, right?

Anyway, in Azeroth that means if you are like me… I live in the US Pacific time zone but play on a server in the Easter time zone, 3 hours ahead of me… you might spend most of your time in WoW playing at night.

Not that night is all that big of a deal in WoW.  Every single instance group screen shot has been taken during the night cycle and most of the time you couldn’t tell it was night.

The lair of Lockmaw

This is night. Stars in the sky.

There is, as Syl noted, a nice sunset period if you are on at the right time, and likely a similarly pleasant sunrise, though I’ve never seen that.  I’ve been online when it has happened, I was just deep in Uldaman at the time.

Other games have a much shorter cycle.  In EverQuest you passed through the day/night routine every 72 minutes if I recall right, 3 minutes per in-game hour.  That could leave you running around in the dark a few times in a single long play session.

Scarecrows in West Karana

Night, when the Scarecrows come out in West Karana

And at the extreme end is Minecraft, which has a 20 minute day/night cycle, which means if you play for an hour… and who plays Minecraft for just an hour when you’re into something… you will spend half that time in daylight and the rest in the dusk, night, and dawn portion of the cycle, during which time the night life will be coming for you.

Coming to get me...

Coming to get me…

Of course, the Minecraft example brings up what is probably the key question when it comes to a day/night cycle; should it have impact on game play?

In World of Warcraft there is almost no impact on game play.  As noted, you can barely tell it is night as the moon over Azeroth apparently reflects 80-90% of the sun’s luminosity during the night time hours.  And I am hedging by even using the word “almost” there, because something in the back of my brain believes there was a “night only” spawn at some point.  But that could be me.

At the other end of spectrum is Minecraft, which isn’t an MMO but is MMO enough for this discussion, where the transition from day to night changes game play dramatically.  It actually gets dark out, so lighting matters.  But even more so, as noted above, things come out at night.  Bad things.  Things that seek to kill you or blow you up.  So you either hunker down and wait out the night… or sleep if you’re alone on your server… or get out there and fight the encroaching zombie/skeleton/creeper menace.

Maybe that is an extreme example.

But I do hear calls now and again for not only a day/night cycle in MMORPGs, but that the cycle should impact game play, that night should be different than day, and that NPCs should behave in a way attuned to the cycle of the world and their lives.  They should go to bed at night.

That last bit… that is one of those things that always sounds better in theory that it does in reality.  And I say that as somebody who has lived a bit of that as reality in an online game.

Back we go again, back through the mists of time, back to TorilMUD and the days of text, triggers, and ANSI color characters as a substitute for graphics.

All text, all the time

All text, all the time

I’ve written about TorilMUD many times before, and specifically about the hardship of the elves of Evermeet, stuck until recently in their own little corner of the game until level 20 with few zone choices and not much in the way of gear available.  The sorrow of the eldar is never ending and all that, as my Leuthilspar Tales series has illustrated.

But we did have one advantage there on Evermeet, and especially in the city of Leuthilspar.  For the most part elves don’t seem to need any sleep.  Shops were open all night long and even the city gates, which the guards closed and locked at sunset, could be passed through after hours if you spoke the right word. (It was “peace.”)

The rest of the world however…

It was a sure sign that a player was fresh through the elf gate and in Waterdeep for the first time when, locked outside of town, they would stand there saying things like “peace” and “please” and whatnot trying to get the gates to unlock so they could pass through.

And imagine to confusion in the a poor elf’s eyes when a vendor in town suddenly announced they were shutting up their shop for the night and wouldn’t be serving customers until the morning.

Outside of Leuthilspar, shops had business hours!

The vendors wouldn’t go away… though I think one in Baldur’s Gate used to move into another room… they would just stand there as usual.  However, when you attempted to interact with them, they would announce that they were closed and admonish the player to come back later.

In a way, it sounds quaintly archaic in today’s world.  But TorilMUD, measuring from its predecessor Sojourn MUD, is past the 20 year mark as well.  It was a simpler time and a different audience in an era when game devs sometimes felt the user ought to conform to a much more rigid set of rules.

I couldn’t imagine a MMORPG today putting something like that in place.  But TorilMUD was smaller than even the most niche MMORPGs we’ve seen.  I would guess that maybe 10K people created accounts on the game over its lifetime.  During its peak it could get a couple hundred people online at the same time, which was considered quite the crowd.  In that sort of small, self-selecting environment, you can set different rules.

And the vendors didn’t just have hours, but would also only deal in specific goods at times.

But, at least the day/night cycle was short.  The ration was one real life minute to one in-game hour, so a day went by in just 24 minutes.  Not as fast as Minecraft, but close.

Anyway, such were the was of the past.  How niche would a game today have to be to get away with that sort of thing?