Category Archives: Minecraft

July in Review

The Site

The site got its 25,000th comment back in June, which I mentioned on Twitter at the 24,999 mark, and then totally forgot to follow up on.

So now, a month later than anticipated (if only by me), I can declare that the 25,000th comment was left by Silverangel of Kitty Kitty Boom Boom who left a tangential comment about the size qualities of .gif files on a post about 64-bit gaming!

But that is the way blogging frequently is.  You can write 2,000+ words on a topic, include one sentence about a some unrelated item, and THAT sentence will be what gets a comment.  I find this phenomena hilarious, though I must also admit I am frequently that person as well, making the essentially off-topic comments on a post because something catches my eye.

Anyway, there is no prize for this, just a hastily created achievement unlocked graphic.

Because achievements!

Because achievements!

Of course I saved in .gif format.

One Year Ago

There was a site put up by eBay about game return on investment.  Unsurprisingly, it indicated that used games are a deal in that regard, so you should go buy some on eBay.

There was the passing of yet another Steam Summer Sale.

SOE forgot to pay their domain name registration.  Meanwhile, Landmark was available for a deep discount after the Steam Summer Sale, leading to speculation about its future.

SuperData Research was listing out the Top Subscription MMOs while not defining what they really meant by the term.

Anarchy Online introduced a PLEX-like currency, GRACE.

The community manager for LOTRO was busy telling raiders and PvMP players that they weren’t getting any new content because they added up to less than 10% of the player population.

I finished up Pokemon Y on the 3DS.

In my attempt at the loremaster achievement in WoW I ran through Desolace, Feralas, and Thousand Needles one week, Felwood and Un’goro Crater the next.  Then it was Winterspring, Swamp of Sorrows, and the Blasted Lands, the Cape of Stranglethorn, and the final bit of the Eastern Kingdoms.  I was on a roll.

in EVE Online we were commuting to Delve, where maybe there was going to be a war, and chasing Brave Newbies around (then getting pipe bombed) when there wasn’t anything going on.  That was back when we owned Delve.  Fights went on sporadically for a while and many a Rupture was sacrificed simply try a fresh doctrine.  So many Ruptures.  Apocs did better.

Meanwhile the Crius expansion hit New Eden, making industry better… it did get better, right?

In EverQuest, on the Fippy Darkpaw Time Locked Progression server, the vote to unlock the Underfoot expansion failed, making it the second expansion ever to get voted down, the first being Gates of Discord nearly two years before.

With that I was wondering what other MMOs might go for the retro nostalgia server thing.  Not WoW, that is for sure.

I was also on about housing in MMOs, what has really worked for me and what has fallen flat and why.  This included some projection as to what garrisons might end up being in WoW.

Our epic game of Civilization V saw expansionism and direct conflict with the Aztec empire.

Five Years Ago

The late Paul the octopus created the largest page view day ever in the history of the blog, later to be surpassed by Cats playing Patty Cake and Alamo.

I was told I write like Cory Doctorow… or maybe Ian Flemming.

My daughter was Banned from Club Penguin.  Tears were shed, lessons were learned.

EverQuest II Extended, the free to play EverQuest II, was announced.  I wondered whether trying to play it without paying at all would be a challenge in and of itself.  Meanwhile, there was some evidence that EQII accounts had value.  That stunning news no doubt got them going on the authenticator they announced at Fan Faire this year.

I completed 100 levels in The Agency: Covert Ops.  I was unemployed, what can I say?

StarCraft II launched.  I still haven’t bought a copy.  I’ll wait for the battle chest in a couple of years.  It isn’t like I am going to be very good at it this time around.  I was barely adequate at the original.

Hulkageddon III ended, and it even had a video wrap-up.  And then PLEX was made transportable in space.  I wonder if they waited for Hulkageddon to be over for that?

In another Summer hiatus season, the instance group started another run at LOTRO.  This time it was Bung who was out, having the dual issues of moving and having a new baby to care for.  Those of us in Middle-earth hung out with old friends.  That put off deciding who my main character was, by letting me roll another one!

Blizzard gave up on some of their RealID plans thanks to much public kvetching.  Shortly there after, the ESRB came out against Real ID as being bad for consumer security while proving they too were bad for consumer security.

Blizzard revamped Parental Controls again.  As much as I have griped about them, they are better than any comparable controls I have seen, even in games that offer that as a feature.

World of Warcraft Magazine issue #2 showed up.  Issue #4 would arrive 9 months later.  No word on issue #5 as of now.

And, finally, somebody was trying to make yet another flying car that failed to live up to our expectations.  Have none of these scientists ever seen The Jetsons?

New Linking Sites

The following blogs have linked this site in their blogrolls, for which they have my thanks.

Please take a moment to visit them in return.

Most Viewed Posts in July

  1. The First EverQuest II Progression Server Polls and Some Details
  2. SOE Finally Gets a REAL Server Status Page
  3. A Call for Space Carebears
  4. Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
  5. Next WoW Expansion to be Announced August 6th, Just After Subscriber Numbers Get Released…
  6. Learning to do the Fozzie Sov Shuffle
  7. Quote of the Day – The Dreaded Rear Admiral
  8. Quote of the Day – Smart Money
  9. Ain’t No Cure for the Summertime MMO Ennui Blues
  10. EverQuest II Time Locked Expansion Servers Today
  11. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  12. Sheep Stole My Mining Cart

Search Terms of the Month

angles of attack audiobook torrent
[Don’t be that person]

when will flying drop in wod july 2015
[I’d say you answered your own question]

amateur money porno
[I think that is one of those “pick two” situations]

empires and allies zynga scew up
[Yes indeed!]

eve online horrible
[Well, yes, but it is shared adversity experience]

EVE Online

Fozzie sov came and New Eden began to burn… or sizzle… or whatever it is that happens when you turn on an Entosis Link module.  Pulsating within a little green circle?  Anyway, there are a lot of systems in play according to Timer Board. (400+ as of the moment I am writing this.)

Reavers have been out hitting distant regions to test the new system while Pure Blind has been an ongoing fight due to the fact that almost nobody in The Imperium lives there.  Still not sure if the sov changes are better or are simply going to make more alliances collapse in exhaustion.

EverQuest II

The Time Locked Expansion servers opened up, and I rolled up on the PvE flavor, Stormhold.  So far, so good.  It isn’t the old days, but it is different enough from the Live servers to be an experience unto itself.  There is a lesson in this.

Anyway, I have a level 11 SK in Freeport, am having a good time, and am looking for a guild, since there is no way I am going to create one myself.


Minecraft remains a thing I have been playing.  There is, as I mentioned, a certain peacefulness to the game.  My daughter stopped playing and now only watches me over my should now and again, until it becomes too frustrating to bear, then she has to walk away.  I don’t do things the right way.  That is what it is like being 13.

War Thunder

This sort of slipped off of my rotation.  I think Minecraft and EverQuest II ate up the bit of time that I had been devoting to the game.  Also, I was motivate by the daily prize thing for a bit, as at Day 25 there was a possibility of getting something useful.  Instead I got a gambling token thing that was pretty much no value.  My gut response was a bit negative.

World of Warcraft

I haven’t logged in since the week that the 6.2 patch went live, so I should probably take WoW off of my “Games I Play” list and move it to “Games I Watch.”  There hasn’t been any frustration or a wave of “I’m so sick of this game!” or anything, just zero motivation to log in.

Coming Up

Activision-Blizzard results for Q2 2015 will be announced on August 4th, followed by the next WoW expansion on August 6th.  The subscription numbers they report will likely determine whether or not Blizzard felt they needed some immediate good news and/or a distraction in August rather than waiting for BlizzCon.

And it is a good thing that is coming, because next month is also Blagaust and we’ll need stuff to post about, and those two dates will be grist for the blogging mill!  We can’t count on Derek Smart to keep us entertained all the time!

Meanwhile, a friend at work has been talking about Diablo III, so I started poking my nose into that a bit.  We’ll see if it goes anywhere in August.

And then I have some new projects coming up at work, my daughter goes back to school in the middle of the month, and I have been summoned for Jury duty as well, so it might end up being a tough month for posts.

Minecraft and the Accumulation of Material

I am beginning to see why Notch chose the name Minecraft.

At least in survival mode, I spend some time building or exploring or farming or whatever, but I spend more time mining than anything else.  There is something of a Zen serenity to it, just digging away under ground.  I can put on an audio book, head down to the mine and swing that pick axe for hours and feel content.

Of course, that generates a lot of raw material.

That is a lot of harvested stone...

That is a lot of harvested stone…

My castle began spawning more and more chests as I stored away piles of cobblestone and other materials.  Of course I had to store it away, all of it can be used as raw material for some future building project.  I’m not even sure how you can get rid of things in the game, aside from dumping them in lava.

As I accumulated, I began to think about starting a new building project.  I had been out exploring a bit more and decided that this time I would head due east, into the sunrise, start a new camp, and build a newer, bigger castle complex, leaving the old one behind for now.

Back view of the castle at sunset

Back view of the castle at sunset

So I loaded up on cobblestone and started building the eastward road.  Building was the optimal term, as to the immediate east of my castle, over a single ridge, was a wide, low valley.   So I essentially built a cobblestone bridge across the valley, two blocks wide so I wouldn’t fall off, with regular side pedestals for torches.  For a while I was expending cobblestone at quite a rate.

And then I hit the next set of hills and my road building turned into tunneling and cobblestone and dirt began to accumulate again.  And as I dug further and further, it became more and more annoying to run back home, or at least back to one of my shelters along the route.  So I decided that it shouldn’t just be a road, but a railroad.  And so another mine cart track project was born.

Riding into the sunset

Riding into the sunset

When I started that I was worried that I would run out of gold bars for making powered track to keep my mine cart rolling.  However, the resource that quickly began to dwindle was iron.  For every powered track your mine cart can roll over a flat track somewhere between 27 and 32 blocks before it starts to slow.  Or so I have read, given that you launch your cart with three closely spaces powered track segments to get the cart up to full speed.

I thought I had a lot of iron, and then I started building rails.

Eventually I hit a mountain plateau area just as I was getting very, very low on iron.  I decided to stop there, make a new base camp, and then start building… and mining.

My new compound

My new compound

I rode back to the castle, put together a mine cart with a chest, filled it with cobblestone and my last bits of iron, and pushed it onto the powered rails… only to watch it slow down and stop halfway to the next powered segment.  That 27 to 32 estimate only seems to apply to carts you’re riding in, not cargo mine carts.

So I got into a mine cart of my own, launched down the track, and basically pushed the other cart down the line.

There I unloaded, built a bit of a perimeter, hung out the usual array of torches, then used my remaining iron to build tools to go mining.  A new mine was born, and I dug down to level 12 and began pushing shafts off in search of minerals… primarily iron.

However, things were not going well.  There was a lot of lava where I hit level 12, which meant working around hot zones.  Meanwhile, I wasn’t finding much iron at all.  I did start finding some emeralds, which I had never run into in the wild before, but iron was scarce.  I started using cobblestone picks to dig, saving my remaining iron versions for times when I might need it.

Feeling like I needed some better plan, I went to Google to search for where the best level was to mine for iron ore.  The consensus seemed to be that for straight up shaft based mining, level 12-16 was still the sweet spot.  Just dig three high shafts every third block and you’ll find a lot of stuff.

But there was an alternate suggestion.  If you did not want to dig a mine, caves were offered up as an alternative, less work option for iron.  You can spot the ore and only have to dig selectively rather than burrowing constantly, and wearing out your tools in the process.

And, as it turned out, caves were something I had access to in abundance.  As I was digging my way down to level 12 I had to cross a wide underground cavern.  So I can up digging at level 12 and began exploring that… and by exploring I mean looking for veins of ore and putting torches everywhere.

Down in the cavern

Down in the cavern

You can see my cobblestone bridge across the cavern at the very top of that screen shot, with the torch on it.

And, sure enough I was able to spot quite a bit of iron ore on the walls of the main cavern as well as its many side passages.  My iron crises seemed to slacken for the time being.  Of course, being in an open cavern meant dealing with friends.

Another zombie coming at me

Another zombie coming at me

Zombies seemed to pour out of the darkness at me from time to time, in groups of four or more, accompanied by the occasional sniper skeleton.  And I could hear more zombies through the walls.  Sound is really an important thing in Minecraft.  There are a lot of games I can play with the sound off, but Minecraft isn’t one of them.

I also spotted some moss covered stone on one side of the cave.  I remembered seeing something about that, and at least it was something different, so I started digging my way up to harvest that… and as I did I opened up a room full of zombies.  They came pouring of of the room and I had to run away and build a wall in order to catch my breath and heal up.

Fortunately, they seemed to get hung up in the various water obstacles in the cavern, so I was able to work my way back, slaughtering them as I went.  Eventually I worked my way back into the room, put up torches, and found myself confronted with a monster spawner.

I wasn’t sure what to do with it, and it looked ready to unleash some more zombies, so I hit it with my pick… and it went poof.   I was left in a room with a green moss floor and a chest.

The chest on the mossy floor

The chest on the mossy floor

I looted the chest, which had an enchantment book, a saddle, and a music disc along with some raw materials.  So my first encounter with a number of things.

Enchanted book

Enchanted book

From there I kept searching for ore, and managed to build up a stockpile of iron.  I should be able to mine for a while.

So I surveyed my new area, which felt so far away from our original camp.  It was on a hill, with snowy peaks to one side, a forest across a wide river on another, and swamp visible in the distance.  More biomes to explore.

The lake in my front yard

The lake in my front yard

And then I decided to see exactly how far I had gone.  Minecraft keeps all sorts of stats on what you have done in a given world, another reason to love the game.  Among the stats is the distance you have traveled by mine cart.

Some distances

Some distances… it is the falling that will get you

So I got my mine cart out on the track, noted down the number in the stats, then road it all the way back to my original castle and looked at the number again, then did some subtraction… then put the numbers in the right order and did some subtraction again… and ended up with 0.91 km.

910 meters.  A little over half a mile.  About a 10 minute walk at a modestly determined pace.

And my rail line to the village from last time is only 460 meters, or roughly half the distance.

It is a big world and I have barely been anywhere at all in it.

But there happens to be a village off in the distance from my new base.

Roof lines in the distance

Roof lines in the haze

So I will have to head there soon.


Sheep Stole My Mining Cart

Having built the automated sugarcane farm, which now produces more raw sugarcane than I can ever possible use, all while I mine away down below the earth, it became time to start doing something with the output.

Sugarcane storage is full...

Sugarcane storage is full…

My plan, based on my still tenuous knowledge of the game, was to take the sugarcane, turn it into paper, and trade the paper to the right villager in the village we ran across way back when, in order to accumulate the villager currency, emeralds, so I could buy other items from them.

I wasn’t sure how much paper I would need, how much I would get for it, what I would buy with the emeralds once I got them, or even where the village was.  So it was less of a plan and more of a venture based on pure optimism.

The first thing I had to do was find the village again.

I recalled it being vaguely to the southeast of our current home area.  I had actually run across it once since we first discovered it, but did not setup a marker or make note of its general location or coordinates.  I was on another mission at the time.  So, compass in hand I set out to find the village.

I went south first, then veered off toward the southeast to stay in the plains where we tamed the horses.  I found the horses again, and considered maybe riding a horse rather than walking, but I am not sure about horse dynamics at this point.  So I carried on.

I found a cobblestone column with some torches on it, a marker of some point I left.  Not sure why.  There wasn’t an overnight shelter or anything under it.  So I kept going.

Marker of no import

Marker of no import

Eventually I spotted the roofs of the village a ways off and arrived there as dusk was falling.

I had heard from a few sources that villagers are not so bright when it comes to defending their town.  They do go inside at night, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the ferocity of the undead attack that would follow nightfall.  It was really a horror movie scene, with zombies and skeletons pounding on doors and running to and fro in the village.  I stepped out to kill a few, then fled back inside.  I was ignore long enough that I could use the bed I brought to fast forward to daybreak.

With the morning I decided to fortify the village.  I had read that you have two choices on keeping a village safe.  Either stay far enough away from it at night that the chunk it is in doesn’t spawn anything… the world really does revolve around you… of fence it off and light it up.

I had brought some supplies with me, so I made a crafting table an used some wood to build fencing.  However the wood quickly ran out before I had even gotten an eighth of the way around the perimeter.  So I went back and made a few shovels, dug up some surrounding hills, both to provide material and to give me flat terrain to work with, and then built a three high earthen berm around the place, with a few doors and plenty of torches.

I had it mostly done before the end of the first day there, but had to run for shelter as the sun set.  The monsters were not as plentiful due to the wall, but they were still out in force.  The bedtime fast forward worked again for me though, so I was able to resume my work again the next morning, though a pair of creepers hiding around the corner of the house I had claimed nearly got me.  They left quite a hole.

I dug up some more dirt, flattened more terrain, and finished off the berm.  I had to corral a couple of villagers who got up that morning and decided to see what was on the other side of the short earth wall.  But I got the place surrounded and laid out even more torches, so that when the sun went down once again, the forces of darkness were much reduced.

Just Enderman at the fence line staring in...

Just Enderman at the fence line staring in…

At that point, with the village semi-secure, I decided to head back to the castle to make some paper.  I went off with a pack full of exploring supplies only.  I left my bed and crafting table behind, built another lit pillar just outside of the village and, in a moment of obvious oxygen-rich blood flow to my brain, turned on the diagnostic overlay and wrote down the coordinates of the place so I could find it again.

Then it was back to the castle, which was a bit of a zig-zag path, though I did remember a couple of landmarks, and I had my compass, which would set me on approximately the right course.

But once back at the castle I decided to end my cross-country wandering by building a road.  I had plenty of cobblestone from mining and was no longer using them as building material for the castle itself.

And so I started on the long, L-shaped road to the village, straight as an arrow south from the castle, then a right turn east to the village.  And I decided I would run a mine cart track along it to make the trip that much quicker.

On the road facing the castle

On the road facing the castle

The rails had a practical application during the building process as well.  It took several day/night cycles to get anywhere close to the village.  But with the mining cart and powered rails laid, I could just jump in the cart and be home and in bed in a flash.  No need to dig a series of shelters along the way.

The actual building wasn’t very dramatic.  I started the whole thing as a causeway over the plains, but at a change to a tiaga biome I hit a hill and had to make a cut through it, while clearing some trees, in order to keep the road straight and level.

The Tiaga Cut

The Tiaga Cut

And once I was done and had a terminus at the village, access was pretty quick.  The mine cart moves quickly.

Arriving at the village station

Arriving at the village station

I was now able to haul my paper over to trade for emeralds.

The Librarian wants paper...

The Librarian wants paper…

It is a good thing that access is easy too, as the librarian will only take so much paper per day, so I have to go visit regularly to sell.

Of course, having accomplished this minor Minecraft engineering feat, I had to show my daughter.  I was at the village when I called her over to see my new quick route to the village.

I gave her a tour of my village fortifications, showed her which house I had holed up in, and the door in the wall I made to get to the track.

Then I ran over to the end of the rail line and… my mining cart was gone.

I had left it there at the end of the line, as I always do, so I could just jump in when it was time to go.  However, this time the cart appeared to have gone of its own accord.  And then, as we sat there, my daughter acting as though I had left the keys in the car causing it to be stolen, the sound of of the approaching mine cart was suddenly audible.  It was coming back.

And as we watched, the cart rolled up with a sheep in it.

Sheep on wheels!

Sheep on wheels!

Ha ha! Mystery solved and mine cart returned.  And then the sheep hit the end of the line, reversed, and kept on rolling.  The cart, now getting away, I gave chase.

And the sheep keeps on rolling

And the sheep keeps on rolling

Chasing was futile however, the cart moved too fast.  So I wandered up the rail line waiting for to catch the sheep on its return journey as my daughter laughed and explained how animals in Minecraft will do that sort of thing.

I caught the sheep, un-carted him, and slaughtered him for good measure.  More mutton for the auto-furnace that somebody suggested in the comments last week.

Mutton cooking!

Mutton cooking! The input trunk is on the second floor.

So now I take my mine cart with me whenever I arrive at my destination.

Still, I am pretty happy with my little rail line.

I will get home before the sun fully sets!

I will get home before the sun fully sets!


Minecraft and Bringing Light to Dark Places

How many torches do you actually need in Minecraft?  More than you actually have I am sure.

I mentioned my friend Xyd and his castle last time around.

Xyd's castle at night

Xyd’s castle at night

It fairly glows with the amount of lighting he has in and around the thing, to the point that when my daughter and I were wandering through it exploring, she asked me if I had been putting down extra torches.  I had to assure her that this was not some aspect of her father’s mania, that somebody else had put down all of those torches.

She tends to be rather conservative in her torch usage, while I tend to throw them around more liberally.  This is why I stop and dig out every coal vein I run across… must make more torches.

Or at least my torch usage feels profligate.  But it has mostly involved mining.  And down under ground, where space is restricted, it is pretty easy to get a feel for how much is enough.  Narrow passages and such mean it is easy to spot those dark patches where zombies and their ilk may spawn once the sun goes down.

Secret underground mining facility

Actually needs a few more torches…

But in different sorts of spaces… well, I would have to learn.

I finished up my first run at a castle.  It is three stories tall, with roof access, a tower at each of the front two corners and a wider, keep-like tower in the back.  The walls are all cobblestone, but I felt the need to refine a lot of that material back to stone for the flooring of the first two floors.  The third floor is all oak wood, and the roof above that is back to cobblestone because it is an exterior surface… and I got tired of using my coal to refine cobblestone.

A castle in the distance

A castle in the distance

The roofline is visible because I did that in granite around the perimeter… mostly because I had a ton of granite I wasn’t using.  That turned out to be a useful thing in that, when running up the ladders in the towers, the line of granite serves as a very visual marker of when I reach the roof.

So basic structure complete.  Now what to do with all that floor space?

I know, kill all the freaking monsters that spawn in it!

I found that, once I had roofed everything over, I had essentially made my own series of dark spaces where zombies and skeletons and spiders and such would spawn once the sun went down.  And, of course, once they spawn inside, the are also shaded from the sun, so they don’t burst into flames when daylight comes.  One of the joys of the game is to wake up every morning and look out of the window to watch the burning zombies on the front lawn… and that one skeleton that is always smart enough to jump in the pond out there and just hang out.

Skeletons are wily.  I find them in the middle of the day under the shade of trees.  You can see that causeway I built between the castle and our original house.  It runs straight along the east-west line, so the underneath is always shaded.  Skeletons like to linger under there during the daylight hours as well, sniping at me with their bows when ever I come within range.

Less amusing than the flaming zombies is the sound of one inside the castle.

Just because a spot is dark enough doesn’t mean something will always spawn there, but it seems like something will eventually spawn there.  So the open area outside my workroom, behind the stairs, and next to the shaft down to the mines, seemed to pop something nasty every so often.

I had started with torches around the walls, but that wasn’t enough.  I tried to make something of a torch light fixture on the ceiling to add more light, but still got a spawn now and again.  Eventually I said, “screw it” and just threw down torches where ever I saw a dark shadow.

Spawn now, come on!

Spawn now, come on!

And I am still not sure if that will be enough, but it has kept spawns at bay for now.  I’m mostly just happy that only one creeper has spawned inside so far, and I managed to kill him before he exploded.

Meanwhile, deep under ground, the mining continues to expand.  I originally dug down to level 12 and started on a series of horizontal shafts running along the north-south axis, branching out from a large, well lit, main room.  However, in both directions I ended up running into fairly large pools of lava as I started running shafts further east.  Eventually I used the western most shafts and started digging that direction, every three blocks, to satisfy my thirst for ore.  And I have been suitably rewarded.

Diamond's are Steve's best friend

Diamond’s are Steve’s best friend

I have found enough diamonds to have some set aside for future use, gold sufficient for current projects, enough iron ore for projects as well as keeping ahead of the constant tool making consumption curve, and more redstone than I will likely ever use.  I am about to fill up a full double chest with my accumulated redstone.

Of course, not every bit of ore has been easy to get, and I still run into lava pools in my current direction.

I got those diamonds, but I did so very carefully

I got those diamonds, but I did so very carefully

More interesting have been the wide, open spaces that I run into now and again.  From an effort/reward point of view, those are quite lucrative as I often just see veins of ore there on the walls, ready for the taking.  The downside is that it generally becomes an underground cathedral of torches as I try to keep the place from becoming a zombie mosh pit.

At some point we may pick up and move to a new location… I’ve seen a couple square kilometers in a world that is effectively limitless in size, so exploration is a thing to come… at which point I will be tempted to run down into the mines and collect up all those torches I have planted,  backing out of each shaft as I harvest them, and then plugging them up.  I suspect I would have quite a pile.

Meanwhile, back on the surface, with the castle done, I started working on some related items.  There was the causeway to the house, the flattening of the front yard and the removal of the hills from the back.  I cut back some of the woods around the castle, both to deny skeletons cover from which to snipe and to have enough wood to eventually fence things in a bit.

And then I built myself an automatic sugar cane harvesting system on the castle roof.

Of course, this was not at all my own design.  I went to the internet to look for ways to accomplish this.  The first video I tried on YouTube looked good, however it turned out to be a few years out of date and the design wouldn’t work with Minecraft 1.8.x.  Of course, I only figured that after I had built the whole thing.

I had more luck with the second video I found promising an “easy” automated sugar cane harvesting system.  I was able to create it and… once I actually duplicated the redstone system correctly… I had a block out of place… it actually worked.

Automated Sugar Cane farm

Automated Sugar Cane farm

The hard part was actually getting the parts.  You need sticky pistons which need slimeballs to create, which means finding slime, which only spawns in the swamp biomes and blah blah blah.

So I spent about a day (real world day, not in-game) camped in a swamp trying to find slimes.  And then I started looking up how to find slimes and found a video about how to discover where they will spawn and then spent another day killing enough to get the the necessary slimeballs and then trek back to the castle to build my sticky pistons… and was so totally focused on that whole thing that I didn’t even take a screen shot… or write down the coordinates… so I hope I don’t need any more slimeballs soon.

Anyway, I got my 28 sticky pistons which, in hindsight, watching this system work, is probably twice as many as really necessary.  The whole thing triggers when the sugar cane on the far right gets three blocks high, triggering the whole array to knock down all but the base row.  But I am pretty sure it would work with a single row of pistons just knocking everything down when that first sugar cane got two high instead.

Whatever, I was just happy to make it work and can refine things later.

The one change up I did make was to use the collection system from the first video, which involved a stream of water which dumps all the harvested sugar cane through a hole in the floor into a hopper on the third floor of the castle, which then deposits it into a double trunk.

I will say it was a bit challenging to build the second story on the farm.  The design can be extended horizontally or vertically, but the space on the roof and my use of the water delivery method limited how wide it could be, so I had to go for the vertical.  Having built the whole thing close to the edge meant that my construction scaffolding put me over the edge of the castle roof, facing a 4+ story fall to my certain death if I went over.  That will help you focus.

My goal in all of this was to have ample sugar and to be able to make paper to trade to the villagers in the village we came across back during our further exploration phase.  Though I have to go back and find it.  It is sort of south-east-ish… I think.  Time to explore again.  And maybe build a road.

Meanwhile I also started looking into hosting services to put the world online so the instance group or other friends could join in if they wanted.  There has been some mild interest in that regard.  I will say that the number of such hosting services shows just how popular Minecraft really is.  And exploring that brought up the whole “which server type?” question.  Vanilla Minecraft is the default, but there are other options out there, the most popular… based on what I have seen… being Spigot, which claims better performance, memory management, and finer control over world parameters, and Bukkit, which offers a huge range of ready-to-go mods.  Or such is my take-away.  So the question isn’t just who has the best price and where their data center is location, but also what server type to run.

And such is the state of affairs for us in Minecraft.

Minecraft and the Importance of Not Falling off of Things

Another installment in my voyage of discovery with Minecraft as my daughter looks on in dismay.

After my time spent lost I was interested in the idea of a “day’s travel” in Minecraft.  When playing in survival mode, you essentially have to get into shelter when the sun sets and hole up until the sun shines again. (So always travel with a bed so you can skip the night sleeping.)

The concept of a “day’s travel” as a unit of measure is affected by some factors, including how easy your path is.   It just so happened that I had a camp that I setup that was almost exactly one day’s travel from our house.  However, part of the reason it took that long was that the going was rather rough, with several large ridges to climb over and a lake to work around, along with the usual dense groves of trees to make it through.

So, I decided to see how much quicker the trip to that camp would be if I built a road straight there.  I had collected up quite a bit of cobblestone and so started laying a three block wide path straight south from our house to the camp.

I did not get very far however.  Just south of our house I ran into a deep canyon, one of the first obstacles I had to go around on my original journey.  I was not going to allow this obstacle to force a detour on me yet again, but the gap across it was too wide to allow me to build out a bridge by placing block on the far side and filling in towards myself.

However, I had seen my daughter essentially build a bridge beneath herself as she moved forward.  It looked like I just had to get close enough to the edge to be able to turn around and see the face of the block below me so I could highlight that face and place a new block against it.  So I got closer and closer to the edge… and promptly fell off to my death.

At the bottom of the canyon

At the bottom of the canyon

Of course, when you die in Minecraft, all your gear and inventory and a bit of your experience stay right when you died and you have to go back and get them.  Corpse recovery for a new generation.

Fortunately where I died wasn’t too far from the house and spawn point, so I grabbed a spare pick and a sword, just in case, headed back to the canyon, and started digging down in stair step style in order to get my stuff, which included a diamond sword and pick, my most valuable possessions.

At that point my daughter wandered up and saw me quite animated as I tried to safely get down to my lost gear and asked what happened.  When I related my issue, I got a big eye roll and then a condescending, “Go get your stuff and I’ll show you how to do this.”

Re-equipped and back up at the end of my road at the lip of the canyon, she told me to hold down the shift key and then move to the edge of the precipice; having the shift key down would prevent me from going over the edge.  Once there and turned so I could see the face of the block from which I wanted to extend my road, my daughter told me to start building.  So I let go of the shift key and promptly fell to my death again.

“Dad! Keep holding the shift key!” she wailed in exasperation before walking back to her own computer to build the bridge for me before I could damage myself further.  I collected my gear again while she built a single block wide path across the gap.  I told her it ought to be three wide because, as we have seen, I tend to fall off of things.  She agreed.

I practiced a bit with the shift-move thing, just to be sure I wasn’t going to screw up again, while she went on building out my road further south.  Her plan was to lay down track so we could take a mine cart to the camp and, after going a short ways ran back to the house to build some track, including some powered track and the accompanying redstone torches, so she could start building that part right away.

She used up her track rather quickly and then went back to laying what would be the rail bed for the mine cart line to the camp.  However her vision of how the track would look was different from my own.  She started building over the various low to medium ridges and then around one tall ridge, taking a long detour around a lake and disappearing into the distance before finally getting back towards the camp.

I, on the other hand, was planning something as straight as a Roman road that would take no account of nature, in the grand tradition of Soviet agriculture.  I would go through mountains, driving steel like John Henry to build my three block wide tunnels.  And other metaphors.  Also, straight meant we would need less track, an important item for me as we were running out of iron.

In fact, that iron  shortage got me off of my road project and focused on mining.  Up until that point my mining had been pretty haphazard, and had left holes in the fields around our house to the point that I started marking them with torches so I wouldn’t accidentally fall into any of them.  I decided I needed to be more serious and began to delve deeper into the earth, well below the levels at which I had been mining.  As I got down I dug into an open area, which I lit up with torches and decided to use as my underground HQ.  I tried to block off various dark areas on the periphery to keep the monsters from showing up en masse and then started digging parallel shafts every three blocks in my search for ore.

Secret underground mining facility

Secret underground mining facility

It did take me a while to block off all the possible points of ingress into my mining camp, and I managed to die again, this time by catching fire by falling in lava while fighting a couple of zombies as I was trying to block yet another hole in the perimeter.

Death comes once again

Death comes once again

Fortunately I had built a well lit path down to my lair, complete with steps, so I was able to return, sword in hand, to clear away the zombies and reclaim my stuff.

Around then my friend Xyd, who comments here from time to time, sent me something about mining being optimum at level 12 in a world, as that would yield the most ore with the least likelihood of having lava spill down on you, so I took one of my side shafts and began digging downward to level 12, as indicated by the client informational overlay activated by control-F3. (I think it is control-F3.  I mapped it to a special function key and promptly forgot the original key combo)

From there I starting digging a main shaft from which I dug a series of side shafts, every three blocks again… or two blocks between shafts… so as to find the maximum ore with the minimum digging.  And I did find a decent amount of ore, though it was not without some hazards.  True enough, I never did have lava pour in on me, but I did have to learn to be careful as I dug the side shafts as often enough I would end up with the ground level disappearing into an open area featuring its own supply of lava.

Care for some lava?

Care for some lava?

That sort of thing generally meant taking some care, though I did find that those open areas tended to have a decent supply of ore in the walls.  Of course, I managed to make the cardinal mistake in one such area.  A couple of blocks away from a pool of lava there was some gold ore in the floor and, in my haste I stood on it, dug straight down, and fell right into the pool of lava below, dying and losing all of my stuff.  When it is in the lava, it is gone for good.

All gear is perishable, but I happened to have a couple of diamonds in my inventory when that happened, which stung a bit.  Still, I rebuilt and carried on, learning yet another valuable lesson in wariness.  I collected more iron and gold ore, plenty of redstone and coal, the occasional diamond or lapis lazuli, and lots and lots of cobblestone.  All of which I hauled to the surface and stored.  Even the cobblestone, which I figured might be useful for a building project.

And then the project presented itself.  Xyd found his Minecraft world and sent me a screenshot of the castle he had built up.

Xyd's castle at night

Xyd’s castle at night

That looked pretty impressive and made me think about building my own castle.  Our house was fine, but a castle would be something fine.  So I took a bunch of that cobblestone I had been collecting and went a ways from our house, close enough to see it but far enough that it was at least a bit in the distance, and began to build something approximating a castle.

If it has windows it is probably more of a palace

If it has windows it is probably more of a palace

This became a lesson in geometric progression.  Basically, you need a lot of materials to build a big structure.  A stack of 64 blocks of cobblestone seems like a lot, until you realize that only represents an 8×8 single layer patch of building material.  In a structure that started with a base measurement of 27×27 and then added towers at the corner, stacks of material disappear quickly.  At a couple points I had to go back to mining, less for the ore and more to cover the amount of cobblestone I needed.

Sometimes things seem deceptively easy.  Behind the castle there was a hill between it and an open plain.  So I decided I would just clear the hill away and have a big open plain to use for farms or whatever.  After burning through half a dozen shovels for dirt and axes to clear trees, I started thinking about that estimation problem about how many dump trucks would it take to move all the material that makes up Mt. Everest.

And then Xyd shared his Mincraft world with me and I got to see his castle up close.  The screen shot doesn’t do it justice.  I climbed up to the top level (and eventually fell off, because me) and found that I was on the same level as the clouds in the sky.  I stood there in the middle of them as the drifted by.

Meanwhile, he had also built up an astonishing level of automation inside his giant structure.  Through the miracle of redstone and hopper technology, you can dump your ore in a chest down in his mines below the castle, where it will be automatically picked up by a mining cart, transported, sorted, smelted, and put in the appropriate container for later use.

And here we have the ore room...

And here we have the ore room…

Yeah, that is some crazy stuff.  I let my daughter run through that and she was immediately trying to figure out how all of the automated processing systems worked.  She has generally been more about PvP and action and building in general than such detail, but she was already trying out prototypes based on what she saw.

And that gave me some ideas for my own castle in progress.  My initial goal will be to include a three block wide shaft down to level 12 for mining, which will give me enough width for stairs and a mine cart track, so I can at least work on setting up a system to haul my ore to the surface.  I’ll work on more complexity later.  And digging that shaft down will generate more building material for the structure itself.

Sunset from my tower

Sunset from my tower, house in the distance

So much to do.

Ain’t No Cure for the Summertime MMO Ennui Blues

Theoretically, this should be an exciting time for MMOs for me.

Blizzard finally gave us the WoW 6.2 patch, bringing us a new zone and opening up flying in Draenor.  Daybreak has the EverQuest time locked progression server thing running, and it is more popular than ever.  They are also warming up an EverQuest II version of the same, which could be interesting.  There is a new update dropping for EVE Online next week and then the final round of Fozzie Sov changes the following week, which should liven things up.

And yet, I am not really feeling it right now.

The 6.2 patch in WoW, far from bringing me back into the game, seemed to tip the balance the other way.  I had been in something of a garrison and pet battle holding pattern for ages, and then 6.2 hit and I stopped logging in altogether.

There was the momentary shock of the Master Plan addon breaking.  Really, doing garrison missions without that makes the whole thing such a chore that I didn’t bother trying.  And even when the addon was fixed a day later I didn’t bother.  Garrisons kept me going for a bit, but they are also my undoing in the end.  (The death of the easy-money gray trash from the salvage yard didn’t help either.)

I think, perhaps, that the two year straight run with WoW might mean it is time for a break.  Blizz has said that 6.2 is it for the expansion, so the whole game will be in something of a holding pattern until BlizzCon, at which point they will likely announce the next expansion.  We’ll see if Blizz can wait that long.  I suspect that the Q2 2015 results, which ought to be announced in August, will show another sharp decline in subscribers.

On the EverQuest side of things, I am just not feeling it.  For all the nostalgia I feel for the game, I might not be in the right state of mind for another round of bandit camping in West Karana, undead in Unrest, and whatever else.  I am glad it is going on, I am enjoying watching from the sidelines, but I just don’t log in.

I fear the same might be true for the EverQuest II nostalgia servers.  I am not entirely happy with the name choices.

Deathtoll seems just a bit too cute for the PvP server.  And, while Stormhold would have been my first choice for the PvE server had Isle of Refuge not been on the list, I am somewhat shocked that Isle of Refuge didn’t win.  It was the runaway favorite in the nominations.  I don’t want to go all Daybreak vote rigging conspiracy theory on this, but I seriously thought Isle of Refuge winning was pretty much a given.  But, Stormhold it is I guess.

Stormhold, in Antonica

Stormhold, in Antonica

There is the promise of more polls to come for the EverQuest II time locked expansion server, along with a beta promised for next week, though I have to wonder how Daybreak is feeling about polls now given the seeming “ain’t nobody happy” compromise around the Ruins of Kunark unlock vote.

And then there is EVE Online.  I suppose that EVE doesn’t really count, as boredom and finding it difficult to log in is the normal state of affairs for me with the game.  Then something will happen… a war, a deployment, a new fleet doctrine… that will lead to the moments of excitement that make the hours or boredom worthwhile.

All of which has added up to me mostly playing Minecraft every evening when I have some time.  So you can probably expect more “letters from those late to the party” posts about the game going forward.