Tag Archives: Late to the Party

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.

Further Exploration in Minecraft

After the Father’s Day round of Minecraft my daughter seemed to think we were done with it.  Or that I was done with it.  So she was surprised to find that I launched the server again over the next few days and was interested in further exploration.

Despite the fact that she likes to play on servers with mods, she agreed to come play with me some more, picking up where she left off on building us a what she considered a proper house.

A house on the hill

A house on the hill

My job was to gather sand and melt it into blocks of glass in the furnace so that we would have lots of windows.  It is two stories with a room for each of us.  Each room also featured a skylight… more glass blocks… which was neat when it started to rain.

Rain at the house

Rain at the house

She built the house on a hill not too far from our farm, so the beacon she built to help us navigate the area would still be useful for getting home.

The farm, lit up at night

The farm, lit up at night

I eventually built a raised road between the house and the farm just to make it easier to travel between the two.  That is one thing about Minecraft is that you can sit around and make minor updates and adjustments and additions all you want.  I eventually built that road, expanded the lot around the house, built a wall with several gates to keep the monsters out, and planted a pumpkin patch around back just because.

All of that happened later though, because my daughter was insisting on something of a whirlwind tour of the game, which started out with horses.

She spotted some horses not too far from our home so we headed out there to tame a couple which involves getting on the horse until it gives up and stops knocking you off.

Mounted on horses

Mounted on horses

She had also found a village near by and was able to trade for saddles, which are apparently also part of the whole horse thing.  This went by pretty quickly so I wasn’t sure how she even got the saddles and was mildly surprised that villages of NPCs were actually a thing.  But there they were.

The village

The village

When we got back to the house with the horses it was already night fall, so we boarded them downstairs and went to bed.

Horse in the living room, not recommended

Horse in the living room, not recommended

The next morning we build a stable adjacent to the house for the horses.

Then my daughter wanted to go mining.  We needed iron for some of the things she wanted to do, so it was down and down underground until we picked up enough of that to build a set of armor for each of us.  That probably explains why I haven’t died yet.

We also came across some diamonds as well, so were able to craft some high quality weapons and tools.

Armored up with a diamond shovel

Armored up with a diamond shovel

We needed the diamond tools… or at least the diamond pick… in order to harvest some special materials for her next item on the list, a portal to the nether.

The portal looms

The portal looms

That built, we jumped in and took a quick visit to the nether, though we had to stop for a minute and watch the video Screw the Nether on YouTube which, up to that point, constituted my total knowledge of the nether.

In the nether for a bit

In the nether for a bit

Our trip there was short.  We took a quick look around, harvested something, and then headed back to the portal.  The portal in the nether somehow ended up surrounded in flames and I caught fire and nearly died getting back.  After that she walled up the portal lest anything venture from it.  We still have it close by should we need it.

And that was it for the whirlwind tour.  She went back to other servers and I was left to potter about.

As noted, I spent some time improving the house.  I also delved into the mines below us, harvesting materials, boring out new galleries to work, and occasionally falling into a deep hole which then necessitated digging myself back to the surface again.  The land around our house started to look like it had been set upon by a pack of rather large gophers.  There were holes all over.  So I spent some time marking those, putting up walls and torches to keep myself from falling in.

That lasted for a while, but eventually I got the urge to explore.  I decided to keep it simple and just headed south in a straight line in hopes of not getting lost.  That worked for a while.  There were, of course, things in the way.  I bored out a tunnel at one point and had to pave over yet another hole in the ground to keep the path straight.  And I would drop a cobblestone block and put a torch on top of it every so often in order to mark my way.

Exploring turns out to be pretty neat.  There is definitely a hard limit on how far one can travel in a day and terrain can limit your progress drastically.  I decided to bore through a hill and ended up breaking out at the top of a sheer cliff at one point, so had to go back a stair step my way down.

And then night falls and you have to hole up and make a shelter.  I was smart enough to pack supplies, the key item being a bed.  You dig yourself a shelter, secure it, put down your bed and sleep through the night.  Then, when you wake it is day time again and you can pick up the bed and move on.

I kept on heading south for a few days, then ran into a wide body of water.  It was getting on in the day so I built a more elaborate shelter than normal, lit it up, and even put a door on it.  Then I built something like a dock on the water and called it a night.  The next day I built a boat, my first, and sailed off to explore the lake.

And promptly got lost.

Then started my adventures in the wilderness.  I never got back to my dock or shelter on the boat.  I ended up way off in a jungle area and tried to make my way back in the direction of home.  I remembered to pack some wool, so I could make another bed, but otherwise had to find materials along the way to replace my tools as they wore out.

Eventually, channeled off course by a series of steep valleys, I was way out in the boonies and had no idea which way home might lay.  I had passed through jungles and wooded areas and a high plateau with snow, and eventually down into some more wooded valleys.  That could have been close to home or it could have been further away.  I had no idea.

In going through the recipe list I saw that, among the things you would make, was a map.   So I set up a camp on a river and started farming some sugar can, which can be turned into paper, along with some watermelons for food.  I build a shelter, tended my farm, and then started mining for the necessary additional materials.

Days went by.  I built a spire on top of a nearby mountain and lit it with torches as a marker so I could find my way back as I explored around the area.  I eventually had paper, but was still missing other ingredients.

My daughter came in to see what I was up to and I told her I went exploring and she said, “Alone!?!?!” and told me I should only go exploring in a group.  I was totally lost but had no idea how far from home I was, so she logged in and made some fireworks to set off to see if I could see them

Eventually I gave her admin powers and she summoned me to the spawn point, which she moved near our home.  My first action was to make a compass, as I had the materials in a chest in our house.  That always points to the spawn point so now I at least know what direction home is going forward.

Then I kind of missed the little base I had built up while lost and tried to find it again.  I made it south and found my dock and the stuff I had left behind, but sailing out on a boat again I couldn’t find where I had eventually come ashore.  I am kind of sorry I let her summon me home, as I feel like I left something undone out there.  So I will carry on trying to find my old base, building new ones as I explore.

But I could see this as a potential group game, setting up a base and improving it while exploring and taming the world around it.

Anyway, our home abides and there is more to explore.

Home at sunset

Home at sunset