Tag Archives: Minecraft Realms

Punching Trees Once More

I posted about Minecraft last week and this week we are playing it again.  My blog posts can still exert some influence I guess.

Specifically, Skronk and Ula saw the post and it stirred a bit of the desire to play again in them as well, so Skronk fired up a Minecraft Realms account and created a fresh world.  I may have written about the immersive nature of the more distant horizon when playing locally, but playing with friends tops that.

Skronk sent me an invite and I was able to pop in and find the town he had set up shop.  It was nestled in a taiga biome.

Finding Skronk

In a fresh new world you have to start from scratch.  Gone was all my diamond gear and that bow with the infinite arrow enchantment.  I had to beat on a tree to get some wood to make some tools to harvest some stone to make some slightly better tools to dig a mine to start looking for iron.  And then there is food and shelter to find and the monsters of the night to avoid.  Things are more deadly when you’re just waving a stone sword about and have no armor.

Creeper got me

I helped build things up a bit in the new town, doing what I always do.  I dug down to level 12 to start mining.  I put in a couple of rows of potatoes away from the villages for food.  I built an auto-furnace down in the mine once I had enough iron for hoppers and some buckets.  Lava was readily available.  With some iron I made some clippers to shear the local sheep.

Once things were settled a bit I decided to go on a walk about.  I packed up some supplies and headed east, then north, then back around to the west, coming over a hill to find a village in the plains to work with.

A new town discovered

It had water, animals, horses, and even some sugar cane near by.  So I starting in on my usual tasks, digging a mine, making some beds, and walling up the place to protect it.  Protection is necessary with the pillagers about.

Pillagers show up

I had done an okay job on the perimeter, but a couple found their way in and I had to fight them.  Fortunately, by then, I had iron armor on and a shield, so was able to block their crossbow attacks as I closed in to fight them.

Skronk had turned raids off, so the big pillager event did not happen.  That was a bit of a relief as, even armed up a bit, I wasn’t sure I could manage that.  A pillager raid was a handful even back in my diamond armor on the old world.

So it goes.  A new world to play in.

Another Minecraft day passes

There is some joy starting fresh and building up again.

Zen and the Art of Minecraft Maintenance

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

It had been a while.

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

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

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

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

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

Replacement track in hand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking out as I roll along

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

A bit of my heard and the mansion

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

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

Back in the world and up in the clouds

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

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

The Minecraft Village and Pillage Update Lands

The Minecraft 1.14 update, the “Village & Pillage” release, landed for both the Java (old school) and Bedrock (Win10 and consoles) editions this week.  It has been described by the team as the biggest update to villages ever.

Villagers and Pillagers

And, given the list of new items and changes, I won’t argue with that description, even extending it to the biggest update overall I have seen for the game.

The list of just “new” things added to the game is already pretty impressive:

  • Bamboo jungles with bamboo trees and pandas
  • Barrels
  • Berries
  • Blast furnaces
  • Town bells
  • Campfires
  • Cartography tables
  • Composters
  • Crossbows
  • Fletching tables
  • Foxes
  • Leather horse armor (dyeable)
  • Lanterns
  • Lecterns
  • Looms
  • Pillagers
  • Raids
  • Ravagers
  • Wandering Traders
  • Scaffolding
  • Smithing tables
  • Smokers
  • Stonecutters
  • New flowers
  • New dyes
  • New decorative blocks

Back over the summer, when they first started talking about this update I thought pandas were going to be the big deal.  But now there is so much more.

And those are just the new things.  The Minecraft team has also changes up how a lot of things work in the game.  Cats are now their own thing, separate from ocelots, villages now work differently, and all of that new stuff has it own mechanics as well.

In addition, textures were updated as well, so the world even looks a bit different.  And all of that is just scratching the surface of what is listed out for the update.

As usual, I face some of the “old server” problems.  New biomes do not appear in already discovered areas, so if I want to see pandas I am going to have to mount an expedition to find one, the way I did for the warm ocean.

However, this time around a lot of the new stuff is right there in front of me.  I went to a village near our server spawn point, literally the first village we discovered almost four years ago when my daughter and I started out with a fresh server, and found the newly updated villages… well… making new villagers I guess.

Love is in the air

The villagers have new textures, as do a lot of things in the game.

Villagers doing it in the new wheat texture

They also have some new behaviors.  They need some of the new work stations to go about their business, which will appear automatically if you discover a new village but which you need to build for them in an old one.  The villagers also all now sleep in beds, which I discovered when night fell and I went to use the one bed in the village only to find it occupied.  So I had to make beds for everybody.  It is a good thing I had some sheep within the walls of that village.

Young villagers, without occupations, sleeping in the new dorm

I also collected a few cats.  Cats are now strays and they spawn around villages.  You have to sneak up on them and give them fish to tame them.  The wall around this village helped me corral them as they couldn’t wander off, but I understand that if you village is open they will spawn and move away.

A calico kitty caught

There is still a lot to do and a lot to explore with this Minecraft update.  There were some initial problems with people logging in and, as is often true with new updates, Minecraft Realms servers seem to be struggling under the weight of the changes… taking a mine cart anywhere leads to some ragged movement… but the update is live.  Time to go play.

Minecraft 1.10 The Frostburn Update

Yesterday saw the release of Minecraft 1.10, the so called Frostburn Update.

The pace of major version releases of Minecraft has always been a bit erratic, but the long stretches where 1.7 and then 1.8 were the current releases made me wonder if the release cycle was settling down to an approximate year-long interval between drops.  That would let mod makers and those maintaining their own versions of the server software to keep up.

And now we have version 1.10, after having gotten version 1.9 just at the end of February.  A lot of mods haven’t been updated to 1.9 yet and now we have a new version.  Life in development; everything you depend on is either updated too quickly or not at all.

This is the list of features that come with 1.10 (A more detailed list here):

  • Many bug fixes
  • Added Polar Bear
  • Added Husk and Stray
  • An auto-jump option
  • Improvements to some commands
  • Structure blocks for custom maps
  • Underground fossils made from bone blocks
  • Added Magma Block
  • Added Nether Wart Block and Red Nether Bricks
  • Some huge mushrooms can be even larger
  • A rare chance to find lonely trees in plains
  • Find abandoned mineshafts filled with gold in mesa biomes
  • Villages generate better paths between the buildings
  • More variations of villages, based on the biomes they are built in
  • Endermen have been spotted in the Nether
  • Removed Herobrine

We all like the “many bug fixes” part I bet… unless we were doing something that depended on a bug to operate.

I got to take a peek at Minecraft 1.10 as our server was upgraded right away.  Among the options you give up when hosting on Minecraft Realms is the ability to choose what version your world runs on.  You are always running on the latest stable release.  So when I logged in last night it was, hey presto, new version installed and running.

When I logged in the first thing I noticed was auto-jump, which is on by default.  This is a feature from Minecraft: Pocket Edition (which I have on the iPad and will write about some day) that manifests itself largely by not requiring the player to jump (space bar) when climbing a block.

I got used to that pretty quickly, though now I have to wonder if there is any advantage to putting in stairs any more.

Then I ran off to see what else I might find from the new release.

One disadvantage of having a world that already has a large explored area is that to get some of the new things, they have to be generated post-patch.  So in order to see changes to villages or the promised new mesa biome abandoned mine somebody on the server has to go out exploring some more because old areas don’t regenerate, you have to find new ones.

And if I find another mesa biome, I’ll probably end up building a rail line to it.

But the new mobs can spawn even in old areas, so I could potentially find a polar bear, a husk, or a stray.  Given the latter two are, respectively, a new type of zombie that spawns in desert areas and a new type of skeleton that spawns in icy areas, I though a polar bear might be the best option.  So I went to the nether and used the transport hub there to get to an icy biome to start search the unexplored edges.  After a couple of day cycles searching around, I found a polar bear.

Polar Bear time

Polar Bear time

Of course, once I found him I had to call my daughter over to see the polar bear.  Annoyed at me shouting across the house to her for some dumb Minecraft thing, she was immediately enamored with the polar bear and wanted to know if it could be tamed or ridden or what.

The power of cuteness… even blocky cuteness.

As far as I know though, the polar bear cannot be tamed, though you can apparently put it on a lead and tow it places.  Maybe I will bring one do a desert biome.

Anyway, Minecraft 1.10 is out there and our world has been upgraded.

The Move to Minecraft Realms

The server move was on.

As I mentioned in the last Minecraft post, our term with MC Pro Hosting was up this past weekend and I was looking for a new home.  Performance on our server there was poor, especially at peak hours, and the only solution they had to offer was to upgrade our service.  However, given that only eight people have ever logged on to our server, and having even four of us on at once was a rare occasion, I felt that our server plan (we ended up with the Iron Plan), advertised as good to host up 40 players, should have been sufficient, especially given we were using the vanilla server with no mods.

But where to go?

Back when I was first looking at hosting plans, people had nice things to say about Minecraft Realms, which is Mojang’s own hosting service.  It was stable, safe, and easy.  It was just expensive relative to what else was out there.  However, late last year Mojang decided to fix the pricing part, dropping the rates to as low as $7.99 a month for a six month run, $8.99 a month for a three month commitment, and $9.99 for a month to month billing cycle.

And, they also offer a free two week trial.

I setup a trial server a few weeks back, and then life got in the way and I never quite got back to it until last week, after the trial had expired.  Still, I had gotten a peek and decided to commit.  That was on Thursday last week, and I had until Sunday to wrap things up with MC Pro Hosting.

Dealing with Minecraft Realms though, that is a little different than other hosting services.  Netherbyte and MC Pro Hosting were similar, if not in pricing and service, then in how you managed your server.  They both used the same third party admin tool, both gave me FTP access to our partition, and allowed me to basically tinker with all the bits and settings directly.

You don’t get any of that with Minecraft Realms.  Or the bits that you do get are not like that at all.  You do all of your server work in the Minecraft client.

Everything is under the Minecraft Realms button

Everything is under the Minecraft Realms button

For me, having used various other tools up to this point, it was a bit confusing at first.  However, if you are coming from playing on local, single player worlds, it is clearly an attempt to make a hosted world as much like a local world as possible.

So the control panel won’t overwhelm you with options.

Controlling our world

Controls for our world

You can have three different worlds on your realm, though only one may be running at a time.  You can generate them from scratch as with a local game, but to use a current world you have to have it available locally as a single player world first.

That meant making a backup of our current world, downloading it, and then converting it into something that could be accessed locally.  That generally just means putting the “world” folder in the “Saves” directory for Minecraft, but since we tried running a couple different server types over the last nine months… in search of better performance… our directory had a some extras in it, including two extra copies of the nether in their own folders, as opposed to the DIM1 (or is is the DIM-1?) directory.

I managed to get that sorted and a right items in the right place so the world appeared as a local realm that I could successfully log into.  Then I clicked on my one remaining empty world slot (the first two were test runs) where it let me select our world to upload.  Weighing in at more than 800mb, the upload took a bit of time, but it went through successfully.

(At some point I will do a post about how Minecraft was in part a success due to the fact that it was created in a world where it resources like drive space were readily available.)

That was a success.  I was able to log into our world on Minecraft Realms and everything looked good.  Now I just had to get everybody else to follow me, which primarily meant getting Aaron to come along.

Of course, there were complications.

In order to use Minecraft Realms, you have to have a Mojang account.  All of us had old school Minecraft accounts.  There is a conversion process, where you start with a Minecraft account and end up with a Mojang account.  It isn’t even particularly difficult.  It was just, like so many things, documented by somebody who already knew how to do it, so it makes assumptions that you might not at a couple of points.

I went through the process with my daughter’s, just to see how it worked.  You have to log onto the Minecraft site, go to your settings, click the link to convert your account, give it an email address (which will be your new login), click a verification link that is emailed to that address, then log in to the Mojang site using your email address, your old account name, and your password, which remains the same.

At that point you are converted and, as a side benefit, you can now change your Minecraft in-game name once every 30 days, since it is no longer your account login.

I then logged into Minecraft Realms, clicked on the Players button, and invited my daughter’s account, using her in-game name (which she can now change, so I am not sure how that will work out if she does), so that she could join the server.  Minecraft Realms servers are all by invite only, so it clearly isn’t the service for you if you want to run a public server.

When my daughter logged back in to Minecraft, she had a notification on the main screen.

you've got mail or something...

you’ve got mail or something…

Clicking on the Minecraft Realms button revealed a pending invite for her.

Also, would you like to rent a server?

Also, would you like to rent a server?

That was the invite to join the server.  Clicking on and accepting that put our server on her list and she was able to log in.  Op success!

So I put that together in an email and sent it out to the rest of the team on our server.

And then Aaron had a problem.  He converted his account but wasn’t seeing the invite to the server.  I verified his user name on the invite list, which was suspiciously gray on a list of otherwise white shaded names.  Then Xyd chimed in that he had converted his account and had logged in just fine.

Invite success...

Invite success…

Of course, the mocking tone that might have accompanied that note might have spurred Aaron to double check his end of things, as he came back a while later and reported success as well.  Skronk followed up after that, though he reported problems with 1.8 client mods not working with 1.9, but at least a quorum seemed to have migrated to the new location.

I ran around the world, rolling down minecart rails, which is one place that performance lag was very apparent and things seemed okay.  Aaron tinkered for a bit and said things were at least as good as before.  So I cancelled the MC Pro Hosting server and that was that.  We had a new home.  I don’t have as fine a control for the moment… we’ll see what happens when the Mineserver finally ships… but that is okay for now.  I do get an activity chart for people now.

Some of us have been playing more than others...

Some of us have been playing more than others…

While I was still rolling around and finding some new things with 1.9, such as a couple of the new zombie models…

Coming to get me...

Coming to get me…

… Aaron got stuck right into the new server and spawned the Ender Dragon again, something new for 1.9.  After more than a few deaths… I was on but elsewhere for some of the fight… he brought down the beast, which spawned a new type of portal in The End.

The New Portal

The New Portal

Throwing an Ender Pearl into it… something in rich supply due to the Enderman farm pumping them out just down the path… brings you to one of the new cities in The End.

End City

End City

There he found some new treasures, new materials, a new light source (the end rod), the dragon’s head (for his collection), and more Ender men.

They are just hanging out all over

They are just hanging out all over

So there we are for now.  On a new server, exploring some of the Minecraft 1.9 features, and dealing with some of the Minecraft 1.9 bugs.

Just Another Pig in the Wall

Aaron has been busy reworking some of the automated farms in our world.  He worked out the Blaze farm in fairly short order, but the zombie pigmen turned out to be a bigger challenge.

With the 1.9 update mobs don’t seem to spawn on mine cart tracks anymore and seem reluctant to even stand on them (good news for rail travel!), so a system that was based on scooping them up in carts to dump them to their death… and the dumping bit broke as well… seemed problematic.

And then there was a lack of spawns as well.

So Aaron undertook a major redesign and construction effort.

First he needed to go higher, so the spire in the are above the nether roof grew taller.

Then he changed the harvest model, going from a passive method to one based on zombie pigman aggro.  For this he constructed, at the top of the tower, a large multi-level platform on which pigmen could spawn, wide enough to allow for the full aggro radius range.

To start the harvesting, the player stands on a spot in the center of the platform and shoots an arrow at a nearby pigman, causing all of the pigmen in the area to go aggro.  As they try to reach the player, they are channeled into a single file path that leads them to fall to the death, fooled by the presence of a trap door.

Upon seeing it for the first time, I was struck by the image of the pigmen queued up to be fed into the harvester.  It was like a scene from the Minecraft version of The Wall.

An orderly queue... of death

An orderly queue… of death

As a further benefit of this new method, as the user stands there, experience globes from the slain pigmen float up the shaft and level you up.

Leveling up on murder... as usual...

Leveling up on murder… as usual…

As a method of farming gold, it was an astonishing upgrade from Aaron’s previous system.  And when you are done you just head down the ladder and out of aggro range and soon the pigmen forget out you.  Then you can pop up and collect the loot from Aaron’s sorting machine.

Output, plus some exp globes that leaked out

Output, plus some exp globes that leaked out

The whole thing works so well that… it crashed the server a couple of times.

It puts such a strain on MC Pro’s system that it falls behind, eventually exceeding the maximum tick count delay of 60,000ms.

We have been with MC Pro Hosting for about six months now and, while the customer service has been better than Netherbyte, the server performance has been much worse.  Getting errors about falling behind when running a very active zombie pigman farm is one thing, but I see those sorts of errors in the log when simply riding a mine cart or when traveling on foot somewhere.

These problems are especially noticeable during prime time hours, leading me to believe that we are sharing a CPU with one or more rather active Minecraft servers.

So, as well as adapting to the 1.9, I have been looking into a new hosting solution.  My initial plan was to go with the Mineserver hardware I backed as part of their Kickstarter, however they have been having technical issues, so it isn’t ready yet.

Barring that, I am looking into Mojang’s Minecraft Realms hosting service.  Back when I was first looking for a host, they were noted for being safe and stable, but expensive.  They have since gotten serious about being competitive, so their prices are way down from before.

So that is where we stand, rich in gold thanks to Aaron, but looking for a more stable host.