Dec 29, 2010

Twin Peaks is a lie

Remember Twin Peaks, from a few posts back?

It's a lie. Here's a side view.

To my grief, Twin Peaks has indeed proved placentine, but no matter: I can work with that. I'm currently transforming Twin Peak into Twin Tower:

I've fortified the hilltop with the tree into the top level of my tower, and started working down from there.


Epic Island, stretching in three directions around Twin Tower, really is epic.

What makes it even more interesting is that the area around Twin Tower is honeycombed with caves.

And more caves.

I'm not normally so much into spelunking, but when you see something like this, how can you not be intrigued?


Twin Tower is set up nicely for now. I have big plans for the site, so I'll be back later. Now, though, it's time to swing back to base.

Every time I visit my tower, I remember why it is that I build these things. Just seeing that makes me happy.

After a quick pit stop, it's time for more work. Here's one of the dugouts for my Blood Bowl pitch:

And with that done, I'm off back to Twin Tower. Here's a view from the top level:

The secret to a good Minecraft base is simple. When I build, I prefer to use stone: it's not flammable, and it melds perfectly into natural stone. However, when you mine stone, you get cobblestone, which is a lot less tidy. Here's stone and cobblestone side by side; the stone is the smoother texture.

As you can see, I used cobblestone for the floor of the dugout, but stone for my towers. To make stone, you process cobblestone in a furnace; basically stone is cobblestone + fuel. The easiest fuel available is lumber, specifically planks, which you get from chopping down trees. So ideally, the perfect Minecraft base has a supply of lumber and cobblestone.

This is why the easiest way to build is to dig down. On the ground, you have trees you can harvest for lumber during the day, and at night, you dig down to collect cobblestone. Twin Tower is especially easy to build, because instead of having to mine for cobblestone and then build up, I'm hollowing out the peak into a tower. Here's what I get up to at night:

And with my furnace happily blazing away upstairs, converting cobblestone into stone, I'm set to begin expanding my tower. As Twin Peak has incredibly sheer cliffs to the north and west, but lower slopes to the east and south, I plan to start expanding east and south. First I'll build two auxiliary towers next to Twin Tower, so the next morning, I start building the first one.

My plan is to eventually dig out a deep trench that separates Twin Tower from the rest of the hill, so having delineated that, I start building what will become the parapet of the east tower. The sheer cliff is just to my right, so I'll have to watch my step. I place a block of stone, step to the right, place stone, step right, place stone, step right, OH SHIT




Dec 15, 2010

Marine engineering

I've previously confessed to liking traffic lights, and I'm also very fond of sea marks. You know, this kind of thing:

So guess what I made in Minecraft?


First of all, here's Snow Base:

It's my overnight stop on snow-gathering expeditions. It's a fairly long boat trip to Snow Base from my tower, and even though I established earlier that it's comparatively safe to travel on the water at night, navigating can be a bit tricky. (When I say comparatively safe, I mean perfectly safe, other than exploding cactuses dropping onto you from cliffs) So I made sea marks:

If you click on the picture below, you can (sort of) see a lane marked out with jack-o-lanterns.

This lets me find my way around the waters of Epic Island. I'll need to, because I'm done collecting snow and have found my way to my project site. Here's the "before" picture:

My wooden hut is on the hill to the left.

And here's the "after" picture.

One Blood Bowl pitch, regulation size. One square on the Blood Bowl board is one square on the map.

The end zone. I'm not finished with this project quite yet; once the grass has grown, I'm going to look into putting up some stands and, of course, digging the dugouts.


For now, though, it's time to head back home and prepare for the next challenge.

Dec 10, 2010

Each Event is preceded by Prophecy

We don't generally link to Deviantart on this blog, but we do quite like games. So have a link to a pretty cool set of Morrowind Tarot cards.

Dec 8, 2010

Beyond Epic Island

Last time, I had set off on my epic trek to the east and found Epic Island. Night was falling as I got there, so I quickly chopped down some trees and built myself a hut on top of the hill.

Epic Island shows some serious potential, both for building and doing a little spelunking, but alas! no snow to be found, and to the east, the open ocean:

I could stay and build a great fort, but my wanderlust takes me. So long, Epic Island! I'll be back. I try heading north, but again, more sand and ocean:

I swung back west, and spent an uneventful night in a dug-out. Moving around is refreshing, because instead of an easy life in your imposing stone fortress, it's like those first ever nights of Minecraft: cowering in a dug-out shelter while zombies moan around you. And when I say zombies, I mean lots of them. Here's what I saw the next morning on top of the hill I'd just spent the night in:

Frankly, the whole trip is turning into a bit of an anticlimax, until I see it.

Mount Impossible. Big chunks of rock, earth and sand floating in the air. The perfect place for my next great project. But before that, an experiment.


There it is: for a mere five blocks of planks, you too can own the most dynamic mode of transport in the Minecraft world. A boat!

As soon as I saw Mount Impossible, I knew what I had to do. As near as I could work out, it's roughly to the north of my tower, and probably a little west. If that's the case, then I know where my epic walkway simply has to go. With that thought in mind, I put together a boat, made my way back to my base, and set off on a boating expedition to figure out where exactly Mount Impossible is.

That didn't turn out to be easy. I should explain that a boat really is a great way to get around, because it goes like crazy. You can run your boat so fast that it'll shatter if you hit land, so caution is a must, but on the open sea, it really goes.

However, it turns out Epic Island is huge. As I set off, I saw this distinctive double peak to the northeast:

If that looks high to you, it's because it is. This is the view from the pinnacle on the right:

In the upper left-hand corner, you can see the foliage of a tree inside a cloud. That hilltop is almost as high as my tower!

The island goes on so long that night falls before I reach the eastern shore. I spend the night in my boat, wondering if it'll be safe or if some kind of underwater zombie will eat me or blow up my boat. And then, just when I've given up hope, I see it, illuminated by the rays of the rising sun:

Ice. Ice! That means snow! I carefully bring the boat to rest against the edge of the ice, and disembark. Sure enough, just a little hike over the ice away, beautiful white snow.

By my calculations, I'm going to need almost two hundred blocks of snow for my project. Digging a block of snow with a shovel gets you a snowball, and four snowballs make a snow block. So that's... eight hundred shovelfuls of snow.

I think I'll need to build a house.

Dec 1, 2010

New adventures in Minecraft

Landscaping: done.

The area around my tower now looks more or less neat, and I've succesfully put together the cactus death maze. The tower is now nearly finished; one more project to go!

This was my first house:

It's not much, but it was home for a while.

This is literally the hole I dug into the hillside on my first night in Minecraft, to hide from the living dead and the exploding death cacti. It's just north of my epic tower, and was my first base, where I put together the equipment I'd need to start building the tower.

Before I head out, there's one more project I need to finish: a tunnel connecting my house with my tower. It looks like this:

As soon as the tunnel is ready, I can pass securely from the tower to my first house, and start heading north. And after a little digging, it's done! I can now reach my first house from the tower in complete safety, with the cacti above my tunnel completely oblivious to me.

The only thing left to do in the tower complex is to continue my walkway west. Next time, I'll head north and west in search of snow! Until then, here's a view of the sunset from the end of my walkway. That's where I'm headed.


You see, you've seen the desert and forest, but there are more biomes in Minecraft. There's snow, and it just so happens that for a project I've come up with, I'm going to need some snow. There's none around my tower, so it's clearly time to go adventuring to find some! Illogically, I headed south, and after finding a nice island just to the south of the hill my tower is next to, I built a little tower outpost.

To the north, you can see my tower:

But alas, looking south, all I see is the ocean and some more green islands. No snow or ice in sight!

Clearly, heading further south is going to call for a major boating expedition. As you can see from the view from my walkway, it's just more woods and ocean to the west, too, with the same story to the north. I'll try east, I think, and I head over to the big sandy hill you can see from my panoramic sunrise window, and build a little outpost on that. After spending the night there, it turns out I've made camp on Creeper Hill. This is what I saw when I came out in the morning, after killing two cactuses at my door in the night:


Not to worry: I've indoctrinated myself with one important Minecraft lesson. When you come out your front door, RUN. I left the exploding cactuses of death in my dust and headed way out east.

My strategy is to keep going in one direction until I find snow. I don't really know how the world is generated, so I don't know if going north would be smart or not. So I don't get lost, I intend to leave a cairn like this on prominent hillsides:

That's my east outpost in the distance. Once you see the cairn, you can get to it, and then you can see the outpost. Build the next cairn in sight of this one, and so on. I mean, it's not like I'm going to run out of places to explore, either; from what I've heard, the game will generate new terrain up to eight times the surface area of the earth before running into difficulties!

I'll digress for a moment. There's a lot of Minecraft stories floating around the Internet, because this really is the most awesome game ever. One thing that a lot of them have in common is that people keep getting lost. On the face of it, it seems really easy to get lost: the terrain is generated, so there aren't that many very distinctive landmarks. But it isn't.

For starters, the sun always rises directly to your east and sets directly to the west. And the clouds always move from south to north. So really, if you're above ground, you should always be able to tell which direction is which. Now, assuming you have any idea which way you're headed, you should also know, at least roughly, where you're coming from. If you have any idea what the landmarks closest to your base look like, it shouldn't be that hard to find it again.

I realize that forests and undulating terrain make this a lot harder in practice, but still, I don't really see how one goes about getting lost in Minecraft without making a determined effort to. It's possible that I'm orienteering without realizing it, of course. It would be interesting to do a study into how people orient themselves in unfamiliar terrain; do they look at landmarks? Try to determine which way is north?

Back to exploring! Just over the hill with the cairn is an interesting, fairly flat spot with lots of exposed rock.

This would be a great place to build something big; I'll have to keep it in mind. The water is so low it would be easy to fill it in. No snow yet, but no sooner have I crossed the spot I just described:

Pumpkins! Wow. I didn't know they had those! What's more, you can make a jack-o-lantern out of one!

It couldn't be easier: pumpkin + torch. And looking approximately northeast from Pumpkin Hill: Epic Island.

Yeah, no sign of snow, but I gotta see that place! And it doesn't disappoint: an epic hill, with multiple cave entrances and at least one exposed coal seam, and more wood than you can brandish an axe at. I just might stay here for a moment...

Next up: Epic Island and beyond!

Nov 29, 2010

Leslie Nielsen 1926-2010

Actor Leslie Nielsen died on November 28 at the age of 84. The many fine films he made during his career which spanned more than sixty years will be his lasting legacy.

But the role we will all remember him best for was, of course, Commander John J. Adams in Forbidden Planet.

Nov 26, 2010

Exploding cactus of death

See that cactus in the middle of the screen, with an angry face and weird legs, coming right at you? That, dear reader, is a fucking exploding death cactus, the scourge of Minecraft. If it gets close enough to you, it explodes, killing you and destroying anything nearby. The damn things are totally quiet, so you can never tell if one is coming up, ready to blow up both you and your hard work.

Exploding death cacti and other monsters spawn in dark places, meaning caves and outside at night. Here's the view from my window in the night; I've highlighted three death cacti and a zombie. There's a couple more guys on the other side of the water, too. This is why proper lighting is essential for all indoor and outdoor areas: otherwise you'll run into a cactus in your house. Nobody wants that.

Your first nights in Minecraft are spent cowering in a primitive shelter, with the sounds of zombies, skeletons and giant spiders terrifyingly close. Luckily, the living dead in Minecraft can't abide the sun, and spiders calm down in the day as well, leaving just the ever-present, silent menace of the goddamn fucking cactus. You'll be fixing your first shelter more than a few times after a dawn visit from a death cactus.

If, like any self-respecting journalist, you choose to live in a fortified compound where the cacti can't get to you, they'll still try to. At night, they cluster around you, and in the morning, the cacti are there. Waiting. So, what to do?

For starters, I built an elevated walkway to an exit far enough from where I spend most nights to avoid the immediate attention of the cacti. But they're still there; the main body of my tower is finished, but I still have to do the landscaping around it, or my tower will look like it's been built on a rubbish heap. So I used my nous to come up with a way to make the grounds around my tower look more attractive that will also deal with the death cacti. Here it is: the cactus death maze.

Unlike its ambulant, explosive cousin, the stationary cactus is your friend. Anything that touches a regular cactus takes damage, and this can work in your favor. As I said, at night, the monsters try to cluster around you; the undead will come straight at you, while the fiendish exploding death cactus actually tries to ambush you by hiding behind a corner or an obstacle. But in either case, they're aiming to get as close as possible. And when the only way to get closer is to go through a cactus death maze, it doesn't end well for the monsters.

Putting together a cactus plantation is amazingly easy, too: the cactus grows incredibly quickly, and as long as you take care not to get hurt while handling it, you'll have a protective cactus screen set up in no time. Fight cactus with cactus, I say.

In the screenshot above, you can see what the north side of the tower looked like before I started the cactus death maze. You can also see that the spire of the tower is getting pretty tall; in fact, it's finished! Here's a view from further away:

There's a maximum height you can place blocks up to, and my tower has now reached it. That means that once I finish tidying up around it and planting my cactus death maze, the tower is finished! When I was rebuilding the first parts of the tower after cactus attacks, I didn't think I'd ever finish, but there it is! I'm actually quite happy.

Next up on Minecraft: new adventures! The tower is done: what's next?

Last time, I closed with a picture of a sunrise through my window; here's a similar sunrise, seen from above the clouds. Have I mentioned that this game is awesome?