Friday, December 31, 2010

Not Much and Redstone

I haven't done much of anything significant over the past two days. That's because I'm starting to get into that slump where I don't have any desire to play anymore. Here is what I have done:

First, I went south to explore some new land. Eventually I ran into a huge, snowy and mountainous biome. When I stopped I looked at the map on Cartograph and discovered that the southward walk was three times longer than the northward expedition.

Then I got curious, and wanted to know how much area I've explored. Notch has stated that in the game, each block is a meter squared. I put my brain into action and tried to find a way to calculated how many square meters my map is. I found my answer by going into the folder containing my map's chunk files and counting them. The chunks for the Nether are included in here but I didn't want that so I subtracted it from the total count, and came up with 15,627 chunks. Multiply this by 16, the size in square meters of a chunk and I determined my map to be 250,032 meters squared, or just over 250 kilometers squared in size. This didn't seem very big to me.

I went on the Internet to see how that compares to real life nations on Earth. As it turns out, 250 km^2 is really small. There are 25 political bodies smaller than that. Most of them are little island states dependent on other nations while the rest are just really tiny countries.

The other noteworthy thing I did was to act upon a thought I've had for a while. Part of my goal with Minecraft, if I ever go for it, is to make a world of nations. They would have a sort of electricity, in the form of redstone. Yet, as a sort of back story, redstone is so rare and difficult to acquire that people don't simply lay down torches and wires for their own houses. Instead, just as our world has electrical plants, they rely on a city's electrical plants, and have wires. I made a mock up of what I hope will stand in as our electrical poles.

First I built a pillar of six planks (but eventually decided to reduce it to five; I wanted the height to be the same as a six-block, two-floor building) and put cobblestone on it. Then I counted off 16 blocks and built another one of these, then built a cobblestone "wire" connecting them. After that I laid down a redstone torch and wiring. On top of the second pole, as expected, the wire would not work. I replaced it with a redstone torch and made another pole. However I believe this one is a block or two too close. It's a rough design right now and I need to read up on how redstone works. I also need to keep in mind that huge redstone circuits are limited in a way. If the source of the redstone signal/power is too far away - the commonly mentioned number is 300 blocks - then the entire circuit fails, because the source has been removed from memory. Also, the setup I have right now isn't really good because I don't use repeaters, just more torches. Even if my intended source is not delivering power, there will still be power flowing through the wires, and that's not what I want.

In addition, I've also done brainstorming on what a power plant would be like. Granted, power would really come from redstone torches but I also have a sort of RPG element to my proposed virtual world which requires imagination and doesn't follow the physics of Minecraft exactly. Furnaces would be the power sources and thus the cores of power plants. So far I've imagined up two types of power plants: ones that get energy from burning fossil fuels like coal and wood, and a more advanced one that requires a lava core and draws energy from it. For buildings, the power would be turned on or off by switches and be for well, whatever needs the power, such as lighting or mechanisms. I've come up with a standard for the system. Every pole will have a repeated on top of it, one as minimal as possible, and up to 15 blocks between them - or as many as the redstone signal will go. However, in areas that are not as likely to be seen by the common person - say a stretch of highway, a barren desert, or underground, the 15 block rule still exists but towers can be more sparing or nonexistent. What I would like to know is if there's some way I can overcome the 300 block limit. As in, is there some setup I can use that preserves the original signal so that even if the source is unloaded from memory, the game still knows what state the signal source was at the time of unloading? I believe this to be possible using strategically placed memory cells that are either part of the power wiring or parallel to it.

I've also come up with a role play job occupation: the redstone engineer. Here's the impromptu description: The redstone engineer works in a role that is innovative and also somewhat dangerous. His job revolves around understanding redstone logic and circuitry; designing power systems for settlements and buildings; constructing and maintaining redstone power poles for both residental wiring and long-distance wiring. In the latter case, it might mean building long-reaching systems that span deserts or systems that reside in tunnels dug under bodies of water. The calculating of power circuits and logical systems is the innovative part. The danger comes in constructing and maintaining the systems, which may require them to go high up or deep underground.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


The past few days have been lackluster, so here's an overview.

On the large land mass to the left of my island, there's some flat space. I figured I would go over there and clear out some trees to start my settlement. I actually began the corner of a building before I realized I had hardly planned out what I was going to do and stopped.

The next time I logged on, I got lost again but eventually made it to my house. I stocked up on pickaxes and shovels, and started digging downward in a stair formation. Usually I would end  up in a cave eventually but this time I made it to about the 4th layer, since I ran into bedrocks. I had read a thread about smart locations to mine for materials, like diamond, and went up to what I estimated as the 12th layer and began an extremely long strip mine. I ran into plenty of caves that time which I explored. I've started a new rule for myself: torches will be put on the right-hand wall of any cavern I explore. My sense of direction stinks in this game. Anyway, I kept the mine going for a very long distance... it's somewhere around 500 blocks long. Only when the diamond pickaxe I made during the mining expedition got used up did I return home, with almost 100 iron ore and a new total of 24 diamond collected.

I also realized that I stink at designing stuff. I have a Classic singleplayer level floating on my hard drive which I use to sort of free hand stuff. I tried making a house, and it was really blocky. I can't seem to think in terms that aren't cubical. x.x Must go on YouTube and the forums to get inspirations, perhaps borrow designs.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Free Time, Gravel, and a Portal

Today, there wasn't much for me to do. I went to church but it was shorter than usual because there weren't as many people there as usual. This meant more time for me to play Minecraft! I really didn't do much, since I was watching some people on LiveStream again. However, here is a recollection of what was done:

I decided to go into the massive tunnel complex and raid it for the flint. I absentmindedly got on a boat and traveled to where my mob trap was, then went down through the sand pathway I broke open a few days ago. While collecting flint I failed to keep track of where I was going, and got lost again. After spending lots of time trying to find a way out I finally decided to just dig vertically upward. I was confident I wouldn't dig into a body of water and eventually made it to a different, smaller sand patch. Luckily it was near my mob trap and I rode my boat home, with a nice amount of flint. I also put a sign in the huge chamber where all the caves met up, calling it the Cave of Eternity.

Much later on I returned to my mob trap to collect the lava and water inside it and plug it up. It had done no good in getting mobs to fall in it and burn. If I make another one, it'll be much closer to my house.

In the evening, after having watched several hours worth of LiveStream, I decided to build a portal. I made a basement for my home base and discovered that there is an underground lake under my house. I plugged up the parts that were expelling water. Then it was time to turn lava into obsidian. The first lava used was the material collected from the mob trap, then what was inside a "warp core" imitator outside my house. These didn't net enough for me though, so I went to some lava pools I found early in my exploration, converted one to lava, and grabbed about 6 units of obsidian. Since I already had used the obsidian from earlier to construct a half-way done portal, I stopped with six and returned home.

I completed the ring, lit the obsidian and... nothing. Upon checking the wiki I discovered I made it too wide. I thinned it by one block and lit it again. Instead of a dramatic coming to life, the portal simply activated. I turned on game sounds so I could hear what it was like and as I teleported I decided the noises weren't worth having to hear, and subsequently turned them off. I jumped between worlds a few times to collect some Netherrack and put a sign on the Netherside portal.

The Nether opens up plenty of possiblities. It effectively doubles the amount of space I can explore, although it's not very appealing to me right now. Perhaps the best thing about the Nether is that, relatively speaking, it provides near instant teleportation and makes it even easier to go long distances on the overworld. Inside the Nether, there is no day/night cycle. Time effectively stops. If you arrive in the Nether when it's noon in the regular world, then no matter how long you stay in the Nether, when you come back up it's still going to be noon. Also, the amount of distance you travel in the Nether is multiplied by 8 compared to the overworld. This means that if both worlds were completely flat surfaces, then if I build a portal on the overworld, step out of the Nether portal, and build a portal in the Nether 10 blocks away from the other, then when I stepped through that new portal I will be 80 blocks away from the original overworld portal. Since I've only explored a roughly 4 kilometer squared area of my world, I would only need to walk for about 125-150 blocks in the Nether and build a portal, and I would end up in unexplored land.

The main problem with trying to use the Nether for exploration is the fact that I'm not very directionally inclined in the game. My compass doesn't normally point in a true direction, since I'm typically east of my spawn point. Inside the Nether, there is no north or south or west or east. The compass needle spins around randomly. I'm sure there is a rule to how I'm facing when I spawn in the Nether but it would still be very easy for me to get hopelessly lost unless I used some sort of markers.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Bridge Builder

Today I was doubly inspired while visiting an SMP server. I was trying to find an area that wasn't extensively built upon so I could survive relatively uninterrupted and I noticed what appeared to be a huge cobblestone aqueduct like what the Romans built. However, when I pillared to the top I discovered it was in fact a very long railroad bridge. I followed it down and passed a minecart before reaching the train (or minecart?) station, and kept going. Sadly, I was exploring some new parts of the map and the server was lagging like crazy so they told me to stop. I teleported to the place of one of the people who were there. This person had a floating island structure he was working on, which had a sign that read "Welcome to Heaven!" this inspired me to perhaps build something like that. For the longest time I could not find my way down and said I was about to jump and hopefully land in water. The person then suggested I just take the stairs... which I noticed a few seconds later.

I got to my own world and decided to experiment with making a bridge over the relatively big ocean separating my island from another one. Over the course of an hour I build a cobblestone bridge and laid tracks on it. On the first attempt, I discovered the minecart went pathetically slow. Then when I browsed the wiki I discovered something about using other minecarts to boost the speed. I implemented a simple system and so far it only sort of works right. I have no problem getting the speed. I just need to figure out how to get into the minecart and get it moving before it gets the speed boost. I don't know if there's a trick to that.

I also spent another night shooting from my sniping platform and downed a few more mobs. While collecting the drops I noticed a nice semi-underground gravel vein and mined it out, getting some gravel. Being an archer can be quite expensive when you go through arrows like me. I don't want to use an inventory editor and load up on arrows that way. I am seeking for this game experience of mine to be as close to proper gameplay as possible. Even using Minutor to spot dungeons is pushing it for me. I may go into the tunnel complex underground and clear it of whatever gravel I find, in order to get flint.

Also, I'm using a second piece of software, which is probably going to replace Minutor for my common mapping: Minecraft Topographical Survey, or MTS for short. I used to have its shoddy Java version, which lacked the features of the C version, because I didn't have a good enough computer. Now I'm more than set. I'll probably still call up Minutor for more dungeon searching. Minutor also allows me to see the x-y coordinates of where I am and where blocks are, which enables more precision.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Sniper-Archer

As I said in a previous post, one of the things I want to do is be an archer. Why? Well, let me tell you a little more about myself. I have had experience in games like Halo and Call of Duty, both first person shooters. And there is an element of FPS in Minecraft, in the form of sword combat. Also, I enjoy real-time strategy games such as Age of Empires and Star Trek: Armada. The problem, though, is this: especially in FPS games, I get an adrenaline rush that makes me quite shaky and easily startled by the game. While most enjoy this adrenaline rush, I don't. I don't like what it does to me, so I can't really play any of those games.

But! While I'm not a front-line soldier, I do have a combat talent. At the Town Boys' and Girls' Club I went to as a preteen and young teenager, there was a multiplayer paintball game in the computer room which I eventually got hooked on. There I discovered that I have amazing aim and can easily compensate for how projectiles tend to arc in their trajectory. I also had a weakness, though. I couldn't avoid incoming stuff for the life of me; my reflexes weren't fast enough. But when I found a decent hiding place or at least knew where the others were courtesy of a radar display, I became hard to beat. I could patiently wait in one spot and in a matter of seconds take out players that others would have trouble with. In short, I'm a natural sniper.

I decided to use this to my advantage. Part of the reason I wanted to find dungeons was so I could collect string to make a bow. String only comes from spiders, but I was avoiding any form of combat. I found string, made my bow, and started collecting what I needed to make arrows.

In the past 3-4 in-game days, which has been about one day IRL, I've been perching in my sniping platform located in a small desert near my home, and at night setting the difficulty to easy and trying my luck at hitting the mobs who come around. The creatures don't come near me, meaning I have to use my knowledge of arcing paths. I also lose most of my arrows but during the post-dawn collection I recover enough to make more.

In my first night alone, I killed 2 zombies and 1 creeper. In the following nights I have killed 1 skeleton, another creeper or two, and a spider. I may have to build an archery range for myself so I can improve my aim. In the last night alone I used up 65 arrows, and by daybreak all of them had disappeared. Granted, some of them had been used hitting mobs but the vast majority were on the ground for so long they simply despawned. Still, this is excellent progress for me, as beforehand I was nervous to even spend one in-game night just watching the mob activity around me.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

What Is This?

I've seen many of the Let's Play videos, where people upload in-game videos to YouTube. Instead of doing one of those, I have chosen a format that better suits my personal skills... a blog. With this I can highlight more important parts and omit or very briefly mention less noteworthy parts.

Although I forget exactly where it took place, I came across Halkun's full-size Enterprise model during my Web surfing. I watched the video and my jaw dropped as he presented it. After seeing that I thought to myself, "I want this game!", found out its name and website.

My first experiences in Minecraft were in Classic. I went to many servers and was never particularly stuck to one. For a brief time I wanted to try and do a "restoration project" on the now gone Fatima server, which was completely unmoderated and nothing short of a total mess. But before I could start it went offline.

Then I found World of Minecraft and have been using that for my Classic adventures. Finally, I acquired Alpha, which is now Beta. My main goal with Minecraft is a lofty one: build a multinational, multicultural world. Being a person of faith, I've sort of put references to it in the naming schemes. For example, several of the nations will be aligned in a political body called the Christus Kingdom. These nations retain their independence but work together, somewhat styled after the German Empire of the late 1800s. The nation which is the center of activities is Yusaria. Its people are called Yusarians and the capital is Yusarian City. They are a society of archers. I don't have the nerve or desire to do direct combat with mobs, so I instead prefer using bows and arrows.

So far, the main problem is this: in the four or so square kilometers I've explored, there is very little usable flat land which I could build even small villages on, unless I were to build on sand and coasts. I thought at one point there was a rather large continent near my island but so far it's only shown to be a huge peninsula.

I also have other things that go along with this. I want to try and build a computer like what others are doing. Actually,  most of what I intend to do is really just mimicking others since as the blog says, I'm only sort of creative. :D

Right now, I'm in the process of raiding dungeons for whatever goodies they have. I was originally going to spend lots of time underground but I don't know if I'll continue doing that. Honestly, I'm trying to find myself some meaning for playing this game at all. It could be that I just haven't defined my goals well enough, but everything I want to do just seems a little too out of reach for me to accomplish...

Out of the Cave System

For the past two or three real life days, I've been stuck deep down in a massive cave system spanning most of the 64 underground levels. Literally each turn I took seemed to lead me to another tunnel which ended with more tunnels and/or a lava pool or waterfall. I originally came down here to raid dungeons I had located with Minutor, the software I  use to map and explore, however I got massively sidetracked.

While exploring another cavern I look up and see that the limit of the fog is inside a cave overhead. I am able to get up there using mostly the blocks, which form a rough path, as well as a couple lucky jumps where I turn in the middle of the air. I've done that before aboveground while ascending mountains. This time it was a little more risky because there were no blocks for me to land on for several levels.

At the top, I notice the ceiling is made completely of sand! There are some iron blocks which I collect, as well as coal blocks but I ignore those. I've been trying to get out of this cave system since yesterday but at this point I was hopelessly lost. During my walking yesterday I somehow fell a couple levels and couldn't get back up. This would be my escape!

Yet, I stop to think. If there's one thing I do, it's think. There's no guarantee that this sand ceiling will be my way out of here. For all I know this could be underground sand, if such a thing exists. Or, as I don't know where I am, it could be the bottom of a body of water. Water flows seven blocks from its source, but if it goes down a block it resets that number. The path I went up was pretty steep so opening up an ocean floor would turn the place into a huge waterfall.

I didn't want to at first, but I bring up Minutor. Minutor is a niftly little program. It generates a map of my world quickly and also has a slider which lets me look at whatever of the 128 levels I want. I don't use it to find ores or whatnot, just dungeons and my location. I jump the map to my location and pull the slider until I see yellow squares, which are torches. I'm just a few levels from the surface!

This knowledge acquired, I create my plan. If you destroy one - just ONE - sand block of a sand ceiling, the entire thing comes down. If I'm underneath that ceiling when it falls, it will probably kill me - not something I want to happen when I'm holding 70+ iron ore and 10+ gold ore, not to mention 8 diamond. I step a couple blocks away from under the sand, pillar up, and hack at the dirt and stone under the nearest sand block to me. After a few uses of my diamond axe, I've loosened up the sand.

It all comes down, and I'm safely out of the way. I walk out of the cave system and onto a small desert. I'm in the middle of my home island, which I haven't named. It's a fairly large island similar in shape to Australia. My home is west, so I go in that direction. There I find the cobblestone building known as my base and begin processing what I've collected.

There are three floors in my house. The bottom is the original part, now with a floor of wood planks. It has two large chests and a workbench. I've outfitted it with two windows and a nice painting. The latest addition to the house, directly past the chests, is the lava room. Here I keep a two-block-wide lava pool to dump useless blocks like cobblestone, dirt, and sand. On the opposite end of that small room is an infinite water pool. If I get set on fire by the lava, I can just break that open and I'll be good.

The second floor is the Tool/Armory Level, which has excess tools, weapons, armor, and items needed to craft those in chests. There's not much. The third floor is the Pantry Level, where I keep foodstuffs. Since I play on peaceful, I've yet to need any of this.