Friday, January 11, 2013

Nether Hub Tutorial

What's a Nether Hub?
A Nether hub is a building in the Nether that combines rail lines or walkways through the Nether, each leading to a single base. Perhaps the most well-known Nether hub is the one on the Mindcrack server. It's elegantly designed in a sort of circular shape, and each slot is customized by the player who owns it.

Why Have a Nether Hub?
Bases on the main world, especially on servers, can be spaced very far apart. Walking hundreds or thousands of blocks from place to place can be time consuming and difficult. Even if you have a rail line in place, you could possibly shave off some travel time using a Nether hub.

That's the main selling point of having a hub. For every 1 block you move in the Nether, you walk the equivalent of 8 blocks in the main world (the overworld, as I call it). If two bases are 1,000 blocks apart, by using the Nether you only need to travel 125 blocks. It's even faster if you ride a minecart.

The other advantage of a Nether hub is that it's easier to find the bases of your friends and server mates. Instead of needing to wander around looking for the right Nether portal, you just need to check the slots in the hub for their name. Travel is streamlined.

Planning the Hub
To make a Nether hub, you first need to decide on what kind of shape it will have, if any. Your hub may be nothing more than a portal to the spawn area with paths leading to the other portals. This is the simplest way, although probably not the prettiest.

You are free to design the hub in any way you want. For it to be effective and useful, there are a few things that are needed:

  • Slots that people can hook up walkways or minecart rail lines to.
  • A main portal going to the spawn area.
  • It should be built out of something that isn't flammable and can withstand Ghast fireballs. Stone brick does this well.
A very basic hub could be square-shaped with slots along the walls. For instance, this hub design could handle up to 9 people:

It's not the prettiest thing to look at, but it would do the job.

Some things you might want to pay particular attention to:

  • Placement of the spawn portal: you want this to be in a location that is quick and easy to reach. In my mind this means either in the center of the hub, or along one of the walls. Also, it might be elevated a few blocks to make it stand out.
  • Dedicated rail lines: there are some things that probably are not going to move, such as lines to an End portal, or Blaze farm, etc. A designer could put a line to one of these, and design it to be slightly different (such as wider or taller, or decorated differently) from users' slots.
  • Overall shape: many options here. Keep in mind that rail lines might end up getting in the way of others. A suggestion I read on Reddit was a pinwheel design, where the hub was made of four "arms" with several slots facing the same way. This design made it less likely for lines to interrupt each other.
  • Customizable slots: as you see in the Mindcrack Nether hub, each slot has blocks around it which the slot's owner can change to make it distinct. Not only does it look nice, it makes it easier to distinguish who owns which slot.
  • Expandability: this is an important thing to consider. As a server matures and more players build more things, it's quite likely the hub will run out of open slots. How will players add slots? One idea would be to keep one wall in the hub empty or used as some kind of bulletin board. When it's time to expand, tear it down and build some stairs to the new part of the hub.
  • Door to the Nether: suppose a player doesn't want to build a slot, just step out into the Nether? A good thing to do here would have some kind of door that they can walk out of. The best thing I can come up with is a door leading to an exit chamber. Through that you get to an iron door that leads to the wild untamed Nether. 
  • Extra things: who says hubs are just for transportation? You can do a lot of other stuff, too. Consider farms, enchanting rooms, shops, breweries, integrated experience farms, and whatnot.

A Word on Placing Portals
Nether portals can be a bit tricky to link together properly. They don't always work the way you want to them to, and may end up linking with someone else's portal altogether, if on the overworld two portals are within 1,000 blocks of each other, or 128 blocks in the Nether. In order to prevent this from happening, there's a series of steps you can take:

First, go to where on the main world you want to place the portal. Press F3 and write down the x, y, and z coordinates. 

Second, divide the x and z coordinates by 8. 

Third, take the floor of these numbers. For a positive number, the floor is just the part of the number to the left of the decimal point, so the floor of 300.14 would be 300. For a negative number, the floor is the part to the left of the decimal point plus -1. So the floor of -300.14 would be -301. The floor of x, the original y, and the floor of z are where you want to put the Nether-side portal. If your y happens to be above 128, just try to get as high in the Nether as you can.

Fourth, make the portal for the overworld and light it - but don't step through it, otherwise you may mess things up.

Fifth, go to where the Nether-side portal should be in the Nether. Build it and light it. 

Now test it a couple times to make sure you go where you want. Using this system, you really shouldn't have a problem. It's easy to remember once you've done it a couple times.

Building the Hub
Building a Nether hub isn't much different from building anything else in the Nether. Be on the lookout for Ghasts and lava. It's recommended you drink potions of fire resistance if you're building near lava or fires. The potion will stop you from taking damage due to fire.

Using the Hub
Nether hubs are pretty self-explanatory. Every slot can be used to take you to another base, farm, or dimension. Some common places for a hub to take you include strongholds to go to the End, Mooshroom biomes, and Blaze spawners. As more people settle down on the server and pick slots, you will find the hub being used more and more.

A simple Nether hub is easy to build and can reduce travel time easily. For a large server with many people spread far apart, this is especially helpful for getting to the bases of others. You can design the hub as plainly or as elegantly as you wish. The trickiest part of it all might be getting portals linked together properly, but once you've done that, your server (or map) will have a fully functional, very useful hub for linking the world together!