Saturday, January 12, 2013

Minecraft Science: Food

You have probably noticed that some foods seem more able to restore your hunger and health than others. You've doubtlessly also seen how zombie flesh, and sometimes raw chicken, may end up making you sick. But believe it or not, the food system in Minecraft is a bit more complicated than meets the eye. Here I'll give you a rundown of what the various foods do, and some tips on what you should use for different situations.

My information is largely gotten from the Food article on the Minecraft Wiki.

There are 23 food items in the game as of Minecraft 1.4.7:

  • Apple
  • Baked potato
  • Bread
  • Cake
  • Carrot
  • Cooked chicken
  • Cooked fish
  • Cooked porkchop
  • Cookie
  • Golden apple
  • Golden carrot
  • Melon slice
  • Mushroom stew
  • Poisonous potato
  • Potato
  • Pumpkin pie
  • Raw beef
  • Raw chicken
  • Raw fish
  • Raw porkchop
  • Rotten flesh
  • Spider eye
  • Steak
Each one of these, when eaten, restore both some hunger and some saturation. The hunger can be seen on the lower right side of your screen when you play Minecraft. Its maximum value is 20 points, where 2 hunger points are represented by 1 chicken drumstick icon or "shank" as the wiki calls it. As you play the game, your hunger will slowly decrease, and you need to eat food to get it back. Then there is saturation, a "hidden" hunger bar. Saturation used to determine whether or not you have eaten enough food to heal. The maximum size of your saturation is equal to the current amount of hunger you have. If your health is at 20, your saturation will be at most 20. There are a couple things that saturation does:
  • If your saturation is above 17, your health will heal. That means you need to have 17 or more hunger in order to heal.
  • If your saturation is at 0, which means your hunger is empty, you will lose health.
Something to look out for is filling up your hunger bar too fast without filling your saturation. Once you're at full hunger, you can't eat anymore. Even if your saturation is low, you still won't be able to eat and increase it. 

I have done some reading, and there are four tiers of food, based up on the ratio of how much hunger they restore to how much saturation they restore. Mojang seems to have intentionally done this in such a way that the food falls into these four categories. I will simply go from tier to tier giving advice for what foods to use or avoid in each group.

Tier 1
The only food you find in tier 1 are golden apples and golden carrots. Golden carrots are made using regular carrots and gold nuggets, and seem to be the most efficient food to eat. They don't restore much hunger - 6 - but take care of a bunch of saturation. Golden apples are a little less effective in both hunger and saturation, but have the extra effect of regenerating health for 4 seconds. This potentially makes them more powerful than the golden carrots, since they restore health regardless of what your hunger is.

Tier 2
In this category you get cooked porkchops, cooked beef, and spider eyes. I would stay away from spider eyes because they restore 2 hunger points (1 shank) then poison you for 30 seconds, which is annoying. The other two food items do exactly the same thing, which includes restoring 8 hunger. Unless you have huge supplies of gold, these are the best food to have with you.

Tier 3
Here you find baked potatoes, bread, carrots, cooked chicken, cooked fish, and mushroom stew. For each hunger they restore, they also restore 1.2 saturation. For this group, baked potatoes probably do the most good and are likely the easiest and quickest to get. Baked potatoes, cooked chicken, and mushroom stew all do the exact same amount of good for the payer, but breeding chickens or searching for mushrooms may very well be more time-consuming than growing and cooking potatoes.

In this category, bread and cooked fish do the same amount of good as well. Bread is a common, reliable food source.

Lastly are carrots. These are less effective than the others, thus probably isn't recommended as a main food source.

Tier 4
In this group you find food that restore more hunger than saturation. As I will mention in a moment, these may actually have their uses when your hunger bar is low. Melon slices, potatoes, poisonous potatoes, pumpkin pie, the raw foods (beef, chicken, fish, and porkchops), and regular apples are in this group.

Although maybe not the easiest to craft, pumpkin pie stands out for restoring 8 hunger (4 shanks). That's the same amount of hunger as cooked beef and porkshops, but it restores much less saturation - about a third as much.

Apples are the second-most effective in the group. Raw beef and porkchops are slightly less useful.

Raw chicken, raw fish, melon slices, and poisonous potatoes restore small amounts of food and saturation. Raw chicken has a 30% chance of giving you food poisoning, which reduces its efficiency, so avoid it if possible. Poisonous potatoes guarantee food poisoning, so they should also be kept away from.

Regular potatoes are half as effective as the ones in the previous paragraph. They do very little good.

Tier 5
These are the least effective foods. Three are in this group: cake, cookies, and rotten flesh.

Cake is the oddball among foods. You place it like a block and can eat up to 6 slices of it. Each restores 2 hunger, for a total of 12 hunger per cake. Once a cake is placed, you can't pick it back up. It's a good food for sharing among a group, and might be best utilized as a public item for people to restore health on the fly, but it's not very effective. Cookies come in stacks of 8. A full stack is able to restore 16 hunger, but won't do much for your saturation. Rotten flesh, while more potent than its counterparts, will usually poison you, making it less useful than cake or cookies.

Applying this Knowledge
With all of this in mind, here's some tips for using food properly:
  • As much as possible, eat cooked porkchops or cooked beef. These give the typical player the most bang for your buck.
  • If you have no passive mob farms, baked potatoes are the next best thing. You can farm potatoes then cook them in the furnace. Its counterpart that doesn't rely on  mobs, mushroom stew, can be quicker to make but only if you've already got a decent supply of mushrooms, but that's slower.
  • Bread is very easy to make in large quantities. Although not the best thing in the game, the fact it's so common and simple to make balances out the lack of restoring power it has compared to baked potatoes or cooked chicken.
  • Rotten flesh isn't good as a main food source. Instead, use it to heal your dogs. Alternatively, if you're in a spot where your health is low and all you really need is to restore health a bit without worrying about hunger, you can chow down on a lot of flesh.
  • Is your hunger at or near zero? Eat something from tier 3. For every 1 hunger these foods restore, they restore 1.2 saturation. This is the most balanced group you'll find. Baked potatoes shine once again here. Eating anything from tier 1 or 2 to get your health back up will waste saturation points once you're nearly filled.
  • If your hunger is low, don't eat pumpkin pie. It will fill your hunger much faster than your saturation, which is not desirable since you will end up getting hungry again sooner than if you had eaten something more balanced.
  • Some of the easier to get foods, such as carrots, potatoes, apples, and melon slices don't do a whole lot of good. I suppose you might want to eat those while you still have plenty of hunger bars left, since they will fill those up while also filling your saturation, saving more powerful foods for other uses.
This was a brief examination of the Minecraft food system. It was certainly educational for me to come to a better understanding of how these things works. With this information, perhaps you too can learn how to more effectively handle hunger and food.

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!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Enchanting Books, Nether Hubs, and More

Single Player World
In preparations to move camp to the new spot, I've been enchanting books like crazy. Now I need an anvil to apply these enchantments. A couple good ones came up - high levels of Sharpness, Smite, and so on. The anvil will also be good for repairing my dream team armor and tools, whenever I get those.

I successfully made a good tunnel connecting my Nether portal to the portal of the new spot. Previously I made one branch of the path be diagonal, which ended up being a horrible idea. It's a long section, and I can't run through it. Even walking is impeded by constantly bumping into the sites.

My idea for the new place is going to be above ground. Yep, that's right, pretty soon I will no longer be a cave dweller. Not sure the exact dimensions of it yet. The structure will be circular, with the main room having one or three lava tubes reaching from ceiling to floor, and some basic useful blocks like a crafting table and anvil. Stairs will go up in the four cardinal directions to the upper floor, which will have several rooms devoted to a specific function. I might further expand this idea, I'm not sure yet.

Friend's Private Server
More progress has been made! I'm building it rather haphazardly, based upon what my mood and resources dictate. I started the second floor, which is really just a ring of slabs above the iron bars. I still need to put glass at eye-level, and then another block, and then I'll do the conical roof. There is still a basement to make, and a main floor to complete.

While chatting with the server owner, I asked if there was any kind of Nether hub. He said there wasn't, and when I mentioned possibly building one he encouraged it. The style is inspired (read: a darn near copy) by the Mindcrack server hub. The initial design has 12 slots where rail lines or walkways can be built. The Netherrack is just a placeholder; the slot owner can customize the slot. The design uses a lot of stone slab and sandstone. At first I thought it was kind of ugly, but it's grown on me and I sort of like it. A couple other members of the server got a look at the picture and seem to like what I made so far.

Other Thoughts
So, I've concluded something. Downer time. After over two years of playing this game, I still kind of suck at it. Specifically, when it comes to the planning and aesthetics parts. What do I mean? I can plan an idea, sometimes, but it rarely comes to completion. And when it comes to making things look good, for the most part you can forget it. That doesn't come naturally to me. Most of the clever or good stuff I've come up with has been a slightly modified copy of something else another person did. Aesthetics just isn't my thing, even with the guidelines I try to follow.

But what I am good at is game mechanics. Redstone, functional stuff. In short, I'm a Minecraft scientist. Perhaps this is something I need to put more focus on, to get more enjoyment out of the game. I may never build an exquisitely detailed castle, because I don't have the creativity for that. But, given sufficient knowledge and resources, I could make a self-repairing wall with embedded TNT cannons and arrow dispensers to defend that castle. That is where my skills lie - knowledge of the game and applying that knowledge.

Sunday, January 6, 2013


I did something kind of drastic today. You see, recently I have been growing dissatisfied with my Minecraft world. There were several things bugging me, including:

  • The area of the map I had been using for the last year since I've made this map is full of uncompleted projects of different kinds.
  • Much of the map I lived in before moving to the cave base had buildings generated by the Millenaire mod, which I no longer use.
  • The cave base itself had its share of problems. Things had been built too close together, a lot of it just wasn't looking good, and it frequently had mobs spilling into it.
  • The area itself was outdated. Terrain generation had changed a lot since 1.0.0, despite the game supposedly having been a "full release," which means there were a lot of features I was missing out on. This was compounded by the upcoming redstone update which would alter game dynamics further.
  • My building experience and style has changed since even half a year ago. 
I was considering starting a new map altogether, even though I didn't want to leave this one, with all the progress I've made, behind. I actually did experiment with starting a new map, but decided it wasn't my cup of tea. Instead I packed up on useful stuff and started walking to the west. My goal was to leave the continent I had spent all my time on, which I called Yusaria, and settle in some foreign land. While collecting obsidian from my obsidian farm so I could make a portal once I decided upon a new home, I found diamonds, as though to bless my voyage.

Here's what I stocked up with:

To my surprise there was already a boat in the water for me to ride.

I saw a couple interesting things during my roaming, including a jungle temple! I didn't examine it, since I was still seeking a home, but I did make a waypoint for future reference.

 I walked and boated some 3,000 blocks before realizing that the open ocean wasn't going to be appearing any time soon. Yusaria was not going to let me go. Thus I settled in a plains in newly generated land.

Half the biomes I ran across during the time were jungles and jungle hills. Whoever came up with those should be slapped on the wrist and told he's a bad boy. Jungles, especially the hills, are good for nothing except slowing you down and providing obscene amounts of wood. At one point I got so fed up I started digging through the hills rather than painstakingly maneuver through the foliage.

The location I chose was a plains, sandwiched between two jungles. I feel these will probably be my main sources of wood. In the middle of the plain is a small forest, with a floating island to boot.

I laid down a portal and checked my coords. It's not terribly far from the Nether hub (about 253 blocks), which means I could probably run a line connecting the two parts of my world. Also, for this new start I will be using the resources gathered at my first base, which has a lot of resources (including almost 2 stacks of diamonds) that I left behind went I went into the cave. I managed to generate a fourth village during my exodus, and due to the ridiculous terrain made in 1.4.6, there are no villages near me.

I plan to do things right, and do them well from now on. I will establish the necessities - farms, ranches, proper storage system, and so forth. I have big ideas which, although it's difficult for me to accomplish them, can be done given proper planning. I will also try to complete the things I started originally, since I haven't given up on those. It will be fun to see what comes next.