Dreaming of pixelated rock

I’ve tried to figure out Minecraft a couple of times in the past, playing with free demos or online versions or something, and it never quite made sense. I didn’t know what to click on to do things, or even what kinds of things were available to do.

Then for some reason I spent a little actual money on the Pocket Edition (i.e. the iPad app, in my case), and it clicked.

It is in some ways utterly awesome, and I think it will be replacing WoW for awhile as my thing to dork around in when I’m feeling too antisocial for Second Life (or, now, when I don’t want to bother with an actual computer, but have my iPad as always nearby).

(Executive summary for those interested in Minecraft vs. SL comparisons: Minecraft is (for me, so far) about using cleverness to build things (and survive) given a set of tricky constraints; whereas SL is about enabling people to build (and do, and be) the most amazing things that they can think of, with as few technical constraints as feasible.)

But now on to Our Story!

The famed Tower of Somewhat More Than Modest Height.

The famed Tower of Somewhat More Than Modest Height.

Again I started out unable to do anything at all, but this time I Googled around for tutorials enough to find the key difference between tapping on things and holding one’s finger down on them (completely different actions, typically), and then I was good to go.

Well, for awhile. :) I started out in Survival Mode just because it sounded like fun, and pretty much ignored crafting and dug in the sand and cut down some trees with my bare hands, and sort of threw together a wood-and-sand fort with a little moat around it for keeping away the monsters for the first night.

That did not go terribly well. I could probably have been fine just crouching inside the walls all night (and hoping nothing jumped over), but I wanted to see out, and with my minimal architecture I kept like falling into the moat and being greeted by a zombie who had also fallen in, or going too close to an Explodey Guy, and dying and things.

So I read the web a little more, discovered crafting, built my first Crafting Table, decided that carving out a secret underground base in the sand was more promising for now than building up, and I was off.

The Secret Underground Desert Base with its guard house, and a section of the old Roman Road, seen from the viewing dome atop the Tower.

The Secret Underground Desert Base with its guard house, and a section of the old Roman Road, seen from the viewing dome atop the Tower.

The glass roof of the Secret Underground Base can be seen above there. The guardhouse nearby is one of the two main entrances (once I had a Crafting Table, the discovery of Wooden Doors was perhaps the next major technological milestone). The other entrance is in the tangle of sand and rocks beyond the glass roof, near the Weird Tall Thing That I Built For No Reason.

The Old Roman Road leads out toward my second base. Once I’d mastered the basics of base-building, I wandered about a day’s journey from the main base, and built a new smaller one in a hillside there to spend the night. Eventually I built that Road leading to it so I wouldn’t get lost. The road isn’t used much, since there’s also now a tunnel between the two bases.

(In fact my whole instance here is pretty much riddled with tunnels connecting everything to everything else, so I never have to go outside to get from one place to another unless I want to hunt or cut wood or tend the farm or something. Does everyone starting out in Minecraft build a spiderweb of underground tunnels, or is that just me?)

Nowadays the second base is mostly devoted to mining, in mostly a downwardish direction.

Looking upward from the current bottom of Deep Delving.  The base area, with crafting table, furnace, etc, is 'way out of sight up there somewhere.

Looking upward from the current bottom of Deep Delving. The base area, with crafting table, furnace, etc, is ‘way out of sight up there somewhere.

Naturally, being a main mining center, the Delving area seems to produce little or no coal, iron ore, and so on, when compared to random little digs that I make while wandering around…

I still get jumped on by zombies and attacked by spiders and skeleton archers now and then, both because I go boldly out in the early morning and night sometimes, and because they tend to spawn down in the mines (the mine down the ladder from the tunnel near the Farm entrance is officially the Haunted Mine, although now that I’ve put in a few dozen extra torches it seems safer).

At first I was living off the flesh of innocent cows and piggies, and the occasional apple from a tree (as is the usual computer-game trope, eating heals one’s injuries), but when those ran low I went to the web again, and discovered farming!

The water-side farm, with rustic stone farmhouse in the background.

The water-side farm, with rustic stone farmhouse in the background.

Basically the only crop is wheat, and basically all you do with it is make bread, but each unit (loaf?) of bread eaten recovers two-and-a-half hearts worth of health.

Farming is exponential; you discover your first few seeds while tilling the soil with your hoe, and after that you get something like two or three seeds on average for each seed planted (in addition to of course the wheat for bread). So eventually either the entire world will be wheat-fields, or I’ll just have an unbounded quantity of unused seeds.

Nature’s bounty!

And then I made the Tower of Somewhat More Than Moderate Height just for fun, and it does have great views at the top of the Very Long Spiral Staircase. (There’s currently a giant spider living on the roof at the very top; not sure if it’s stuck there forever or until I break the roof and it drops down on me and I kill it, or if it will expire eventually, but it’s a fun decoration in the meantime.)

There’s also a big basement under the tower (with crafting table and furnace and chest; I love how they look sort of like a washer and dryer and meat freezer all side-by-side in some suburban utility closet), and of course I’ve linked that basement into the tunnel system.

I need to make a map for myself now, of all the various bases (Main Base, the mines under it, Delving Base and Deep Delving, the Tower, the Farm, the Viewing Room, Snowland, the Hunting Lodge, Arboretum Outpost, and various little hillside doors I haven’t named), and how the tunnels connect them all. For instance to get to somewhere (I’ve forgotten just where at the moment) you go into an obscure tunnel in the corner of the mine under Main Base and then take a left just before the end and go down another tunnel, and…

Until just recently there was still one little burrow that you had to travel overland to get to, but then I dug back into the hill from it and eventually happened on an existing tunnel, so now that one is in the network also. Not that I could necessarily figure how to get there very quickly.

For closing, here are a couple of atmospheric shots, of the Tower seen from Arboretum Outpost at night, and vice-versa just at dawn:

The Tower seen from Arboretum Outpost at night.  Note roving zombie on the left.

The Tower seen from Arboretum Outpost at night. Note roving zombie on the left.

Arboretum Outpost, seen from the top of the Tower just at dawn.  Note roving skeleton-archer.

Arboretum Outpost, seen from the top of the Tower just at dawn. Note roving skeleton-archer.

Most recently I’ve added some fencing and planted some trees at the Arboretum, and it better lives up to its name.

So I’ve been seeing torches and pixelated stairs and long narrow hallways in my dreams, and on the insides of my eyelids when I close my eyes. Not, thankfully, the only things I see on those occasions :) but it’s been a common theme. (See also ol’ Headburro, who is doing cool stuff in I think the PC version, and like wearing diamond armor and all.)

If I don’t get into the more complex PC game and the whole modding thing (see for instance this video for a person talking about and doing Minecraft things of which I have no idea whatever what is going on with in), I suspect that the addiction will eventually wane, and I’ll go back to WoW when I’m not feeling SL-ish.

But time will well!

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8 Responses

  1. [...] Read all about it over here: Dreaming of pixelated rock. [...]

  2. dang, i had no idea you could die in Minecraft! is this the same Minecraft that some educators go nuts for? seems kind of weird if it is . . .

    glad to hear that it’s a nice diversion – that’s probably something i need to find, i tend to get burned out and withdraw for like one or two months at a time.

    • Yep, I’m pretty sure it is! You can die only in Survival Mode, though, maybe the educators are all using Creative Mode, which is a bit more SL-like in that I think you don’t have to go mining for blocks / prims, you can just rez them directly, which also doesn’t have monsters coming out at night. Not sure if it even has night, as I haven’t tried it yet…

  3. Hi mate, I’ll write more later today, but just to let you know I’m in the Pocket Edition too, on my Nexus 7. I’ve tried the PC version but what you see on my blog is all mobile :-)

  4. I loved your post above – it told a very similar story to my own in so much as I had heard of MC when it came out (many SL mates such as Darrien Mason were playing it from the start and Hamlet was covering it on the NWN blog) but I didn’t ‘get it’. Until, that is, ,y 6 yo lad ‘fooled’ the good lady Antfarm into installing the Pocket Edition onto her Kindle Fire HD and I put a version on my Nexu 7 so I could see what he was getting himself up to. Once my worried Dad side was satisfied nothing bad was going to happen I found that playing in his world with him via a wifi link was just brilliant fun and I was addicted!

    We are very different builder me & The Boy – I like order and put a sense of narrative into my world whereas he is free of all that and builds naturally – he copies what he sees around him and riffs of it in a way I fine totally enviable. Where I would have a large house of stone and glass with a cellar & storage areas, he’d have a tower of gold & diamond blocks with rooms built entirely from glass and secret bases and tunnels underneath that go one for miles are are incredibly detailed. He has a spy base under a swimming pool that has computers and seats built in – all built on his own from his imagination and all constantly blowing me away. If you want to be amazed, give your ipad to a 6 yo for a hour or two and see what they make :)

  5. Hi again Dale,

    Gah! I wanted to write more before but find your love of the pocket edition so exciting (feeding, as it does, my naturally strong desire to share my love of a hobby with another) I shot my bolt early and forgot half of what I was going to say! So, to answer so of the points & questions you raised in your post :)

    I had a similar start although I knew a little more about surviving the first night after coming across the Yogscast videos when watching their beta footage of Guild Wars 2 last year. Simon & Lewis surviving the first night made me laugh so hard that it was the first time I’d ever wanted to play MC but I had no room for it back then being totally absorbed by GW2. If you have not watched the Yogscast guys you really should – they cover mods too and their huge series on the Tekkit mod and their attempts to build a jaffa cake factory are hilarious! Here are some links:

    The Yogscast family: http://www.youtube.com/yogscast

    Simon & Lewis first night: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4UdEFmxRmNE&list=PLF60520313D07F366

    This grew to be the huge series called Shadow of Israphel that I watched all the way through with my lad: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLF60520313D07F366

    We are now watching the Tekket/Jaffa Cake saga: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL310728C6AAFF44B1

    As well as all the other Yogscast MC tales from Duncan (http://www.youtube.com/user/Yogscastlalna), Sjin (http://www.youtube.com/user/YogscastSjin?feature=watch) & Sips (http://www.youtube.com/user/YogscastSips).

    Phew – sorry about the linkdump!

    Anyhoo, I still live on the site where I built my first house out of the dirt I dug up around me, although now it’s a looooot bigger and made of stone. I also did the exploring thing and built new houses (shacks, let’s be fair) when my wandering took my far enough away to mean the sun would set on me. Thank god for shearing sheep! I now have beds everywhere so at least I can get through the night a lot quicker than in those early days!

    After building my first second house, if you catch my drift, I noticed that the area seemed to be a gathering point for animals so I made fences and created my first farm there but then after I opened my 3 house (a stone fort on the beach) I decided it was time for something different & after a quick reccie I found the perfect location to build a ruined stone age circle with alter & road leading up the hill to it.

    Still in the grips of the building bug I created two lighthouses on opposite sides of a valley (I still have an unfinished bridge spanning between them) before I decided to tackle mining and began to hollow out a whole mountain. As it stands I’ve nearly finished it and I plan to turn the whole space in to a dwarven style village. I also opened my first deep mine and once at the bottom began strip mining for gold & diamonds. As soon as I had enough I then built a nether reactor and switched it on – the huge basalt mega-structure still sits outside my first house and generates baddies like you wouldn’t believe!

    Speaking of generating baddies, I also opened the side of a hill and using a series of fences & gates have a more or less safe system of farming bud guys for their gunpowder, string, fathers & bones. If you’ve ever seen the 80’s Day of the Dead film set in the missile silo and remember the scene where they catch zombies in the tunnels below, then you might have some idea what my monster farm looks like :-D

    I’ve built miles of roads both over and under the land to help me zip around faster. The only way I have found to reliably stop monsters spawning in these dark places is to ensure my torches are never more than 5 blocks away from each other. It’s a lot of torches, but it’s better than having a creeper blow the crap out of my under sea tunnel and flood the base! Did I not mention the undersea tunnel? Oh man that has taken me forever! I’m still building the base but it’s been the most complex building project I’ve done so far and I’ve drowned sooooo many time doing it :-D

    My next move will be colonise the only quarter of the map I haven’t touched yet – the snowy mountain wastes and I’m planning an Innuit fishing village full of igloos.

    Long live the block!

    • Haha, wow, you know lots more about the world than I do! The iOS version didn’t even have armor until like yesterday, so I don’t know which of the fascinating things you mention I can actually do.

      My deepest mine, over in Deep Delving, hasn’t hit bedrock yet, so I don’t know what mineral wonders await me there, but I am all in iron armor now, and feel much more secure.

      The update brought armor (yay!) and signs (double yay!) and gave gravel and sand blocks gravity (eeeeeeek!). I spent most of this evening rebuilding my secret underground desert base, much of which used to have sand ceilings, until sand stopped working for ceilings haha. It was great fun actually.

      I haven’t studied water at all yet, I’m looking forward to that. It’s funny I haven’t really had much use for sheep; I have a small stockpile of wool and I colored some of it just for fun but didn’t really find any use for it. I have a couple of beds but I don’t use them much; since so much of my Empire is underground, the time of day doesn’t matter all that much.

      And I’m not toooo careful about keeping my torches close together, because the occasional zombie ambush in a spooky mine keeps things exciting. :)

      Must go put signs on more tunnels now! (“To Lonely Lake ===>”); thanks much for the comments!

  6. [...] found another Second Lifer who is playing MCPE! Check Dale’s post out here because it’s a great intro to the addictive qualities of this rather spiffing game. In my [...]

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