Open Server II: Electric Boogaloo

Thanks to Brandon, 57, Kidzilla, and Mathguy for coming!

To everyone who was having connection problems, ARGH! I’m sorry, I’m not sure what was going on.

The good news, considering people really liked coming in and hanging out, I have decided to do open server weekly. So see everyone next Monday at 6!

I am a little behind on build posting – I am working on entries for the Circus (which I missed the WBC deadline for – oops) and the Four Guardians, but due to aforementioned main computer problems and a show on Saturday I have to prep for, those might be delayed for a bit. I also promised tonight’s players that I’d write up how to host external players on your pocket devices. All that will happen at some point, it just might be next week sometime!

Thanks again, y’all.

First open MCPE server run!

Well, after getting the domain and port forwarding right and figuring out FINALLY how to switch the main world back to Survival (I’ll post a tutorial on both later), I posted a “hey my world’s open, come visit!” notice on /r/MCPE this evening. I¬†wasn’t expecting too many visitors – hell, I would have been happy if one person showed up. Happily I had four, and to those four, especially /u/Palcto and /u/EclipseSun, I say thank you for making my first MCPE server run pretty epic.

Sadly the allotted 3h of game was cut a little short by an incoming call from the husband (note to self, Plug PE does NOT play nice with phone calls). Such is the hazard of running a server on one’s iPhone. But still I’d say a pretty successful first run and I’ll definitely be doing it again.

Good Stuff:

I am frankly flabbergasted that it took two hours into a 2.5ish hour run for the game to crash. Between the general bugginess of MCPE especially with Plug PE going, and the unreliability of my net connection lately (sigh *COMCAST*) I was expecting the game to be yo-yoing way more than it did. Nope. Pretty smooth and stable. We only seemed to have problems when teleporting players with laggier connections around, making them fall through a not-loaded-yet world. Oops.

Bad Stuff:

Plug PE’s give command is borked. I can .g stuff to myself fine, not so much to other people. Also had a frustrating problem with amazing disappearing/reappearing chests. >_< Also the .in command does NOT hide you from mobs. I spent most of the game invisible near spawn (mostly so people didn’t spawn into oncoming zombies) and would get knocked about by spiders and skeleton arrows constantly. Yay diamond armor I guess. ūüėõ

Interesting Stuff:

It apparently takes about 2.5 hours to see almost everything in the main world. Palcto found just about everything (I suspect the Hellfire Library was missed, as it’s a little off the beaten path and possibly the maze under the castle). Something for next time then.

Stuff to fix/think about for next time:

It’s been so long since I’ve run/played this world in survival that I’ve not only forgotten what’s in all the chests everywhere (answer: lots of good stuff still) but I’d forgotten to do things like leave minecarts in the subway stations for folks to use. Whoops.

Player Pictures!

EclipseSun has a different shader pack, so I asked him to post the screenshots he took, and holy crap, some of the builds look amazing in it. Palcto also took screenshots of his adventures.

 

A world of one’s own

Group of Kids Using Digital Devices

One of the reasons I wanted to start a Minecraft blog was to share my experiences with it as a game, a building medium, an adventure, and a platform for particular kinds of social interaction, be it collective, competitive or antagonistic. The game is a unique environment for all of these things.

A couple of weeks back, a friend, who also has a son about Beastie’s age, posted an article from the Atlantic titled “The Overprotected Kid.” It caught my interest because I have long bemoaned the bowdlerization of playgrounds as they went from the monkey bars and elaborate wood, chain and tire structures I remember from my own childhood to the installations of plastic and rubber matting that are more concerned with preventing the lawsuits of parents than challenging their increasingly sheltered offspring.

The article introduces an “adventure playground” -a different sort of play space for children. Instead of the sterile, secure structures we come to associate with playgrounds, the adventure playground is something of a junkyard, littered with discarded furniture and toys. Rather than being trash however, these are provided to give children building materials. A chair and a broken table seem like excellent starting points for a fort. Instead of a structure providing a limited scope of play, an adventure playground is essentially a huge sandbox where children are essentially turned loose to make of it what they will away from the all too omnipresent gaze of parental supervision. (The children are supervised, but in a very hands-off sort of way – kids are left to do what they will, resolve their own conficts and overcome their own challenges.) Over the course of a day, the items provided in an adventure playground may be destroyed, used to build new things, and even set on fire.

This all sounded very familiar.

Even before I started playing I have marveled at the explosive popularity of Minecraft. I have been especially fascinated with its popularity among grammar school-age children, and I believe reading the above article provided a clue as to why kids are drawn to this game: it provides a virtual adventure playground for them. It is a space essentially belonging to them, containing challenges, dangers and obstacles to overcome, where parents can be escaped. In the tightly leashed, stranger-danger influenced, constantly supervised worlds of kids today, there is a lack of this space in reality. Minecraft seems to fill this gap for many kids no longer allowed to leave the safety of their own yards and the line of sight of well-meaning parents.

I have also wondered why I have been so drawn to the game in the year that I have been playing, and I think my motivations are somewhat similar. As grownups, despite what our children think, there is so much within our lives beyond our control that an entire world to escape into and reshape as I see fit is very appealing. Taking out ones frustrations of the day out on a few zombies doesn’t hurt none either.

I don’t have any world shattering conclusions about all of this really, but¬†as a part time parent I find all of this interesting and troubling. It is so easy to blame video games for their influences on children’s behavior and lack of activity when a lot of insight could instead be gained by examining why children are drawn to particular types of games.

Wacker Tower

I mentioned I liked browsing Brutalism tumblrs and other images for inspiration for Minecraft builds. One day I happened across a pictures of  the Blue Cross Blue Shield building in Chicago, IL.

Apparently Hertz has been around a while.
Apparently Hertz has been around a while.

The building still stands, although it’s been given a bit of a facelift and the more generic moniker of “55 West Wacker.” (It nevertheless has made several “Chicago’s ugliest buildings” lists, which seems a little unfair – I’ve seen way uglier examples of Brutalism.) It also now has very tall neighbors on all sides but the front, rendering all those pretty windows useless and making the building itself look a little squat by comparison. Nevertheless something about this building held my attention. Maybe it was all those pretty windows.

Oh hey look, I figured out how to make WordPress galleries work, go me.

 

This building was my last big MCPE build in cheat-less Survival and as such it was a pain in the butt. It’s the reason why there are five nether reactor tower corpses across the samd biome (for all the glowstone and quartz) and spruce trees in an oak biome. And the poor rainbow sheep in the farm. Even with the Shear button I still accidentally punched all of them at least once getting carpet. And I still haven’t cleaned up all the supply trunks from in front either – figured their content’s’ll be useful for when I get bored and switch back into Survival. Still, oddly enough, for all the time and frustration in building it, it’s probably second only to Seuss Library in my list of favorite builds so far.

 

World: Main
Location: -120, 71,-427)
Build Mode: Survival
Build completed: Early October, 2014

Take the train!

As part of a weekly challenge about subways on the MCPE subreddit I made a video of my subway. The video’s¬†a little long, boring and dorky, but it does improve about¬†halfway through when Beastie shows up and wants to know what I’m doing.

Seuss Library

I surf a lot of brutalism galleries. I find the architecture style hideously¬†interesting. It doesn’t help that UMass Amherst isn’t too far from me, so I’m confronted with many intensely ugly buildings on a fairly regular basis. The other fun thing about Brutalism is that examples of it are really fun to make into MCPE builds. Weirdly enough, they do not look anywhere near as ugly within the cubed off aesthetic of a Minecraft world.

My second brutalist build is based on the Geisel Library at the University of California, San Diego. It looks quite a bit like a UFO crashed on campus and then people just shrugged and filled it full of books.

This is the inspiration for this build. Yes, that is a real place!
This is the inspiration for this build. Yes, that is a real place!

 

Just for the record I’ve never been to California, let alone this campus, so I had to improvise a lot of the inside. I do think I did a pretty good job approximating the outside though. Lets take a tour!

On the Road facing North.
On the Road facing North.
It's a long path from the road to the front of the library.
It’s a long path from the road to the front of the library.
There's the road all the way back there.
There’s the road all the way back there.
A peek at the front.
A peek at the front.
Welcome to the library!
Welcome to the library!

 

The librarians are busy tonight.
The librarians are busy tonight.

BTW it is a super pain in the ass getting villagers to stay in one spot. Hence all the glass panes on the ceiling. Good thing they compliment the info dest.

The guys at the Skull Cafe are not so busy.
The guys at the Skull Cafe are not so busy.

Nope. They just keep jumping on the stoves back there.

Such pretty work tables! And cozy couches!
Such pretty work tables! And cozy couches!

It was fun figuring out how to get “houseplants” inside without just having ugly exposed dirt blocks.

A flower shop? In a library? Sure, why not.
A flower shop? In a library? Sure, why not.

So lets go downstairs to the basement!

It isn't a proper library without a creepy basement of stacks
It isn’t a proper library without a creepy basement of stacks.
Lots of stacks. We might be searching awhile.
Lots of stacks. We might be searching awhile.

These pictures aren’t really conveying what a huge basement of stacks this really is. You’re seeing a glimps eof maybe half of them.

Because my stepkids got jokes.
Because my stepkids got jokes.

I really don’t know what is with them and setting random animals loose in my builds but at least the library cows are funny. Anyway…

Up to the "UFO" part of the library!
Up to the “UFO” part of the library!
Level 5 has some cosy reading areas!
Level 5 has some cozy reading areas!
It's much more inviting up here.
It’s much more inviting up here.
A peek down at the road.
A peek down at the road.
So much for no talking in the library.
So much for no talking in the library.

Because these guys will follow and aggressively HMMM at you.

Level 7 is the widest floor. Lots of work and read space.
Level 7 is the widest floor. Lots of work and read space.
So this is what an all-nighter looks like.
So this is what an all-nighter looks like.
No idea how the villager got outside.
No idea how the villager got outside.

Also whoops, forgot to finish slabbing over the ceiling – you can see the wool blocks holding up the table upstairs.

Looking up to the skylight on level 10. Quite a climb!
Looking up to the skylight on level 10. Quite a climb!
Top floor!
Top floor! Phew!

Level 10 isn’t part of the original library design, but a rooftop workshop felt somehow necessary.

The minions are super busy up here.
The minions are super busy up here.
Busy in the workshop
Busy in the workshop…

Okay, back outside.

A daylight view from outside
A daylight view from outside
a side view at sunset
a side view at sunset.
Looks really cool all lit up!
Looks really cool all lit up!
...this needs some sheep or wolves or something.
…this needs some sheep or wolves or something.

 

This took me maybe three solid weeks of work to finish up and furnish, but it’s the build I’m happiest with so far. I may go back and add more light at the base of the “UFO” at some point, as I’m afraid if I switch this to creative that dark area is going to be a ripe spawning area for hostiles. Also go back through and make sure there are no further patches of ceiling I forgot to slab over. and maybe give that poor cow a companion to roam the basement with…

 

World: Main
Location: from the road: (-1113, 69, -463) Library front: (-1137, 65, -526)
Build Mode: Creative
Build completed: December 14th, 2014

And so it began. (Spawn House)

So going back exactly 8 months ago to late evening, July 18, 2014. The new update to Minecraft had just dropped for iOS and I was terribly excited. Since I’ve never been a PC player (and have no real interest in starting), this was going to be my first time experiencing infinite worlds, Enderman, biomes, wolves and several other things Kidzilla and¬†Beastie¬†liked to tell me about during their visits.

I updated MCPE on my phone, created a new infinite world, and pushed the button…

Anticipation!
Anticipation!

…and the image in the header appeared before me.¬†Immediately I noticed how different everything looked from my last world. Grass everywhere. A deep river type thing stretching lazily in front of me to who even knows where. A dense copse of trees ahead, some of which looked very¬†different from what I’d previously seen. If I squinted I could even see a mushroom off to the right. They’d been nearly nonexistent in my previous game. Best of all was looking ahead to that tree line and knowing behind it stretched a huge world waiting to be explored. (Interestingly though, I haven’t made too much of a foray westward as yet. Most of my explorations since have been to the North).

It being Survival mode though, I wanted to make a shelter before sundown. Like you do. So I made a 90 turn and started exploring the nearby landscape for a place to dig in and roost.

A good spot to start a home.
A good spot to start a home.

Spawn House has gotten a bit more… developed¬†since.

Ground entrance to Spawn House.
Ground entrance to Spawn House.

That’s the same spot, roughly the same angle too. My, how the neighborhood has changed.

That's not a chimney! I hope...
That’s not a chimney! I hope…

Lets go inside. Up the hill and around a bit:

Upper entrance.
Upper entrance.
Inside the Spawn House.What looks like a fireplace is actually the ladder up to the tower.
Inside!

What looks like a chimney off the left actually has a ladder going all the way up to the top of the tower. We’ll get up there in a sec.

Second floor. I should probably furnish it at some point.
Second floor.
The Attic.
The Attic.

I should probably furnish up here at some point. Anyway now to go up a very long ladder…

Inside the Tower.
Inside the Tower.

It got way more fun being up here once I tinkered with my options.txt file. The view from up here as a result is pretty amazing.

Northwest Roads and... stuff! We'll visit sometime.
Northwest Roads and… stuff! We’ll visit sometime.
Looking to the Northeast. Haven't seen much that way.
Looking to the Northeast. Haven’t seen much that way.
Southwest view. Haven't explored much in that direction.
Southwest view. Haven’t explored much in that direction.
Looking northeast from the tower. Why there is a burnt our field of flaming netherrack covered in lava is for another post.
Back ooking northeast from the tower after the sun has set.

I’ll probably have explain why there is a burnt out field of flaming netherrack covered in lava in another post. Anyway, enough ogling the scenery, lets look around in the basement(s)!

Downstairs!
Downstairs!
I guess this is the ground level? it's the first room I carved out in the house.
I guess this is the ground level?

This is the first room I carved out in the house. Because punching rocks.

Fun fact – I’ve set those dark oak stairs on fire a couple times by mistake. I didn’t know then that even if there’s a solid barrier of cobblestone containing lava, it can still set surrounding wood on fire. Oops. Actually I’ve burned down the entire spawn house at least once during construction that way, which is why that chimney isn’t actually a chimney.

Basement with bed.
Basement with bed.
Got a lava pit you don't know what to do with? build a window and make it part of the decor?
Lava!

Got a lava pit you don’t know what to do with? build a window and make it part of the decor!

Wait there's more down?
Wait there’s more down?
Sub-basement 1.
Sub-basement 1.

I don’t even know what the kids did down here, the level is kinda trashed, hence the sign apologizing for the mess. I think they were trying to set up super secure beds or something.

Sub-basement 2
Sub-Basement 2.

If I’m mining out a space under a house in Survival I tend to leave behind these cobblestone warrens of platforms and stairs.

Bottom floor.!
Bottom floor.

Despite many warnings not to do so, this was the point where I got tired of carefully mining out levels and just went on ore hunts by mining down in checkerboard patterns. I only died a few times…

Subway Entrance
Subway Entrance

You can just see the platform through the doorway, but we’ll go out there another day.

So there you are, my first house in this world. Go big and go home, right?

World: Main
Location: spawn point (272 65 11) and Spawn House (220 69 6)
Mode: Survival
Build completed: ~July 2014