Sightseeing!

Note: Written before update 1.1.0 when the direction of the sunrise/set was fixed. North here is now west.

Just for laughs last week I took a long wander towards the north on the road with the GUI off taking snapshots of interesting things along the way.

The Four Guardians

Note: Written before update 1.1.0 when the direction of the sunrise/set was fixed. North here is now west.

One of my MCPE builds on Fisher Price® My First Creative World™ was a giant zombie. It was a challenge figuring out what color blocks to use, and working around the fact that unlike skins, blocks have the same texture on all four sides. But the statue got built with the necessary fudging of detail and it lurked on one side of several incarnations of my scavenger hunt world, at least until in some of them, Wee Beastie TNT’ed them to the ground. ‘Cause, you know, Giant Zombie.

Fast forward to my infinite world, and a pretty patch of shoreline and a small island out from the mainland, and I thought, what the heck, I’ll rebuild the Giant Zombie. And then I thought, nah. I’ll build FOUR of them. Get all Lord of the Ringsy. So I squared off and expanded the island and built these four colossal gentlemen quietly menacing onlookers in each direction. Though it’s really hard to menace anything with hordes of chickens sprouting out of your feet.

Yes, they are connected.
Yes, they are connected.
A door inside!
A door inside!
Its a long way up...
Its a long way up…
Shoulder level!
Shoulder level!
balconies and doors connect the four.
balconies and doors connect the four.
A view out of an arm
A view out of an arm.
Interior of Head #1
Interior of Head #1
Interior of Head #2
Interior of Head #2
Interior of Head #3
Interior of Head #3
Interior of Head #4
Interior of Head #4
There were stairs going down too.
There were stairs going down too.
A vast white room...
A vast white room…
Wait, more down?
Wait, more down?
down down down
down down down
Four Guardians subway station
Four Guardians subway station

This was actually the first subway station I built on the north/south line. (When I add more, it’s gonna be called the Netherrack line.) It’s a little smaller than subsequent stations, since I was still figuring things out, and the only one with stairs on the platform instead of in a space behind the wall. The rest of the stations got more standardized over time, but this one gets to be quirky because it was first.

Not pictured – I should have gotten a picture of the island from the sky during a creative run, because the water around these guys? FILLED with chickens. There is a circle of flapping white specks around the island. Yes, there’s a spawner somewhere. Occasionally they get down into the subway and hop a minecart. Chickens in minecarts are way funnier than they ought to be.

And thusly ends the tale of the four.

UPDATE (6/28/15): About that aforementioned picture:

So. Many. Chickens.
So. Many. Chickens.

Also these guys have since acquired names. They are Icky, Stinky, Yucky and Clyde. Don’t ask me which one’s which.

World: Main
Location: 551 64 16
Creation Mode: Creative
Build completed: Summer 2014

Taking the Scenic Route

Most of this weekend’s build work included laying a ~1115 block segment of road running from a brick house* I’d mostly finished a few weeks ago (just had to add the roof) to the mostly unexplored northwestern shoreline. This was slightly more of a pain in the neck than usual (literally at some points throughout Sunday even) because after last Monday’s server session I’d left my game set on survival for Reasons.** After having my game mostly creative for the past little while, I’d kinda forgotten how arduous building a Large Thing in Survival mode is, even if you’re using Plug to cheat a little with regard to tools and inventory. Arduous, but somehow satisfying.

Anyway, I did finish the road (and the house, which I’m calling Rose House, not Brick… hoooooooooouse***), and since Survival mode did slow me up a little it meant I had time to stop and appreciate the scenery along the way.

Rose House from the road.
Rose House from the road.

I was experimenting with a different roof shape on this house. Very unsure if like.

Back of Rose House
Back of Rose House

We’re getting ready for boats, hence the dock in the back. Also if you look carefully through the water you can see the double basement.

Off in the distance...
Off in the distance…

I really love having my view distance hacked to 255 blocks. it doesn’t seem to slow up my gameplay much, aside from an uptick in chunk errors. Still, a view like that… worth it.

Tiptoe... through the tulips... with me...
Tiptoe… through the tulips… with me…
Another stunning view!
Another stunning view!
Sunset over the cliffs
Sunset over the cliffs

I have a horrific compulsion to take pictures at sunset. Minecraft sunsets are just so PRETTY now.

Shore Cave
Shore Cave

I decided it would be really cool to have the road end emerging through this cave. I wanted to take a before picture first through.

Also can I just say I love that Plug gives you access to coordinates? It makes road planning way easier.

All roads have an end.
All roads have an end.

But this road ends emerging triumphantly through a cave!

Night and day
Night and day

The other thing I like to do is if I found something super pretty, I like to stand in one spot and take a lot of pictures. This is the first time I’ve spliced those time-lapsed screenshots into one picture though, and I like how it came out. Might print and frame it even.

So yeah, now we have come… to the ENNNNNND OF THE ROOOOOOOOAD.****

behold, a Boyz II Men song.
behold, a Boyz II Men song.

Meanwhile in B plot land, 576875 showed up for a bit on Sunday afternoon to work on the farm they’re building across from Spawn House so players don’t have to go ranging far and wide for food. It’s coming along nicely. As of last night it did not have a roof, 5 put that in tonight.

5's farm
576875’s farm
Crops and lights
Crops and lights

By the way, holy cats, it’s actually really hard and frustrating trying to lead livestock into a confined area. I’d only done it with sheep before, and they’re dumb enough to follow you relentlessly anywhere so long as you’re holding wheat. Cows, pigs and chickens aren’t nearly so cooperative.

Moooooooooooo
Moooooooooooo

They will however get RIGHT up in your grill though.

While fishing the above pictured cow out of the river and trying to lead it back to the farm, I stumbled across a house built by mathguy04 a few sessions back.

mathguy04's house.
mathguy04’s house.

One of the reasons I’m really enjoying having guest players is that they bring some fresh ideas and building styles into my world. For example 5’s farm system of placing down a square of water for the crops, placing a slab one block over it, and then having a floating glowstone block above that as a crop light. I also really liked how mathguy framed the giant bay window of his house entirely with doubled slabs, which gives it a neat look. So yeah, live and learn. Reminds me, his house is missing a bed, I may go back and leave one and a houseplant for him as a housewarming present.

Hopefully I’ll have more news from the open server front soon. I’m open all week but haven’t been advertising it much. Hopefully I’ll get a few more folks in later in the week or over the weekend. Also I’m so behind on the build posts front. I’ll tackle that project this week I think.

* she’s mighty mighty… letting it all hang out ayyyy she’s a brick… HOOOOOOOOOUUUUSE… sorry, couldn’t help myself.

** Reasons being I wanted to hack in iron doors for the prison build, which is coming along. Hopefully done this week.

**** …for exactly this reason.

**** Its apparently just that kind of post. 😛

At the Circus!

All right, Crazy Busy-making Stuff is over with for a moment, so time to catch up on posts about my MCPE builds!

I finished the circus a hair too late for the Reddit WBC it was created for, but it still came out cool and I’m pretty happy with it. It gave me something to do with the dead flat mountain space on the main subway line between the Crystal Palace and the Castle. I’d briefly considered starting a giant train station build there but I think that’s ultimately going to go north of the castle.

Anyway. Pictures!

What? A circus? Awesome, lets go.
What? A circus? Awesome, lets go.
Up through the mountains!
Up through the mountains!

Carving stairways and roads through mountains is kind of a pain, but at least the views are nice from up here?

I see the Big Top!
I see the Big Top!
Tickets, Please!
Tickets, Please!

It’s always a little tricky designing spaces for villagers to stand in (lunch counters, ticket booths, any sort of service type place) and not have them wander off. you end up getting rather good at overhangs.

Ticket obtained! Lets go in!
Ticket obtained! Lets go in!
That's one way to make a tightrope. Or should I say tightfence?
That’s one way to make a tightrope. Or should I say tightfence?
2 out of 3 rings visible.
2 out of 3 rings visible.
See Mr. Hmm's performing dogs! In ring #3 - Hmmph's Wild exotic mooshrooms.
See Mr. Hmm’s performing dogs! In ring #3 – Hmmph’s Wild exotic mooshrooms!
Farmer Hmp's Rainbow Sheep! Here for one day only!
Farmer Hmp’s Rainbow Sheep! Here for one day only!
...is that a sheep on the tightrope!?
…is that a sheep on the tightrope!?
The Purple Sheep of Pachysandra Island!
The Purple Sheep of Pachysandra Island!

Which of course means I now have to create a Pachysandra Island somewhere and fill it with purple sheep…

Would you like to buy a flower?
Would you like to buy a flower?

I apparently have a thing for flower shops. Be nice when you can actially buy things with emeralds…

HMM. one hot dog please!
HMM. one hot dog please!
No idea what's going on here,  but maybe we should move along.
No idea what’s going on here, but maybe we should move along.
Popcorn, getcher fresh popcorn!
Popcorn, getcher fresh popcorn!
Wait - a Freak Show? Ooo.
Wait – a Freak Show? Ooo.
Quick, the ticket guy isn't looking... *sneaka sneaka*
Quick, the ticket guy isn’t looking… *sneaka sneaka*

Don’t do this in real life, kids.

Behold, the terrifying and explosive Creepers!
Behold, the terrifying and explosive Creepers!
Observe the horror inducing Skeletons and Zombies!
Observe the horror inducing Skeletons and Zombies!
Tremble at the sight of the Zombie Pigmen! Straight from The Nether!
Tremble at the sight of the Zombie Pigmen! Straight from The Nether!
Marvel at the Mildly Annoying Silverfish!
Marvel at the Mildly Annoying Silverfish!

And that’s the end of it. I might put more tents in at some point and there was a cave system underneath that I hadn’t had a chance to map out yet, and the grounds are overrun with loose sheep with colors not found in nature and chickens.

World: Main
Location: -745 78 -34
Creation Mode: Creative
Build completed: post date

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. 😛

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