Tag Archives: Minecraft

On a Rail

There’s been all kinds of buzz lately around the release of Minecraft 360 Edition on Xbox Live Arcade. I first played the original all the way back in 2010 and I’ve revisited it plenty of times since and yet I still managed to get swept up by the hype. One boring evening I bought it with the intention of “just checking it out” for a couple of hours, max. That night ended up being the latest I’ve stay up gaming in a couple of years…

The game is largely identical to the PC version, save the crafting menu, the limited world size, and the Xbox Live integrated multiplayer. The biggest draw for me though was the achievements. I’m not exactly an “achievement whore” but I do sometimes go out of my way to go for those sweet, sweet points and, more importantly, some of the more creative ones inspire me to play games in different, interesting ways. While the PC version also has achievements these days I’ve pretty much ignored them. With Minecraft 360 Edition I set my sights on “one hundred percenting” them! The achievements in Minecraft are mostly tied to pretty basic things that you’re likely to get through normal play. Even some of the harder ones could be stumbled into, really. The most interesting ones to me were probably “Leader Of The Pack”, “When Pigs Fly”, “Into The Nether”, and “On A Rail”.

Random picture of a sheep enjoying a hot soak. *shrug*
“Random picture of a sheep enjoying a hot soak. *shrug*”

I set off going for On A Rail almost immediately. The idea was simple: ride a mine cart 500m in one direction. 500m is, for the record, 500 blocks which is definitely nothing to scoff at. I believe the world size on Xbox 360 Edition is only 1024 x 1024 so it’s approximately half the width of the entire map. Damn!

So, I started by building a modest cabin and gathering the usual resources to kit it out nicely and start doing some real mining. I next built a massive 10 or 15 block wide one block stair step down from my home’s basement all the way to bedrock. This ended up being a pretty epic mine shaft and once I got to the bottom and started doing some strip mining out from there, then having to make a few exhaustive runs up and down for supplies, I decided would be a great place to build my new rail system. I’ve only dabbled with rails and carts in Minecraft and have barely scratched the surface on using Redstone but some experimenting and a bunch of gold and iron down the drain later and I had an awesome fast ride up and down the shaft. Nice!

Come here and give me a hug, you loveable little scamp, you!
“Come here and give me a hug, you loveable little scamp, you!”

I next continued to strip mine just above bedrock from there, mostly searching for iron to continue my railway but I also started a new tunnel straight out from where my old track stopped to try to hit the 500m mark the achievement called for. This took quite awhile as I ran into the two walls I always seem run into with Minecraft: iron and lava. That is, a lack of the former and an abundance of the latter. At first I didn’t run into any lava and I was quite pleased with myself but eventually it hit. I mined around it. I hit it again. I mined around it again. I hit it again. Soon my track went from being straight to being this funky zigzagging mess. I also couldn’t find iron to save my life. In fact, I found far more gold and diamond than iron oddly enough! Eventually after extended my tracks a tiny bit yet again and not getting the achievement I realized that I had unfortunately forgot about the requirement of the 500m being in one direction. All of my lava detours meant that I’d be using quite a bit more than 500m of track. Doh…

For the second phase of the project I took my now MASSIVE collection of cobblestone and started building a 3 block wide raised railway from one end of the map all the way to the other, up and down mountains, through and sometimes totally over forests, over lakes, over lava pools. It was quite a construction project – in fact I ended up having to build a series of smaller houses to stay the night in along the way since I was so far out. On the plus side I did gather quite a lot of wood and other resources. About 2/3s of the way to the end I spotted a giant pack of wolves. I had no idea wolves spawned in packs like that and figured it was the perfect opportunity to get Leader Of The Pack. It’s a simple one: tame 5 wolves.


Now, I’ve never tamed a wolf in Minecraft so this was all new to me. It seemed simple enough – give them a bone and they become your pet and follow you around. Bone in hand I approached the pack. For a brief moment I thought to myself “I sure hope this doesn’t attack them…” and sure enough, hit the wrong button and was instantly mauled to death by a pack of 7 or 8 angry wolves. Okay, I’ve had some pretty funny deaths in Minecraft but this one was just fucking hilarious.

I eventually finished it and then dug up all my old track. Still not enough track to finish the entire railway nor enough for the achievement. Around this time I decided to explore a bit and poke around for some dungeons. Dungeons were also something I hadn’t really experienced yet and were required for the When Pigs Fly achievement. I figured the easiest way to find one would be to explore mountains and existing caves for signs of them. Shortly after starting I discovered a MASSIVE cave system and it was absolutely chalk full of iron to boot. My expedition to explore and mine these caverns became such an undertaking that I had to come and go to restock on food, torches, and picks multiple times. One of the times I was making a supply run I ran across another pack of wolves. This time I didn’t make the mistake of accidentally hitting with the bone instead of using it and tamed my 5 wolves. Achievement unlocked! I figured while I was taming 5 wolves I might as well use all my bones and ended up with a ridiculous number of wolves all following me into the caves. Unfortunately this actually became a huge nuisance for some of the riskier mining and climbing I had to do as the dumb bastards had a bad habit of blocking narrow paths and even nudging me off ledges. Eventually the problem resolved itself as they all dove into a huge, dark pit to attack some skeleton rangers and zombies never to be heard from again.

No, I don't have a life.
“No, I don’t have a life.”

By the time I was through with my crazy cave exploring expedition I had more than enough iron to finish my track. One long, glorious ride later and achievement unlocked! Now that was a long, hard, but fun achievement. The railway was useful too, and I ended up adding enough powered rail to make it 100% automated in either direction. One of my favorite Minecraft engineering projects ever.

The chickens and moon alignment aren't related to the achievement... just something I'm into. Don't ask.
“The chickens and moon alignment aren’t related to the achievement… just something I’m into. Don’t ask.”

Next I set out for building a Nether Portal for Into The Nether. Again, I’ve never built one. To make one you need to mine some obsidian. Obsidian is formed when water his calm patches of lava. Now, lava and water mixing isn’t super rare to find but in my experience it’s almost always running lava hitting calm waters, or two running streams coming together. These both produce boring cobblestone – nothing at all notable. Most of the lava I had encountered was in my mines under my house and wasn’t exactly safe to try to play with so I began looking for other alternatives. I first decided to try making an artificial lava pond by using buckets to fill small trenches I’d make and then pour water buckets on top. Unfortunately the lava produced by buckets this way is flowing and therefore not suitable for producing obsidian. Fortunately I realized the very source of lava I was using had a bunch of calm patches so I began dousing it with water. A little while later and I had stepped into the Nether for the first time. Achievement unlocked! Annoyingly my 360 locked up when I tried to leave the Nether (not uncommon from what I’ve read) and I lost my save though I ultimaltey looked at it as a good thing since I didn’t need a Nether Portal in my front yard and I preferred my little lava pond being filled with beautiful glowing lava and not blocks of half mined obsidian.

Finally all I had was the When Pigs Fly achievement. This one is the most bizarre of all of them. You have to find a saddle, which can only be found as random loot in a dungeon chest, put it on a pig, and then ride the pig off of a ledge tall enough for it to take falling damage. Alrighty then. Unfortunately I still hadn’t found a single dungeon anywhere in my world and continued to search for one. Eventually I decided to cop out and start a new world using one of the seeds that people had been passing around to get this achievement – one where you spawn right next to an exposed dungeon that always has a saddle in it. Nice!

Do it, DO IT!
“Do it, DO IT!”

This isn’t the end of the challenge however. When you mount a pig *insert dueling banjos here* they freak out and start moving erratically, not unlike a bucking bull, so you can’t really control them to force them off a ledge. I ended up having to try to block one in on the side of a cliff, saddle him, climb on him, and then wait until he got close enough to a ledge that I could hit him and cause him to jump off. It took a while to pin him in and it took almost as long to get him to wander close enough to a cliff but finally… achievement unlocked!

400/400 points.

Screenshots are actually recreations and general screwing around in creative mode on the PC version – not actually the Xbox 360 Edition and not my actual world, unfortunately.

Shadowvan Complexia

It’s been months since my last proper Game Log update and there’s good reason for that: I haven’t been gaming much!

I’ve continued to play some Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 online here and there until relatively recently. I think I finally reached that “eh, I’m good enough at this now…” stage of burn out which I also reached before max level in the previous two Modern Warfare games. Interestingly though, my load outs are fairly different. In MW2 I had developed a mean hyper-aggressive, hip-firing shotgun build and would even occasionally whip out a pretty effective sniping build on certain maps. In the original MW I had several assault rifle builds but one of my favorites was a hip-firing, fast reloading, high rate of fire sub-machine gun build. Coming full circle back to MW3 I found myself most effective with a pretty similar sub-machine gun build again. Great game, for what it is. Expect me to talk more about it (and probably more negatively about it) sometime when the future when I get around to playing through the single player campaign.

Oh yeah, I also briefly revisited my Minecraft addiction as well when a friend of mine put up a server… still a ton of fun! I didn’t do much cooperative building but I did carve out a little niche of my own and do plenty of exploring.

I built this seriously huge canal before remembering that they changed the way water physics worked online and I couldn't actually flood it properly. :/
“I built this seriously huge canal before remembering that they changed the way water physics worked online and I couldn’t actually flood it properly. :/”

Star Wars: The Old Republic quickly came and went from my roster as well. Great game! I’ve definitely never felt so attached to my character or so drawn into the story of an MMORPG before, yet at the end of the day it is still a fairly cookie-cutter MMORPG and despite really enjoying it I decided that, at least for now, I would get more (and cheaper) enjoyment out of sticking with single-player titles. I’ve got such a huge backlog and tons of planned reviews for this blog and whatnot as it is, and with me spending so little time gaming lately, it just doesn’t seem worthwhile to invest so much time into yet another MMORPG. I do expect to return to this and finish out my main character’s story eventually, but for now… cancelled!

I actually modeled my Sith Inquisitor after my old UO character.
“I actually modeled my Sith Inquisitor after my old UO character.”

Speaking of my backlog, I just finished Shadow Complex on XBLA. Yes, I know this came out in 2009 and I’m massively late to the party (as usual) but wow, what a game! It’s no wonder so many people were raving over it at the time. For the uninitiated, the game takes the classic “metrovania” formula (probably an understatement: it is very much a direct rip-off of Super Metroid’s gameplay) and throws it into a slick, modern setting with a nice 3D engine to back it up. Don’t let the mention of it being 3D scare you – it’s still very much a 2D side scrolling platformer like the aforementioned Metroid and Castlevania games, though Chair did at least have the sensibility to use the more modern engine for things like in-engine cut-scenes and 2.5D environments. Let me explain the 2.5D thing: it means enemies can be in the background rather than only on the same plane as your character which may sound confusing but it generally works pretty well even with the occasional targeting oddities. It’s used pretty effectively, allowing for a lot more enemies on screen without cluttering things up and just greatly enhancing the perception of depth in the environment in general.

If you can't explore it, shoot it.
“If you can’t explore it, shoot it.”

While the 3D graphics are nice and the polished presentation much appreciated, probably what impressed me most were all of the tiny little updates to the Super Metroid formula. Just little things, like using a flashlight to see what objects and doors were accessible/useable with what items, color coding those same doors on your mini-map for later reference, highlighting the route to your next objective, etc. Perhaps some of those intelligent tweaks aren’t new to the genre, as other than playing the DS Castlevania games I really haven’t played anything like this recently, but they’re all here and all work exceptionally well. Some of the item and weapon additions were quite cool as well and despite the game always highlighting your next goal there could be a lot of flexibility in what paths and methods you used to reach it if you want to explore and use your imagination a bit. I’m quite thankful for all of this as I was a little concerned before I got started that this would be one giant, tedious slog through backtracking hell… but no, it’s very easy to keep track of where you have and haven’t been, what secrets you have and haven’t unlocked, etc. and it only gets more and more fun to play as you progress.

Judo chop!
“Judo chop!”

Highly recommended if you were a fan of Super Metroid, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night or games of their ilk or, hell, even just a fan of 2D platformers in general. I definitely got my 15 bucks worth and I’ll probably play it again at some point in the future to go after more of the map secrets and challenges. Now if only they’d develop a new Metroid or Castlevania in this engine… *drool*

The Crafting of Mines

This seems like my first game log in quite a while – in fact it is. I’ve simply not been playing a lot lately, disappointingly, and the one game I’ve been playing the most I’ve been putting a lot of effort into “100 percenting” so it is taking what seems like a huge amount of time to complete. I’ll report back on that when I’m through with it but check this out in the meantime!

A little while ago a friend introduced me to this small, still in development indy game called Minecraft and I’ve quickly become addicted to it. It’s basically a game in which you can freely build things in an open world – from tunneling underground, to building massive structures. The main game-type has you doing so while building up resources, crafting, and dodging and/or fighting the occasional creature.

My humble little hobbit hole.
“My humble little hobbit hole.”

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is about this game that is so charming: Is it the Doom meets Mario style of simple, low-res graphics? Is it the Lego like ability to build anything in a world which is essentially a big toy box? For me, I think the sense of immersion I get from exploring these strange, randomly generated, infinite worlds is the most appealing part. I’ve always considered myself to be at least a little bit of an “explorer” but Minecraft has really managed to reveal just how extreme that side of my gaming psychology can be.

I could spend a lot more time attempting to describe Minecraft and its many glories but as luck had it early into writing this post I read this fantastic article on Bitmob describing the game. Check it out for some thoughts on and a quick introduction to the game.

Anyway, here’s the meat and potatoes! A short chronicle of a few days (of mostly ~1 hour play sessions) in a newly generated world:

Day 1:

I started by building a house on an ocean front beach near to where I started. There were mountains close by with several caves in them as well as quite a few trees scattered about and of course an abundance of water for farming later on. My current preferred way to start out with a house in Minecraft is simply to dig a pit, whatever size I feel like, 2 blocks deep, and then use the dirt I gathered from the dig to build a 1 block high dirt wall and ceiling. This is advantageous because it can be done quickly before nightfall on your first day without any tools. You can then block up the door, or half block it if you prefer, to keep safe for the night.

A view of my home from above as night sets in.
“A view of my home from above as night sets in.”

I started the usual way – chopping down trees by hand to get some wood to construct a workbench with. Next I made some wooden tools, specifically pick axes, and set out to survey the hills. There were a number of caves in the nearest, largest mountain, but absolutely none of them seemed to contain any ore. After upgrading my tools to stone I set out for some coal. A little more searching, this time in a small, craggy rock face across the valley from the aforementioned mountain, yielded a pretty massive vein of coal. Now I could really get down to business! I started by making a mass of torches as well as some additional stone tools and a furnace.

Day 2:

I spent a night digging a stairwell in my house’s floor down to a long, straight hall which I lit with torches as needed. I came across some coal here and there but nothing spectacular. As day broke I went back outside and began gathering additional wood and cloth while searching local caves for signs of iron. Unfortunately iron and coal were rare finds and as night set in I took refuge in my home once more. I ended up crafting myself some glass to turn the top of my lowly, dirt house into a classy skylight. I tunneled a bit more below my house turning my long corridor to the right. I came up with vague plan to make a series of tunnels, forming a grid, and then cleaning out the entire space between them, harvesting any resources I might find along the way and making a massive room to serve as a foundation for further mining efforts. Just as I decided to start doing just that, turning another right corner with my original tunnel, I hit a natural cave.

A massive natural tunnel leading deep into my mine.
“A massive natural tunnel leading deep into my mine.”

I had broken into the cave towards the top of it and carefully made my way to the bottom. The large main room broke off in several directions. I set an array of torches as I began to explore what turned out to be quite a massive cave system which included 2 underground rivers and what seemed to be a large amount of iron and coal. I was quite excited to start excavating and fully investigating this cave system but I needed to quit for the day. As I didn’t quite explore every last inch of the cave, meaning there were possible unknown, unlit tunnels where creatures could be hiding, I built a door onto the tunnel leading down to the cave. I also finally built myself a real front door to my house while I was at it.

Day 3:

I was pretty anxious to get to mining and immediately returned to my newly discovered basement cave system. I started by mining all of the ore out of one of the smaller tunnels close to the entrance and then signaling that I was done with it by building some dirt pillars around the entrance of it. I may do something a bit more interesting with closed off areas later on. I then went another direction and began exploring pathway up towards the ceiling that I had missed last time. Unfortunately it didn’t have anything of note in it and it ended up in a small, square room a lot higher up than the rest of the cave. I thought to myself “hmm, I wonder how close I am to the outside?” and mined a single rock from overhead. I saw some water above me and thought “cool, I’m under a river!” Barely enough time for that thought to have processed passed before the cave started flooding. I ran for my life. This being my first encounter with underground water accidents I thought my mine was done for but luckily the water produced a nice, clean waterfall and didn’t flood too much of the surrounding area.

An underground river spilling into a lava flow.
“An underground river spilling into a lava flow.”

I continued to explore the cave system, constantly finding new areas further and further in. This thing was even more gigantic than I originally suspected, eventually leading down into some huge natural caverns. The first time I ran into a bow carrying monster I must have jumped 10 feet out of my chair in what was probably the most scary moment I’ve had in a video game since playing Doom 3. That *thwack!* sound just totally caught me by surprise. Exploring Minecraft doesn’t really put me in that sort of a tense mood like Doom 3, Dead Space, and other similar games do though – I’m usually much more curious about exploring then I am nervous about what will happen to me around the next corner which I suppose is why this surprise attack freaked me out so much. I ended up crafting a set of iron armor and an iron sword for such encounters in the future.

Score! I found a second diamond vein while taking screenshots!
“Score! I found a second diamond vein while taking screenshots!”

Eventually I reached the bottom of the caves – a complex system of smaller caves teaming with iron and coal interconnected by giant underground rivers of lava. The lava let off a warm glow which was quite enjoyable after fumbling around in the dark for so long. This is also where I discovered my first diamond vein which yielded 3 of the precious stones. As I explored more of the depths of the cave system it became completely obvious that I wasn’t even close to having explored the entire thing yet so I came to a good stopping point and returned to my humble home to call it a night.

Day 4:

More exploration! I spent almost the entire session yet again exploring my newly discovered mines, though this time a bit more methodically than before. I was able to seal off a couple of sections, having mined out their coal and iron, with the dirt pillars I used yesterday though I also, for better or for worse, discovered some exceedingly large and often deep new sections. I marked the entrances to those sections with a series of new torches to point me in the right direction. Even after I explore all of the conventional cave, which may yet take quite a while at this rate, the entire bottom floor of the deepest section of the system seems to be riddled with a sprawling maze of lava filled tunnels, some of which I suspect lead to yet more caves and tunnels.

It may be hard to see in the thumbnail but there are two skeletons, a creeper, and a spider on the other side of this waterfall.
“It may be hard to see in the thumbnail but there are two skeletons, a creeper, and a spider on the other side of this waterfall.”

After I do finally explore it all and mine out all of the precious ore I’m toying with the idea of going through with my blocks and my pick and basically remodeling the entire cave system so that it looks man made – fixing craggy edges, rough floors, and strange turns. It might be too much work though, given the size of this thing, especially considering how massive some of the caverns are. After that I plan to look for a new place to build a better, much more complex house and new places to mine.