By Quintin Smith on September 17th, 2010 at 3:33 pm.
We call this one “Express Elevator to Hell”.
This instalment of Mine The Gap is brought to you by dokus’ RPG texture pack. Find the collected Mine The Gap right here.
I signed off last time wondering what was next for me, now I’d become a Hero and built a Hero Home. Traditionally, this is where a MineCraft player might undertake some epic, ambitious project, like creating a colossal twelve story bust of Steve Buscemi or something. Me? I’m a simpler man, with simpler desires.
Those desires take me deep underground, right to the very bottom of Stupid Cave, where I start digging a hole. And keep digging a hole. And keep digging. It’s one of the rules in MineCraft that to avoid disaster you should never dig vertically either down or up, but I am a man on a mission and as such I ask myself one simple question: What would Duke Nukem do? If he needed to dig a hole, he’d dig a fucking hole. I add ladder segments and torches as I go, resulting in the image heading this post.
Soon I reach that undulating layer of inpenetrable bedrock that marks the very bottom of every MineCraft world. Here, I begin digging sideways. And JESUS CHRIST
I instinctively dodge backwards from the lava I’ve unearthed before hitting the screenshot key. Oh, my God! Lava!
With sweaty terror chewing at my thoughts, I watch the lava come nosing out of its crevice-
And start oozing down the passage towards me.
At this point I have no idea what I’m doing, what I’ve done or what I’m going to do about it. I am a trembling berk with no plans and no clue. As it happens, that’s not a problem. The lava uses the same physics as MineCraft’s water, so it conveniently drains away into nothing before it floods the passage.
So I guess deep mining is pretty dangerous! But I can’t turn back. I haven’t yet found what I’m looking for. But it isn’t long before I do. Cutting a new tunnel directly away from the lava pocket, I find a rich cache of that mysterious, precious substance- Redstone.
You know how in movies where an organisation is excavating some alien artifact or priceless relic from the ground, they always dig a huge chamber around the artifact and fill it with floodlights? I totally get that now. I can’t yet get Redstone from this ore because you need at iron pickaxe to do that, but I can’t resist hollowing out all the rock around it. It feels respectful. My precious Redstone. My treasure. My baby. Now, let’s go find some iron.
Oh for fucks sake. More Redstone? So it turns out you can’t move for Redstone down here. Now I feel like a prick for surrounding that last bit of ore with torches like it was the Ark of the Covenant or something. Nevermind.
Right! Iron. Good. I take it up to the forge and smelt that bad boy.
You’re probably wondering why I need Redstone so badly. Patience! All will be revealed shortly.
I take the iron, craft an iron pickaxe out of it, head back down and tear into that Redstone ore like a kid unwrapping presents on what he knows to be his very last Christmas Day. With pure Redstone in hand, I can craft the item that I desire more than anything.
A compass. Rather than pointing North, MineCraft’s compass points towards your spawn point, meaning I can finally go on a proper adventure without having to worry about finding my way home.
Because I’m not really interested in any more building, or crafting myself a suit of diamond armour or anything like that. I want an adventure. I want to go on a proper trek in this randomised world of mine, and I want to come back alive with a pack full of souveniers. That’s my plan.
I leave Stupid Cave to find a huge herd of seven pigs lazing around the entrance. I take this as sign of good luck, and quickly dispatch them for their delicious bacon. There’s not much preparing left for me to do before I can leave. I’ll need to close up Hero Home, though.
Done! Now, let’s take stock:
10 pieces of jerky? 4 ladder segments? Iron sword? Pick? Back-up pick? Ratty tuxedo? Compass? Flint and tinder? Sorted. Probably.
Probably not actually sorted at all. Probably my corpse will be being picked over by skeletons within the hour.
This is where my adventure begins. Morning, on a misty beach. I deploy my crafting table, whittle myself a tiny boat and set sail.
My goodness. This is something, isn’t it?
Land ho! I bring my vessel to a stop and go splashing out into this new world.
My first discovery is a problem straight out of a puzzle game. Iron ore, trapped under flowing water. Lucky I brought a supply of handy rocks!
I love MineCraft. There, I said it.
I spend the night in a little bunker I dig into an exposed cliff face. Feeling creative (boredom will do this to you) I give my shelter a second storey and knock some of the rocks away to create a wide viewing balcony.
It’s about 3am when I hear a loud, disgusting hiss that turns my blood to mayonnaise. What the fuck was that?
Cautiously, I remove the loosest part of my balcony to get a better look at what’s below.
JESUS SHITCHRIST! AUUUGH–
It takes me a few seconds to see that the spider can’t actually reach me. It just keeps jumping upwards, unable to land an attack. With nerves of molten steel I time a sword attack, hitting the spider when it reaches the highest point of its jump. Pow! It comes back and tries again. Pow! And again! Pow! And with that the spider’s corpse goes bouncing away into the night, leaving behind some string. String! If I get a little more, I can make a bow.
The next morning I find the impossible. A cave which already has torches in it! A special cave, to be sure. A spooky moan sound effect even plays as enter. The torches, however, lead me to a quick dead-end. I realise that this is, in fact, a cave I’ve explored before. This isn’t a strange and distant land at all. It’s just a foggy day on a place I’ve already been.
I leave the cave with a serious wound to my ego, so of course what I really need right at this moment is to stumble across another massive spider. Which is exactly what happens. As of yet it doesn’t seem to have seen me. I begin backing away very carefully. So carefully, in fact, that the rest of the world fades out of my comprehension and I end up walking backwards off a cliff. A very, very, very sheer cliff. After watching stone walls flit past me for more than a second, I’m convinced I’ll die upon landing. I don’t.
The fall just really, really hurts. Ow. I look up from the stones at my feet to see what it was I just fell down.
What the fuck. I’m at the bottom of the abyss! I’m the worst hero ever, but this is awesome! It’s like a setpiece that drops you into the first dungeon in an RPG.
Tragically, it turns out that the cave at the bottom of this pit closes into a dead end within 20 feet, leaving me with no choice but to climb back up.
Looking back down, the beauty of the hole has been somewhat disfigured by my ad-hoc staircase. Nevermind.
I continue on my way, and soon experience the chugging that tells you MineCraft is generating entirely new tracts of world. At last, I am exploring. And I find all kinds of stuff.
An excellent waterfall, first of all. Why couldn’t I have built my house above a waterfall?
I climb to the top of the waterfall, of course.
Then I go down, down inside a cave with a load of zombies at the bottom. Brr.
And onwards to a forest, with the biggest tree I’ve ever seen.
I climb to the top of the tree, of course. Most of being a professional explorer is climbing things, you know.
Fording a river, I find myself in a craggy, mountainous land, with a floating island in the centre. I don’t climb to the top of this, as it looks like too much hassle.
The cliffs in this place really are something else. I decide to climb one.
Beautiful. God, this fog! It’s been foggy for three days now! Does MineCraft even have fog? On a whim I check the options and find that my render distance is set to “Normal”. I change it to “Far”.
Cue facepalm. Still, the draw distance / fog made things genuinely atmospheric for a spell there.
Jogging onwards I drop down from this mountain, crest a second and gasp at what I see. I’ve discovered the promised land.
Click for bigger. Please, click for bigger.
A grand mountain looming over a tidy valley, sprinkled with trees and threaded through with waterfalls and caves. I’m speechless. I want to build a village here. I want to build a life here.
Why aren’t there more games about exploring? I’m not talking learning the corners and shortcuts of some dull “open” world here. I’m talking about games which let you pick your way through a world that’s every bit as secretive, hostile and surprising as our own. I’m talking about letting the player get lost. I’m talking about making a world so tactile, so absorbing and so believable that an exciting discovery can be as simple as a big-ass tree.
We need more of this. Because this? This is brilliance. MineCraft is brilliance in such a simple, raw form that developers the world over should be smashing their heads on desks with a force usually reserved for heading footballs, simply because they didn’t do this first.
It took going on today’s expedition for me to realise it, but after a dozen hours I’ve already gotten more out of MineCraft than I get from most commercial games, so I’m just going to tell you straight up: You want to buy this game. It’s already fantastic, it’s still a long way from finished, it’s only €10 and once you’ve bought it, all future versions of MineCraft will be yours for free.
Notch? I salute you. I know I’m late to the party here, but I’m going to go ahead and add my voice to the crowd. You are doing incredible, important work here. You’re everything that makes the PC indie scene great. For the love of God man, keep it up.