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MineCraft: Mine The Gap, Day 2

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This week I’m playing indie mega-hit MineCraft. Want to know whether you should be playing MineCraft too? Have a read of my adventures and see whether they (figuratively) set your heart alight. Day 1 can be found here. As for Day 2, it features swordplay, spelunking and strange explosions, plus I accidentally trap myself in a trap of Bond villain proportions.

When we left me I’d buried myself alive on a tiny island, far from my home of Stupid Cave, because I thought it would be a good idea to “go” “exploring”. Now the sun has set, there are monsters above ground, and I’m BORED. I said in the last entry that I couldn’t tunnel in any direction, because I might tap water and flood my protective chamber. That is entirely true. I decide to do it anyway.

Cautiously, listening out for monsters, I nuzzle through the dirt and pop out here, on the edge of the island. It dawns on me that I have no idea how water acts in MineCraft. I’m dying to find out. I know what they say about curiosity and the cat, but what they don’t tell you about that same cat is that he was popularly considered a cool cat among cats and boned loads of lady cats before curiosity kicked his ass.

I remove the last cube of dirt.

Fuck! That is unexpectedly awesome! Water goes pouring through the gap I cut, carrying me bodily back down my tunnel…

…and deposits me right back at the point where I buried myself. Huh. Looks like there are some rules about how far water can travel over porous terrain. Cute. I quickly wall up my experiment for fear that creatures will stumble into the stream and be carried straight to me on a kind of deadly travelator.

I kill the rest of the hours before dawn re-arranging dirt and chewing my fingernails before I finally start hearing pained grunts above me. The sun must be cooking all those nocturnal monsters. Excellent! I wait for the grunts to stop entirely, then punch out my roof.

Sunlight! I find myself somewhat stunned. It’s incredible how evocative games can be when they model nature, then make you rely on it. Changing seasons are actually on Notch’s to-do list for MineCraft. I can’t wait. I pull myself out of the hole, and-

– wait. What the Hell is that? Why is it moving? I draw my sword. My pitiful, stone sword.

Jesusing Shit! What the fuck? It is horrible! Look at the murder in its eyes! Those are eyes that know nothing but murder. Look at the nightmarish, peg-like legs. A monster. A real one! This will be my finest hour.

As it walks out from under the tree it bursts into flames, showing me the reason it survived sunrise was because of the shade. In the duel that follows the creature collapses after a few swings from my sword, but not before getting in a lone swipe that tears off half my health.

Shaken, I find my way back to Stupid Cave after a scant fifteen minutes of fevered searching. There, I take the few chunks of iron I’ve managed to find through all my mining and craft this:

An iron sword. Yeah, that’s right! No more mister stone-sword guy. This land is after my blood, and I don’t intend to let go of it without a fight. A slightly longer fight. I also go to the forge and grill the pork steaks I’d collected from various unfortunate local pigs. Scarfing one down, I’m almost back to full strength. I leave the rest in my pockets for later. Nobody said survival was sanitary. Finally, I make six dozen torches. I have no intention of running out mid-mission.

What mission, you ask? Well, I have an ulterior motive in gearing up with sword & steaks. In the comments of my last MineCraft post, people said that I was much more likely to find ore in natural caves as opposed to “mining like a baby,” as one jerk put it. Well, I’m not scared. I mean, I am, but whatever. Let’s go find a cave.

I seal up Stupid Cave with natural stone blocks, giving it more of a secret HQ vibe. Now nobody will find my home! Unless they somehow knew where to dig. And I can’t see how they’d know where to dig. It’s just some steps leading up to some torches. Would could be more natural than that?

On the way to look for a natural cave I’m distracted by some coal deposits. I’ve only just finished stuffing my pockets (mmm, coal-coated pork steak) when I notice the sun. God Dammit!

It’s already setting. Rubbish time management on my part. I’ll have to go back to Stupid Cave and go on my cave hunt first thing in the morning.

Meanwhile, I do a little more mining. My mine is getting ridiculous at this point. Not ridiculous by professional MineCraft community standards. By MineCraft community standards, it’s the work of an idiot child, but by my standards it’s ridiculous. Look, I took a video:

If you get a dungeony vibe of that, know that one of the features Notch is planning for MineCraft is an in-depth Adventure mode, with dungeons, monster spawners, monsters and chests, where the adventurers can’t dig as they would normally. Presumably this could, at some point, become a mode where one player makes a dungeon and the others invade it. The current build of MineCraft is only an alpha, remember.

That night I also add a practical feature to Stupid Cave: a garbage chute. All the rock and gravel I unintentionally amass while I’m mining can be thrown directly out of my inventory in the form of a floating pick-up, but as long as it’s all the way down there I’m in no danger of accidentally picking it back up. Sorted. Course if I ever fall down there my inventory will become flooded with about 400 cubes of rock, but I’m not thinking about that right now.

I also find a little more iron in the course of my night’s digging. Not much, but enough to make some iron trousers and iron boots. I also turn my collected cow hides into a hat. BEHOLD:

Hm. My new armour doesn’t really shout “hero” so much as “knob”, but nevermind. The next day I launch a foray as planned and find my very first cave.

And go inside…

And find an underground river!

Spelunking, it turns out, is kind of breathtaking. Everything- the risk of encountering monsters, the natural cave formations, the chance of discovering something unusual- comes together to form a thrilling whole. It reminds me of Noctis, of all things, which was an open source videogame circa 2000 that gave you a very abstract spaceship and let you explore a very abstract universe containing strange, randomised life. Discovering plant life in Noctis was an event. Discovering some of its strange, vector creatures was jawdropping. It didn’t matter that you spent most of your time staring at instrument panels and worrying about fuel. Something about the randomisation made everything exciting.

Unable to resist, I jump in the river to see where it takes me.

Iron! A fair bit, too! Yessir, Quinns’ days of not having iron will soon be very much behind him. You’ll have to start calling me Iron Quinns.

A sharp intake of breath from the singer on the album I’m listening to causes me to panic and draw my sword. I’d forgotten there were meant to be monsters down here. I haven’t found a soul.

Struggling once again to find my way home after exploring every inch of the cave, I decide on a project- a beacon, of sorts. I will build a mighty pillar directly above Stupid Cave, thus allowing me to spot it from miles away. My first crack at this sees me stacking some rubbish on a tree, and proves to be a bit embarrassing.

At first I tell myself that it’s not the size of your beacon that matters, it’s how you use it. I then decide that no-one’s going to believe that and go back to the drawing board, or rather the MineCraft wiki. I quickly hatch a plan. Back at Stupid Cave I crack open my storage chest and reduce every piece of lumber I have into sticks. I then craft these sticks in a mass of ladder segments, fill my inventory them, plus some rocks, and return to the tree. By placing a couple of rocks on the tree, then setting a ladder against the rocks, then placing two more rocks up there, then extending the ladder, I create a monstrous pillar of epic proportions. I then climb on top of it for the view.

Excellent! With the screenshot taken, I realise I have a problem. The ladder back down is 2 dimensional. It is a texture, placed on one of the sides of the single-cube column I’m standing on. And I have no idea which side the ladder is on. Realising that my sole option is to get this over with quickly, I take an educated guess and drop off the column. If I’ve chosen incorrectly, I’m dead.

It’s the correct side. I’m saved. I quickly jog back home and seal myself back in Stupid Cave for the night. The next day, I go adventuring again. Following a brief encounter with a strange monster that explodes in my face, causing a chunk of damage:

…I find another cave.

And I strike gold. Not literally. It’s just more iron. But it’s so much iron! I quickly peel 20 blocks of ore out of the ground, and that’s just the beginning. I’ll never want for iron again! Iron Quinns is born!

I came, I saw, I stole. I’m a proper hero, with iron armour and an iron sword and everything. Which begs the question: What now?

Well, a hero like Iron Quinns can’t be living in a cave, can he? I need a proper house. With a door and a bookshelf and windows and things. I need luxury.

By the time I leave the cave, the sun’s setting. It’s a long walk home, but I’m not afraid anymore. I think I’m getting the hang of this.

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Quintin Smith

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