Posts tagged ‘Minecraft’


Digging up those diamonds – Minecraft.

In the past I’ve written a two-part review of the pre-full release Minecraft, here and here. I’ve also written a post which dealt with how to escape a few of the silly situations that beginners, and occasionally overenthusiastic experienced players, can get themselves into. Well today for a change of pace I’m going to provide a personal insight into the acquiring of those most sought after of Minecrafting materials, diamonds.

This will mainly be aimed at the beginner player, but it’s possible that an experienced player might just pick up something new. So please keep reading if you’re interested. If not come back on Saturday when we have an extra special post where your humble narrator writes not just one, but three very personal letters to Satan Claws.

So let’s start by speaking a little about why you want diamonds. First of all, just like in reality, in Minecraft diamonds are a girls best friend. They’re pretty, sparkly, and they make the best tools in the game. A pick made with diamond for example will mine over 1,500 blocks before it’s destroyed. This compared to a mere 250ish uses for diamonds nearest rival, the iron pick.  So it uses much less space. It lasts longer. And guess what? I actually mines faster as well. Here we’ll use the nastiest substance in the entire game for our example, obsidian. Obsidian is a stone cold pain in the patoote to mine. Even with an iron pick it takes almost a minute to mine just one block. However with a diamond pick you can chop through them in ten seconds. Oh and let’s not forget that diamond tools also just look cool. Not an inconsiderable selling point if you play on a multiplayer server.

Now with the why out-of-the-way, let’s move on to the how.

Diamond only occurs below level 18. By that I mean up to 17 levels above the bedrock region. So our first challenge is reaching that depth without getting a molten lava facial, or having a heart to heart with a creeper. Obviously if you play on Peaceful mode you can scratch out the creeper. My method for this is as follows.

Pick a location a reasonable distance from my build site, I do this because I tend to build from bedrock upwards, I know I’m nuts. Put way-markers between your dig site and build site, a couple of blocks with torches all around the top of them being a good way. Right now a hundred readers screamed as one “Just carry a compass.” Yes that’s a solution, but here’s the thing, that’s a backpack slot you won’t have to carry tools, or loot.

Now build a covered doorway, nothing fancy just a tube three high and maybe five or six long. Close off one end, put a nice thick door on it, and surround it with torches. This will mean that you don’t have to worry about covering your back from those sneaky creepers quite as much. After this step you’re ready to mine.

Start digging down on a diagonal line. After ten drops plant a torch, turn 90 degrees, and repeat. You’ll do this until you either hit bedrock, which is our initial goal, or lava. Lava is the reason for the diagonal movement, nothing ruins your day like a swim in the hot red-stuff, but by being sure that the block you’re standing on is safe you can avoiding losing your life, and all your resources. If you do hit lava, and the pool is small enough just fill it in with gravel, then keep digging. If it’s too large to do this, then go back up one flight of your mine stairs, and turn the other way, this should get you around the obstruction. Once you hit bedrock you can start the next stage.

For the record bedrock is easy to identify, no other block in the game looks like it, and it won’t break. Seriously it won’t, so don’t even try.

From bedrock go back up 9 or 10 steps, and cut a 3 block high shaft at 90 degrees. Cut it as far as you feel appropriate, but I would keep it limited to about 100 blocks. Next pick a side, left or right it doesn’t really matter. Now cut into that side four deep, and plant a torch on the side furthest from your shaft entrance. (Yes folks we’re going to make a branch mine, my personal favourite type in fact.) Now every 20 blocks dig a similar short shaft, putting a torch where you won’t be digging again, until you’re back at the entrance to your branch mine. Then excavate between them. That’s it. you’ve done the first segment of your branch mine. Have probably found several iron ores, perhaps even your first diamonds. But that’s not the end of the story.

After you’ve gone back segment by segment maybe ten times you return to your original shaft, and now you cut in,  leaving a solid two block space between every shaft. This means you will not miss any diamonds or iron that might be available. but still minimising the amount of material you have to mine.

I use this system for a few reasons, but the two main ones are these;

  1. If you hit lava it’s no big deal, you just drop a block in front of yourself straight away, and either fill the pool, or ignore it and work around it.
  2. At that depth you’re very likely to hit a large cave system, as well as dungeons. Mining this way means that you have a higher chance of hitting them, and when you do it’s a piece of cake to explore them, thus usually finding a lot of easy to mine resources.

The only real catch with this method is that in order to keep yourself safe from the nasties that dwell below, you’re going to need lots of torches, and sharp ears. But trust me it works. A single hour of this method usually leaves me with enough diamonds to outfit myself for the following week of play.

Anyway I hope this is of help to someone out there. And I’ll see you again on Saturday for a very special Christmas edition.


Five Minecraft situations you should never get into, and how to get out of them without suiciding.

If you play Minecraft then you’ve been there.  You’ve braved dark, Creeper filled chasms, and after hours of careful exploration your inventory is bulging with loot.  For possibly the first time ever you have an embarrassment of Minecraft riches, a full stack of diamonds, several stacks of iron ore, loads of lapis and red dust, and of course endless quantities of coal.

The only problem now is that you’re stuck.  Somehow you’ve painted yourself into one of several corners, leaving yourself with that classic of Minecraft conundrums.  Find a way out of this, or suicide and just give up on the riches you’ve gathered.

Well worry not friend, here at Random Ruminations we don’t want to see you drop a fortune in diamonds just because you’re lost.  So we’re here to give you a way out, a way out that doesn’t involve charging a Creeper in nothing but you skivvies.  A lot of these will seem to be very obvious pieces of advice, and they are.  But it’s advice which took me time to learn for myself, because believe me when it all goes in the pot, you find very quickly that logic takes a back seat.

1. Damn it I got carried away and went digging straight down:

Every Minecrafter makes this mistake at some point.  You hit a really promising vein of coal or iron and tunnel vision ensues.  I like to think of this as going with gravity, and just like in reality, gravity in Minecraft is a cruel mistress.

You see if you dig straight down there are several nasty possible endings. You might pop through the roof of a cavern.  It’s not much of a fall so it doesn’t kill you outright.  Unfortunately though the floor is made of lava, now that’s a tan that’ll kill you.  Or there’s a body of water down there with some tricky currents that wouldn’t be a threat at all, if you could see.  Or it turns out to be the nesting grounds of many, many Creepers, spiders, zombies and skeletal archers.

Alternatively you might just hit bedrock. But either way you now have to get the hell out of Dodge before you end up as lunch for something.

First piece of advice, do not dig straight down.  It doesn’t matter how unbelievable that vein is, do not dig straight down. At the very least dig in a spiral around it. But if you lose your sanity for a few moments, leading you to go with gravity, and somehow you don’t end up instantly dead, for a start don’t panic.  Don’t go wandering, don’t decide to compound the problem by going any further in any direction apart from up.  After all you got into this situation because of a sweet load of something, wouldn’t it be nice to get back to your base with all that sweet, sweet loot?

So start digging upwards on a diagonal.  It’s that simple.  If you hit a cavern don’t explore it just find another wall and dig upwards some more.  After all this way once you’re home, unloaded and reloaded for bear you can always go back.

2. I went exploring and got lost, Mommy!:

There’s really two Minecrafts, the subterranean Minecraft and the surface world.  And strangely when I get lost playing Minecraft it’s never underground.  You see underground you have the tunnels you’ve dug to follow back out, along with a bread crumb trail of torches.

But on those occasions where I take it into my head to do some impromptu exploration of the surface world, it almost always ends with me hopelessly lost.  It happens very easily, I mean let’s face it Minecraft generates some truly beautiful landscapes.  But it also creates some very disorienting ones.

So take Sunday night.  I decided to scout around the giant water tank I’m building to see what resources were easily available in the area around my two bases.  Five minutes later I was completely lost.  I did not however panic.  I simply remembered that I was infinitely better equipped to survive that I had been when I started building on this particular map.

So steps to surviving without suiciding and thus losing the three diamond picks, three diamond spades and the diamond sword I was carrying.

Find the lowest point nearest to my current position and stop going further away.

Cut down some trees and make a crafting table and forge.

Dig down until I found iron, coal and red dust.

Do what I should have done before I left my base, and build a compass.

That’s all there is to it.  The compass will bring you back to the last bed your character slept in, thus making everything hunky dory.  But it get’s better and there’s a way to make this minor disaster a good thing.  You see you just dug a mine, if you’re lucky like I was you may even have found a great cavern system with tonne’s of resources.  It would be a shame not to find that again, wouldn’t it? Well then my friend just leave a trail of torches behind you as you return home.

See? Simple and you’re mommy didn’t even need to come and hold your hand.

3. I don’t know how but I just got trapped by lava:

This one is an oddity which happens with horrific frequency to me.  I’m minding my own business digging away looking for yet more diamonds, they are after all a geeky, minecraft playing, girls best friend, when I make a break through.  Right into a pool of lava.  When that happens you have a tiny amount of time to react, if you’re fast you can back away enough to get out of the line of flow.  If not you get burnt to a crisp.

Sometimes though through over enthusiasm, poor planning, or momentary idiocy, it’s very possible to end up with lava all around you, while you stand on a single, solitary block.  This is especially possible somewhere like The Nether though occasionally it can even happen in regular caverns. Well as usual don’t panic, I know broken record or what?

You’re going to have an inventory that’s packed with things to walk on.  So pick a direction, preferably one that’s going to get you to solid ground fast, start crawling backwards and lay one block at a time very carefully.  I know most of you are scratching your heads right now.  After all this is basic, basic Minecrafting technique.  But I have chatted with players who genuinely didn’t realise you could do that.

Alternatively you can go for the overkill method, and smother the lava all around you. Leaving a moat of lava, which might lead to the future construction of the Bond villain hideout to beat all other Bond villain hideouts.

The main this is to always be prepared for lava to start pouring near you, move fast and think carefully.  It’s all about protecting those ores, diamonds and the tools you’re carrying.

4. Great now I’m trapped, underwater and drowning:

I’ve saved the funnest one for last.  Nothing is quite as unpleasant in Minecraft as being trapped underwater, okay Creepers are but that’s sort of a given. Well let’s paint a picture.  You’re exploring and you bravely dove into the waters of some cove, you found a small cave down there.  They do show up occasionally, after all the land underwater is generated much the same way as the dry land.  You peeked in and thought you could see an air pocket.  Turns out you were wrong and now you’re watching in horror as your air supply vanishes.  You’re screwed, right?


Just dig an air pocket for yourself.  I’ve been playing Minecraft for months now, and I only discovered this trick in recent weeks (I should point out I don’t use the Wiki’s or guides, I decided to figure everything out the hard way).  But it turns out that if you’re quick enough you can create air pockets in the cavern roof, better still you can even plant a torch in it.

But best of all this technique opens up the ability to efficiently build underwater.  Now how awesome is that?

So I hope that this will be of some help to someone.  As I come across other life saving techniques I might even write a follow up.  If you have some creative, awesome or just plain odd method of avoiding the suicide escape in Minecraft please feel free to add it to the list.


The Joy of Minecraft – Part 2 – Multiplayer

In mid-March I wrote a review of the singleplayer version of Minecraft.  Back then I promised to write-up a little more, when I had experienced the multiplayer version of the game.  Well I have and I am still highly impressed.

To quickly recap, Minecraft is exactly what the name implies.  You mine materials, everything from sand to diamonds, and then you craft items and build objects from them.  The only limitations being, your own imagination and the fact that like with Lego, you can only work in diagonals if you don’t mind a very jagged edge.

So about playing on a multiplayer server.  Well the game is the same.  Mine and craft to your heart’s content.  But in multiplayer, you have obviously enough have other players in the world with you.  This can seriously improve, or wreck your experience.  Improve by having someone to help with that huge project you’ve been putting on in singleplayer, or wrecking your experience by them laying large quantities of TNT around that same project and blowing it sky-high.  Help or grief, these two words best sum up the multiplayer version of the game.

Luckily the server I play on, which belongs to an old Wow-head friend of mine, is noticeably lacking in griefers.  Though it is filled to near overflowing with creepers, zombies, skeleton archers and spiders.  All of  whom seem to take a perverse pleasure in jumping on you at the worst possible moment.

So the question now is do I still recommend Minecraft as a game?

Oh Goddesses yes.  This game is still described as digital crack cocaine and the option to play with other humans only adds to that experience.  So much so, that after a mere half hour session, I often find myself plotting out the next ten hours of play, while cleaning up the apartment, showering, walking the dog, trying unsuccessfully to sleep.  You know all the unimportant things that aren’t Minecraft.


The Joy of Minecraft

For my recent birthday my lil sister decided to give me a copy of this game.  Now after two days of playing it I can’t decide whether to curse her for the gift or to give her a huge hug accompanied by a very large glass of something that tastes deceptively nonalcoholic.  The reason you see is that Minecraft has turned out to be the gaming equivalent of crack cocaine.

So what is Minecraft?  Well the best description I can give of it is this.  Minecraft is digital LEGO with added cows, chickens, pigs and monsters.  In the single player mode you play what seems to be the sole inhabitant of your own world.  All around you are hills and plains which are made up of hundreds of individual blocks of resources.  You can interact with most of these blocks and it’s up to you to create the world you want from them.

Playing Minecraft is a little odd at first.  You start with literally nothing but the clothes on your back.  No tools or anything else useful.  The daylight is running out and soon monsters will stalk the land.  The monsters are held back by light and solid walls.  So in your first moments of play you find yourself in a race for survival.  Speaking for myself I died eight times before I finally worked out how to make the most basic pickaxe and torches.  It took another three deaths before I figured out that I needed strong walls and a roof over my head to be truly safe at night.

The survival aspect of Minecraft is genuinely challenging and not just at the beginning.  Even later as you plunge deep into the earth to mine for iron, coal or even diamonds, you will suddenly dig through the roof of a pit and plunge to your death.  If you’re lucky.  If you’re unlucky you’ll survive, now you have to find a way back out of the dark.  And whether it’s day or night on the surface, the dark below is never your friend.  It crawls with spiders, zombies and some weird creature that explodes when you get too close.

The good news is that you can apparently make armor and weapons.  Though right now I have to admit that I have yet to discover how.

The most enjoyable and satisfying part of Minecraft though is building.  There is very little as satisfying as deciding what you want to build and then spending hours not just personally building it, but actually making your own tools and gathering all the resources to build it as well. It really does remind me of playing with LEGO when I was a child.  Though this LEGO set is essentially infinitely large and has very few limitations.  My first building was a tower that literally finished when my characters head touched the clouds.  Around it lies a moat, with a pit beyond that for trapping animals.  Beneath the tower is a huge complex of mines and tunnels.  Basically I did the simplest construction imaginable in Minecraft as a learning exercise, but I came away with a huge sense of accomplishment.

There is a multiplayer option but I have to admit I haven’t yet taken part in it.  Simply because I want to learn how to play well before I join others.  But having chatted with people who do play on the multiplayer servers I can tentatively report that they are fun and well worth a look.  When I take part in the servers myself, I will write-up something extra about them.

Minecraft is still in Beta testing, so there will end up being extra features, such as an end game added at some point.  This also means that some features won’t necessarily work when you download the client.

As a game Minecraft  seems to have been made with the intention of  giving adults the sort of freedom to create that LEGO and plasticine gives to children.  But without the mess or the screams released when you step on a random piece, barefoot in the armpit of a dark night.

If you need evidence that Minecraft has become a force for creativity just Google “minecraft” someday and look through the images that come up.  A quick search last night ended with me looking at everything from huge models of the Battlestar Galactica to a truly incredible model of all three pyramids in Giza.

It should also appeal to players of all ages.  My partners granddaughter aged 4 is already addicted to walking around the world’s Minecraft creates.  She’s also addicted to punching the chickens and picking the flowers scattered on the hillsides.

All that said what are my conclusions?  Minecraft has in the last few days consumed all of my gaming time.  I haven’t even loaded any of my other games, because by the time I think of them I’ve run out of time.  It is addictive in the same way that cigarettes, chocolate and NCIS are addictive.  Play this game and you will lose entire evenings.  But you’ll find yourself more than happy to have lost those hours and with a little luck and a lot of work you might even have built something you can be proud of.  For me, my next project is to build a model of the Space Battleship Yamato.  Just for giggles.

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