Playing Minecraft for the first time (Pocket Edition), plus thoughts on SurvivalCraft

Current Mac wallpaper (Etrian Odyssey Untold).
Current Mac wallpaper (Etrian Odyssey Untold).

Good morning, afternoon or evening.  If you’re a full-time student like me, hopefully the days leading up to spring break are seeing you well.  Also if you’re like me, you’re in desperate need of a break.  Just remember the main purpose of our intellectual trials and tribulations – they’re to not only help us grow mentally but also hopefully secure decent employment in the future (though it’s not a 100% guarantee here in the States.  I wonder if Canada needs an accountant with ten years’ accounts payable experience).  Still, we’ll cross our respective bridges when we get to them, though there’s probably going to be a whopper of a toll charge when we do.

Thomas Library: a peaceful place to toil.
Thomas Library: a peaceful place to toil.

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Speaking of needing rest, you’ll note that at least two of my previous posts were made on Thursdays, which is designated as my day off from coursework.  After waking up later than usual on the previous Thursday (Feb. 27th) I decided to try the mobile version of Mojang’s Minecraft due to a friend of mine obsessing over it.  Figuring that since I spent the $6.99 USD on it as one of the first apps for my iPad R, I should either play it now or remove it from the iPad for another time.

Minecraft PE - beachside sanctuary

My iPad R’s battery (initially at 100% charge) was drained in under ten hours of play, then recharged while I was still playing, then an additional 10% when fully recharged.  In short, my whole Thursday completely disappeared.  Thanks a lot, Dan!

Minecraft PE work area It was admittedly frustrating at first as the game simply drops you into a world with little in the way of instruction and too many ways to die (from zombies, drowning, falling from tall heights, et cetera).  Once I accidentally found that with enough wood elements I could build a crafting table, which aided in my crafting fragile wooden tools for self-defense and for easier mining, I was able to finally start adequately defending myself.   Needing a simple shelter for protection when mobs hunted during the night, I built a simple one-room hut made of sand, placed a treasure chest and crafting table inside of it, placed a door on it, and then went foraging for more items.

Minecraft PE storage area

Coming back from my foraging, I would find mobs in my house!  These party-crashers were easily dispensed with my newly crafted stone weapons, but it was clear that I needed to work harder.  After mining stone I was able craft stone versions of my tools, and with additional mining I had a surplus amount of cobblestone.  “Hmm…cobblestone is more secure than sand, and I have lots of it”, I thought.  “Maybe I should convert this sand-shack into something better”.

Moving back and forth from my shelter to the caves brought additional learning experiences.  For one I found that mobs like to not only infiltrate dark caves at night as well as scatter across the landscape, but they apparently like to hide and wait where I was last working until I returned the next day.  At one point I came back to a cave to find at least seven mobs crowded in a short tunnel, some wanting brains, others wanting to explode, and skeletons begging to fill me with arrows (by the way, in Minecraft: Pocket Edition, bow-using skeletons can’t hit the side of a barn!).  I wasn’t fully armed to the teeth, so I sealed that portion of the cave until I was ready.  When I finally went back to the cave to dispatch them I found twenty of them!  What do they do when holed up, breed?

Minecraft PE second-floor smelting

As you can see from the screenshots above, you’ll notice that I practically made a glass house.  This was not only to enjoy the views but also as a tactical method (looking out for mobs mainly).  What also started as a shack turned into a two-story beach house with enclosed patio and second-floor entrance (via a ladder) to escape mobs if I’m being chased.

Minecraft PE - second floor patio
Second-floor patio. That cave in the distance was the short cave where the battle described above took place.

Converting my sand-shack to the villa shown in the shots took a while as I was acting over-compulsive regarding symmetry and joints, but I knew that while I could make it as attractive as I wanted, it had to be secure.  Finding out that I could craft glass from all of the surplus sand created from converting the shack and the surrounding beach (into soil for farming) was a happy accident, thus the result.  Having a glass house would be stupid if it wasn’t a decent shelter from the zombies, creepers and especially the spiders (darn them and their ability to climb up the walls and wait on the roof for me to walk by!) though, so placing an alternate entrance and setting torches throughout made the villa more secure.  No party-crashers since the renovations.

Heading towards the unknown

In retrospect, maybe the game’s lack of instruction is a good thing.  No, scratch that – it’s a great thing.  I wouldn’t have had so much fun with the game if I was specifically told what to do, and toiling for treasures while laying the smack down on any zombie trying to get in my way was relaxing.  I don’t think that I can express that feeling of satisfaction when I easily felled my first enemy after toiling in the forest unprotected for wood, taking it back to my humble sand hut, crafting the wood into swords and pickaxes and venturing out to explore with things to defend myself with.  Seriously, my fists or wood blocks weren’t a lot of help in fending off the mobs, so gradually building better and better weapons and tools (nd now full sets of armor!) was a satisfying experience.

The Holy Tunnel

There’s a drawback to the mobile version of Minecraft; namely, that the maps are too small.  Each map consists of a maximum of 256×256 blocks, and the height is supposedly around 150, so unlike the console and computer versions, there’s invisible barriers in place when playing the mobile versions.  Supposedly there’s an upcoming update that will attempt to integrate boundless exploration as well as more items and more varied environments, but having a limited valley to explore detracts from the fun.  It could be worse though, as previous versions of the mobile version didn’t have day/night cycles, and players only had four quick slots.

Marking map boundaries in tunnel

I’ve decided on a quick fix for tunnels; whenever I hit an invisible barrier when tunneling, I seal the hole and place an “X” pattern using torches (see the screenshot above) – this will inform me that there’s nothing beyond that point.

Not too far down this shaft is the farthest end of the map...hey, WHAT THE FRICK!
Not too far down this shaft is the farthest end of the map…hey, WHAT THE FRICK!

I thought that enemies wouldn’t infiltrate well-lit tunnels and mines, but I was sadly mistaken.  The shots of the cave above are of a special mine shaft I like to call “The Holy Tunnel” because not only is the entrance a few steps away from the villa, but also because I only killed a single zombie (which was my fault as I hadn’t placed torches in one small area of the shorter branch of the mine shaft).  When taking shots for this blog however, I found creepers and zombies dancing in my shaft despite torches being placed every fifty feet!

Get the frick out my tunnel!
Get the frick out my tunnel!

I’m attempting to get the farm started, but I’m a slow learner when starting crops.  I have managed to heal myself eating apples from fallen trees, and I’ve earned seeds from tilling the soil but I’ll need to grow food as well as gather elements to build a bed in order to truly sustain my character.  Oh well.

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SurvivalCraft (iOS)

Igor Kalicinski’s Survivalcraft is the fan favorite of all of the Minecraft “clones”.  It’s a cheaper yet more graphically-pleasing version of Minecraft with the same premise, except the world is ever-expanding (unlike the current portable Minecraft build) and there’s a true element of danger.  Players have to worry about hunger (like the console and computer versions of Minecraft), stealth and sleep.  While your character may be hungry, there’s an immediate need to build a shelter as being exposed to the wildlife while napping on the sand just isn’t pleasant.

Must...find a place to sleep...
Must…find a place to sleep…
A bear AND a lion.  I am SO FREAKING DEAD...
A bear AND a lion. I am SO FREAKING DEAD…

The game is harder yet is currently Minecraft: Pocket Edition’s biggest rival in terms of gameplay and expansion.  Despite Mojang’s success (16 million paid downloads of MC:PE versus 13 million console and computer Minecraft purchases), Survivalcraft (all the work of one person by the way) definitely gives the minimalist survival game king a run for it’s money.

*NOTE:  Survivalcraft also has screen-capturing support, something that Minecraft: Pocket Edition doesn’t have.  Does it make sense that Mojang has made millions from the franchise yet won’t implement screenshot captures yet a single developer implemented the feature in a similar game?  Since the game contains this feature, I’ll post better, lighter shots in an upcoming blog as I’m rather pressed for time.

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That’s it for this post, which should have featured console gaming and the “haves” versus “have-nots” of the current generation of consoles, computers and handhelds (promised in my previous entry), but with exams to study for I’m putting that off until spring break.

Until next time.

Jay

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