HojjoshMC and Aureylian: All kinds of Crafty…

OK, so I’ve dropped off the radar somewhat with this blog (again; sorry!), but I came across something yesterday in the Minecraft community that was just too good to pass up… I’ve been a fan of HojjoshMC’s (Josh McLemore) parodies of contemporary songs for quite some time, and when I saw (thanks to thecrystalcrow’s tweet) that he’d teamed up with Aureylian to make a parody of Iggy Azalea’s Fancy, called Crafty, I got excited before I even clicked the link 🙂 Aurey has done some great work – I especially loved her gorgeous rendition of Survive The Night, with Approaching Nirvana – so I had really high hopes for how Crafty would turn out.

Aurelyian getting all kinds of Crafty up in here, with the help of HojjoshMC!And I was not disappointed: Crafty is simply excellent, and I even went so far as to tell Josh – truthfully – that his parody was better than Weird Al’s Handy (which came out the day before Crafty debuted). There are times when people come together to collaborate on a project, and the whole thing just works – the fit between all the individual parts is so good. Crafty is the result of one of those times. Josh’s lyrics are sharp, and he raps like a boss (as always). And it was a great move to turn the song into a duo! Aureylian, on singing duties and “spoken backing highlights” (sorry, I don’t know if there’s a proper technical term; just listen to the song to see what I’m babbling about) does a first-class job, and Palmmute’s production just makes the whole thing sound sweeeeet! Top it off with a cool video by Minecraft4Meh, and boom!

Long story short: You NEED Crafty in your playlist! And if you want to do just that, you can pick up the single at iTunes – do it!

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Get Scribe posts in your inbox!

Thanks to the patient helpfulness of WelshPixie, you can now choose to get new Minecraft Scribe posts via email, if you’re so inclined! If you look down in the bottom-right corner *points*, you should now see a “Follow” button – click that, provide your email address, and each subsequent post should land in your inbox 😀

And, just to make it clear: Even if I do end up seeing the email addresses, I will NEVER send you spam, sell the address, or anything else nefarious relating to information like that!

Posted in Personal News & Thoughts | 1 Comment

Setting up home on Krash Palisades

So, if I’m back blogging here, I must be Minecrafting, right? Well, not necessarily, but as it turns out, I am – thanks to both Kristal, and my friend Meles…

A little while ago, Meles invited both Kristal and me to join his private server, Krash Palisades. I thanked him for the offer, but politely declined on the grounds that I wasn’t playing the game any longer. Meles was fine about it, adding that he figured I probably would say no (because of those reasons), but it didn’t hurt to ask. True enough!

Kristal accepted, however, and it gave her an excellent location from which to record her Let’s Play series, Return To Vanilla. The more I watched of her series, the more I missed both playing Minecraft, and playing alongside Kristal. I’d been checking out other games in the meantime, such as Skyrim and Fallout 3, but it just wasn’t the same as co-op with Kristal; not simply because of us being in a relationship, but also due to the fact that we work very well together as a team. But I didn’t feel that I wanted to come back to Minecraft.

And then it happened: During one of Kristal’s episodes, all she did was find diamond… and I got that wonderful little frisson of delight, as if I had found the thing myself. It was at that moment that I knew I had to get back into playing again! 😀 So, I politely asked Meles if he was still willing to have me on Krash Palisades, and he very kindly said yes – and Kristal got the shock of her life when she found me on there!

Then, there was a surprise for me: Kristal didn’t want me to share a house with her, as we’ve done ever since playing on Pete’s Sanctuary server. But, as usual, Kristal’s reasoning was solid1: if I was living there, and doing things off-camera, it would seriously screw up the continuity for her series. So, I’ve got a base2 of my own, though we do still play and adventure together 😀

My humble little base on Krash Palisades.

My humble little base on Krash Palisades.

In amongst establishing myself on the server, I did end up joining Kristal for a rather large undertaking: making the spawn area safe! One of my own hallmarks in this is my OCD-level lighting: every fourth block in the area has a torch planted upon it. Admittedly, a more natural, haphazard lighting method does look nicer than a regimented grid of torches, but at least this way, I don’t have to run around like a lunatic, with F3 on to check block lighting on every single damn square…

Kristal (with help from Wedgehog and me, as far as I recall) tore up the whole of spawn, enlarging it, and making it both prettier and more practical:

  • There’s now a hostel, mined into a tall hill, which contains both beds and storage for essentials – handy for new inductees to Meles’ whitelist;
  • The various types of farms were moved to the rear area of spawn, out by the skeleton-spawner XP farm, so it’s all together in one place;
  • Kristal added The Blocke Shoppe, for all your blocky needs (so long as you’ve got the wherewithal to pay for it);
  • And she has a second business out at spawn: The Mustang Ranch – which actually isn’t a ranch so much as a large stable, from which she sells horses, donkeys and mules.
Kristal's hostel - an ideal place for new residents to start out with supplies.

Kristal’s hostel – an ideal place for new residents to start out with supplies.

The new spawn farms, with the skeleton XP farm entrance in the bottom-left corner.

The new spawn farms, with the skeleton XP farm entrance in the bottom-left corner.

Need materials? Got the diamonds? Then you need to visit Kristal's Blocke Shoppe!

Need materials? Got the diamonds? Then you need to visit Kristal’s Blocke Shoppe!

And before I get into what I’ve been doing on my little homestead, I just want to say that I absolutely adore the equine additions to Minecraft! They’re so cute and sweet, and they make getting around so much easier! But then, those of you who continued to play Minecraft in the latter half of 2013 know that already 😉 Thank you so much to both Mojang and Dr Zhark for collaborating to make them a reality!

Kristal's Mustang Ranch, formerly Kristal's Classy Donkey Chassis - sure, you could catch and tame your own horse, but these are bred for high stats!

Kristal’s Mustang Ranch, formerly Kristal’s Classy Donkey Chassis – sure, you could catch and tame your own horse, but these are bred for high stats!

So, given that it was incumbent on me to find a place of my own to settle down and breed (animals), I took a walk out from spawn to see if there was a nice, spacious area to work with. And I got very lucky, because there was a gorgeous location, only a few hundred blocks out! A vast sea on the northern side; a good, hilly area to the west; and a decent amount of space to the east for building and farming – perfect. When Kristal saw my place, a little while after getting started, she said that I “always pick such pretty places to build”, which I thought was very sweet of her 😀

As I was setting down roots, I made a nice discovery: there was a small canyon, a few blocks to the south-west, which I figured would serve very nicely as my mining area. And when I got to actually do some mining, I made an even better discovery: my very own skeleton spawner! I’m still trying to make the thing into a proper XP farm, like the one at spawn, but I need to put a lot more effort into it…

Everyone on KP has their own Nether portal, for making transport much faster. I decided that I wouldn’t have mine too close to my main building, because I can’t stand the bloody noise of the thing – and it also means I don’t get up-close-and-personal with zombie pigmen. So I built a little pier out into the bay, and placed it there. But then there was a couple of small sand-spits alongside, from which I would fish, although fishing at night led to interruptions from mobs bobbing across the water towards me. The result was that I extended the pier off to the side, and built a big fishing shack, complete with chests surrounded by packed ice (one for drinks, one for the fish) – so now my friends and I can hang out in Skype, while we all fish in safety! (And fishing is much less boring, this way!)

My fishing shack, next to my Nether portal. The shack's ideally located for fishing at any time of day.

My fishing shack, next to my Nether portal. The shack’s ideally located for fishing at any time of day.

Inside my fishing shack - equipped with everything you need for fishing to your heart's content.

Inside my fishing shack – equipped with everything you need for fishing to your heart’s content.

The actual “house” part is still very small and boxy, and the basement isn’t even half-full with chests. But it does what I want it to do, though I’d like to come up with a better design than a wooden box! My animals – Beauty the horse, Lula the donkey, and Misha II and Dottie the mules – have a larger space than I do, and I’m fine with that 😀 I hadn’t actually planned on having four: it’s just that when I carelessly lost the first Misha3, Kristal loaned me a mule, whom I bought and named Dottie.

I wanted my animals to live in comfort, so I built a nice, big stable for them!

I wanted my animals to live in comfort, so I built a nice, big stable for them!

Improving my house is less important in multiplayer than the people I play alongside on the server; yeah, yeah, sounds cheesy, but I don’t care 😛 Anyway, although the people on KP are mostly those whom I already befriended on Twitter, I’d not actually played with them, or hung out with them on Skype. And every one of them is a delight to get along with, which is great 😀

There is a rather… odd situation, though, and it relates to Lawrence Salvatore, better known as “morningelegance” in Minecraft, and presently @Xevante on Twitter. He’s a lovely guy, and a great builder – but has this very disturbing habit of declaring war on everyone! Ironically, he doesn’t seem to do a very good job of keeping himself alive when he’s not trying to do away with others… which makes his chances of survival significantly slimmer!

Anyway, I shall conclude this particular blog post for now! Before I go, though, I’d just like to thank everyone on the server that I’ve hung out with properly so far: Meles, Wedgehog, DeamonEngineer, zattack, faithfulcupid, chiprock, and of course, thecrystalcrow 😀 And thanks also to Meles for letting me change my mind and join his server! 😀

1 This statement sounds sort of like moony-eyed gazing up at Kristal on a pedestal, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. If you need advice, and she has experience in that area, you’ll get some very sound advice from her. And in a debate, she always has solid reasoning on her side. I’ve probably embarrassed her now, by telling you all this!

2 Since playing Feed The Beast, I’ve taken to building bases, rather than houses. I’m less concerned with virtual home comforts, and now I’m more about trying to keep things relatively practical 🙂

3 Meles’ Enchanted Forest (of Doom) is not a good place for animals. Worst part was, I’d left Misha in the Nether tunnel near Meles’ portal, and we think she wandered through. I am far more careful now.

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Venting about vent blocks

Since the introduction of slime blocks in the 14w02 snapshots, I’ve been thinking about something else that I’d like to see implemented in the game: vent blocks! The thing is, we’ve had a quick way of getting down, ever since someone discovered the wonders of the water drop (and the slime blocks now make it more fun). But we don’t have a method of getting back up that’s easy to construct; I tried making one of those piston-based elevators once, and got my usual Redstone Headache.

So here’s how the vent block would work: if players, mobs or items were detected in the block adjacent to the vent block’s air hole, it would be shoved a distance of up to fifteen blocks (right-click the vent block to bring up the configuration UI). Of course, you’d be able to place the block so that it can blow air in any of the six directions, and that would help to make elevators. Blast someone upwards 15 blocks, right one, up 15 more, and so on 😀

And right after thinking about changing the orientation of a vent block, I realized some of the other possibilities that the vent block could be used for…

For example, on Krash Palisades (Meles’ great private server I presently play on with Kristal), we have an XP farm constructed from a skeleton spawner, and it uses a water elevator to bring the skeletons away from the spawner and into position. All too often, skeletons drown if they take too long to ascend. The vent block would remove that issue.

Using the same sort of principle as the elevator, you’d be able to have a rudimentary substitute for item pipes. Of course, I’d still love to have pipes and tanks à la Feed The Beast, but let’s not get into that right now 😉

Defending your home or base is another possibility: have an entrance with a vent block placed at foot-level. Humans would be able to jump over the air block, but mobs would be blasted to their doom!

Then there’s adventure maps… especially if you add nasty little surprises like being shoved into a solid block (which would only be possible if the block beneath it was air)! And once Sethbling got his hands on vent blocks, anything could happen! (It usually does with him, which is awesome :D)

I’d love to hear what you think about this idea, so leave a response in the comments below!

UPDATE: Since posting this article, Meles nudged me in the direction of docm77’s video about a Slime Block Player Elevator, and it looks really impressive! Thanks for that, Meles! 😀

Posted in Feature Wish List | 2 Comments

The Scribe is BACK!

I’m not sure how to start this, so I’ll just come out and say it: I’m going to start writing Scribe posts again! When I chose to stop, back in June, I honestly thought that I wouldn’t be coming back to the blog. But there are still things about Minecraft that I’d like to say, especially since I’m playing the game again, and this is the ideal platform for me to do so.

In particular, I can air my own suggestions for additions to the game, so that I’m not turning The Shaft’s Excavation Station into a personal soapbox 😉 Naturally, there’s no guarantee that anyone at Mojang would actually see them, but at least I can get them off my chest! 😀

I’m not sure that I’ll be posting as much as I did when I first started the blog, back in 2011, but I certainly don’t intend for it to become near-dormant, like I did towards the end of its run in 2013.

One thing that has surprised me: the number of visits to the site between June 30, 2013 (the day after my last blog post) and today. Nearly 12,000 during that time – plus, I’ve still been accumulating Minecrafters as new followers on Twitter (thank you for that!). So, new bloggy posts might be nice for them, too! 🙂

Anyway, enough of that. Time to bring my quill out of storage and pour myself a new bucket of lava, and I hope you like what I do here!

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Putting down my quill

I believe that it’s time for me to put down my quill and properly call it a day as The Minecraft Scribe. The blog’s virtually dead anyway – going down to one post a month isn’t really doing it any kind of service. It’s just that I’ve become disinclined to write about the game any more – and it’s not as if I monetised the site, either, so I’m not losing any money from stopping.

There have been several occasions, over the past few months, when I’ve become fired up about something in the game or the community, and wanted to write about it. But when I’ve come to do so, I’ve either taken several days to complete a post (as opposed to the 1-3 hours I used to take, depending on the amount of research required), abandoned it after a few paragraphs, or just not even wanted to start it, when I’ve had a blank Word document open in front of me.

I think I’ll always be a fan of Minecraft: It’s helped me through some very difficult times in my life, and the community has helped me even more; I’m proud to consider a large number of Minecrafters as friends. And, of course, without the game, I wouldn’t have met Kristal – and I’ll always be grateful to Notch for creating the game and causing that to happen.

And I won’t be planning to completely vanish from the community, either: I’ve no immediate plans to stop writing the show notes for The Shaft Podcast, although it’s Kristal who actually does the vast majority of the work, finding News and Sightings links, and sifting through the Listener Contributions and Excavation Station ideas. I’ve not been as observant of the community’s goings-on as I once was.

Plus, I still enjoy playing, though I tend to play more often when Kristal’s around; she makes it so much more fun and less lonely than when I play single-player. Kristal’s been doing a Feed The Beast Let’s Play series, which I’ve been doing with her, and we have a lot of fun doing so 🙂

I’d like to close by thanking all of you who have stopped by the site since February 2011: Google Analytics tells me that there have been 105,962 unique visitors from Feb 18, 2011 to Jun 30, 2013, for a total of 121,481 visits – from 152 countries and territories. It’s meant a heck of a lot to me that so many people have read what I’ve had to say, even if you didn’t always agree with it 😉

All the best, and happy Minecrafting!

Mark

Posted in Game and Community News, News, Personal News & Thoughts | 3 Comments

Bridge Out Battle: The Evil Geniuses v The Shaft Podcast!

WARNING: This blog post is all kinds of spoilery. You could go watch Kristal’s videos first, if you want to see the action, rather than read about who won (part 1, part 2). If you don’t want to learn stuff about the game’s mechanics, go download the map (the link’s in the next paragraph), grab at least one other person, and play the thing! Then come back and read this!

Do you ever get the urge, in Minecraft, to strap on your armour, pull out your sharpest weapon – be it sword or arrows – and get down to some bloodthirsty PvP action? Well, Kristal and I certainly have – and when we came across Bridge Out Battle (BOB), I opened my big mouth, and threw down the gauntlet to The Shaft Podcast! (Erm, the gauntlet was in my hand, not my mouth – that would be silly.)

BOB is a wonderful PvP map by Jigarbov, with assistance from Faume, TexelElf, and Vladimyr – whose own Bridge Out Capture the Monument was the inspiration. According to Jig, the game is suitable for 1v1 to 10v10, and you’re going to need at least version 1.5.2 of Minecraft in order to get the thing to run properly.

The object of the game is – naturally – to eliminate the opposing team. And you can choose how many extra lives the players will have:

  • none (a 15-minute game)
  • 1 (30-minute)
  • 3 (60-minute)
  • 5 or 10 (no time limits on these selections).

What’s the time limit for? I’ll explain that a little later on…

Each team’s base is a spindly affair, consisting of a network of one-block-wide bedrock platforms up in the air, with a few small areas of coloured wool. Resources drop out of the sky, so you’re going to have to build out platforms to catch them and make use of them – you are helped out a little by some of the logs and planks already being caught on your platform. Widen your base as much as possible, if you don’t want to be knocked off! Oh, and get those platforms lit up, too…

The Bridge Out Battle Arena, helpfully annotated so you know where the hidden goodies are. Don't say I don't give you anything ;) (Picture credit: Jigarbov)

The Bridge Out Battle Arena, helpfully annotated so you know where the hidden goodies are. Don’t say I don’t give you anything 😉 (Picture credit: Jigarbov)

As you can see from the arena screenshot above, there are also some satellite locations, with chests of useful resources. Each side also has a diamond-shaped structure away from the back of the base, with diamonds and emeralds – the latter being handy for some good trades, offered by the villagers. Those villagers respawn, by the way, so killing them off isn’t going to do any good!

At the centre of the arena is the temple area. As well as having still more resources up for grabs, the temple gives with one (disembodied) hand, and takes with the other! After a few minutes of play, the temple will apply potion effects to both teams simultaneously. And if the game hasn’t been won by the end of the aforementioned time limit, the temple will kill everyone, and it’s a draw!

There’s more to the temple, too: If the temple is charged, and you make it to the very centre of the temple area, an effect will be cast on just one of the teams – either a buff for yourself (e.g. invisibility), or a debuff for your opponents (e.g. nausea). You’ll also be given an Ender Pearl, which you could use to get back to base… or invade your opponents’ base!

Oh, and every time someone dies, TNT will fall around the temple, destroying any bridges!

So, Tuesday was the day that we (myself, Kristal, and Sven “SeriousCreeper” Paroth) took on The Shaft, and I figured I’d better take the time to find a video of the game in action, so we’d have some idea of what to expect. As it turned out, Jigarbov had done a recording of one of his games, so I figured that his video would be the best one to go for. It was 47 minutes well spent, because I picked up a few strategic tips which I’d pass on to my teammates.

Sven was going to be hosting the game on his server (thanks, Sven!), so he got everything installed, and invited Kristal and I to make sure everything was OK; it also gave us a chance to figure out the system for getting a game under way. Kristal and I ended up playing a 1v1 game, although for some reason, items stopped spawning for me after a few minutes. I told Kristal I’d try logging out and back in again to see if it would fix the problem – and neither of us knew that it would automatically give Kristal the win! Lesson learned… though we still had a lot of fun in the short time that we played. I was all fired up for the game, and couldn’t wait for 3am my time to get my teeth firmly into combat 😀

Sven showed up a little ahead of time, so we were able to give him a quick rundown of how the game worked, and the stuff we’d learned for strategy. Then Brent and Eric arrived in Skype, so we got them into the call and on the server; while we waited for Wes, it turned out that the guys had forgotten which map we were doing. So we took the two of them through the game rundown (though, strangely enough, we seem to have omitted the strategy tips… ;)). Wes was late to arrive, but it didn’t really matter that much; we gave him a fly-through of the basics, and then it was time to get started!

Kristal and Sven were the really intrepid ones, and even kept all of their extra lives. I’d mainly ended up on resource collection, although I was putting it to good use, particularly in helping to get extra flooring put down. Another vital thing was getting cows penned in: I’d seen this on Jig’s video, and not only would they be useful for meat and leather, the milk would be handy for counteracting the temple’s potion effects. I did take longer than intended, though, and so we ended up with a good few cows roaming the platforms…

The problem for me was that the cows created lag as they accumulated within the pen, and it caused me to fall off and suffer my first death – and mine was the first of the game. Ah, well – three more to go.

The Shaft guys got to the temple first, which was a little worrying, and they did manage to get at least one debuff onto us, and an invisibility buff onto themselves. Also, Brent managed to get to the villagers, whereas we didn’t. Well… that’s not strictly true. I ended up over there, courtesy of a needlessly suicidal move on my part. I’d taken a couple of shots at one of the villagers, intending to wipe them out – until I realised that if we managed to get over there, we’d have no one to trade with. (We found out from Brent, after the game, that the villagers respawn – because he had wiped them out at one point.)

Instead, I realised that there was a way down to the villager area, so long as the first jump down was after a sprint. Amazingly, I managed it, only taking a little damage. I told the others what I was doing – to which they said, “No! Don’t go over there alone!” The only problem was that I was already at the area, and switched to my sword to kill Brent. But after a few swings, I realised that I wasn’t hitting him with a sword – because that had broken earlier, and had been replaced with (I think) was a fermented spider eye! I took way too long to switch to an actual weapon – my bow – but even that wouldn’t really have been much help, with me within melee range. I got maybe two shots off at most before Brent put me out of my misery 😉

On the upside, my bumbling about was well out of the way of Kristal and Sven, who were dealing death and damage more effectively than I. Sven committed five player kills, Kristal placed second with two, and Brent got one, because of my suicidal dash into the villager section 😉

When it came down to the end, the temple was about ready to kill off the survivors, because we’d all taken so long to get anywhere – but Sven and Kristal, who hadn’t lost any lives at all during the main part of the game, who were left battling against Brent. And we’re not sure how he died – but it meant we won!

Sven, Kristal and I had a great time – and I certainly felt more useful than I had in Capture the Record and Race for Wool 😀 And by the sound of things, Brent, Wes and Eric had enjoyed themselves too. I’d be up for a rematch… though maybe I should keep my mouth shut? 😉

And since Sven and Eric also recorded, I’m going to link to their videos here:

If you’ve not played Bridge Out Battle, you really should: It’s a ton of fun, and Kristal and I think it’d be great with even more players per side (I figured about five or six should do it).

Many thanks to Sven and Kristal for stepping up to handle the consequences of my flapping mouth and twitchy gauntlet-throwing hand; to The Shaft Podcast guys, who were great opponents (especially Brent!), and to Jigarbov for creating such an enjoyable PvP arena!

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