Friday, March 13, 2015

Holes in Minecraft

People often ask me what I do with my time now that I retired.

I dig holes. Deep holes, to the center of my Minecraft world. Yeah, I still play Minecraft. Most people build things - but I feel like my building skills just don't match the ones I see on sites like Minecraft Maps. But I can dig holes.

When the weather got bad a few weeks ago, I woke up with an idea for a hole in Minecraft. Not just any hole. I have big holes in the ground already that go down to the bottom of the world. One is about forty by forty. It isn't decorative, except for all the stairs I have to traverse the spaces. I covered it with glass. It's cool.

I thought this time I'd make a simple upside down Ziggurat. How cool would that be? I'd start with a nice little 2x2 hole to the center of the world and go up and out, one rising step at a time. I traveled from my main city to a Snowy climate spot and decided it was a good spot to build.

Sadly, I didn't think about the mountains
If you've ever played Minecraft, you know how easy it is to dig a simple 2x2 hole to the bottom of the world. then I scalloped up, one step at a time, in all four directions.
There's the hole, facing two corners and three sides, partially begun.
I worked on it while I watched TV, only occasionally getting torched by streams of flowing lava. I had to turn off the monsters, so I put the game on Peaceful. I wish I had a picture of the mini-zombie riding the chicken though. He was fast.


Eventually I had a couple sides dug up enough that I could get to the top. Of course, as with any Minecraft digging project, I ended up with a lot of materials and needed a place to store them. I made a few houses on each side to hold the chests of stone and dirt.

I had two other buildings with chests, too
Here's where it became tedious. For a while I was determined that I would do all the mining legitimately. I had some TNT, but the blast size is too small to be useful and I needed monsters to get more materials for TNT. I thought about writing code to add a laser drill or something, but I'm not good enough at Java yet, and learning to do that would take a while (though be significantly more productive).

I ended up using stone tools, since my iron ran out quickly. I calculated it would take me another two months to completely dig this hole in the ground by hand. The top layer, for instance is 136 x 136 blocks. That's 18,496 blocks. Even if only 90 percent of them need to be removed, and each block took three seconds, that's still almost 14 hours just for the top layer. Sure, each layer is less blocks, but the total quick calculation showed it would still take me over three hundred hours. Sure, I'm watching TV and there is a certain Zen that goes with digging a hole like this, but that's a long time. Not to mention I need time to make more tools, store what I dig up, deal with the snow...

Command lines! Of course there must be a command that would help me remove blocks! About ten minutes or research and I find I can use the Fill command. Usually you'd use it to place blocks, but in this case I could Fill with blocks of air, essentially removing huge chunks of blocks at a time.

If you press F3 in Minecraft you get a whole lot of system information, including the coordinates for the block you are standing on. 
Coordinates are the XYZ numbers on the right

Technically the command is used from one set of XYZ to another. However, you can use the tilde (~) to as the current location and use relative numbers.

Set your game so you can use the command line cheats. Press {ESC}, Open to LAN and set Allow Cheats to Yes (upper right).
so for instance if I execute the command "/fill ~ ~ ~ ~-10 ~-10 ~-10 minecraft:air" I get the following results from the above screen (looking at the hole I just created).
Ouch. Cut an entire section of stairs out!

So you need to find a neutral spot to practice with the commands. You sure don't want to ruin what you already created. Of course, you could just put most of it back with something like "/fill ~ ~ ~ ~10 ~10 ~10 minecraft:stone" to put stone back in the same place. Do NOT forget the tildes: they make the numbers relative instead of fixed. I decided to slice layers off from the opposite corner, one thin slice at a time, but removing the top layers. I used something similar to "/fill ~ ~ ~ ~10 ~25 ~10 minecraft:air" and made sure to stand in the correct place to do it.

I still inadvertently made some slices into the stairs I already carefully crafted and used the command to put stone back in place. Once you start using the command lines, it is a bit tedious to carve blocks out with a stone pick.

I had about one-sixteenth of the upper layer completed before I started using the command line. Still, the final hole took me another few hours to finish.

Looks nice at night, with snow falling.


I put a tower of lava into the center, dropping down from about forty blocks above the land surface. I added the corner channels of lava as the culmination of the project. The little dome in the distance is a sort of snow-globe building, with a frozen pond and animated snowman within. I had to do something with the snow I gathered!

Pretty, huh?

This was certainly the biggest and most complicated hole I ever dug in Minecraft. For some idea of how big, here's an overhead view (using UnMiNeD). Look how much of the snow biome the hole encompasses.



This isn't what I'm really doing in my retired life. It's just one little task among many. It was pretty cool though. Minecraft is still a nice Zen task when I'm not feeling well.









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