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Postcards From Minecraft, Part 2

By Shamus
on Monday Oct 25, 2010
Filed under:


Another week, another ill-advised civil engineering project. This time it’s a glass underwater tunnel.


The statue from last week (which is visible on the right edge of the above shot) was built with the help of my 10 year old daughter, while this one was actually devised by my 12 year old daughter.


It took us a while to figure out how to build the thing. We messed around with building it a section at a time and then trying to “bail” out the water with buckets, which didn’t work at all. In the end we discovered that the best way to do this is to build a solid shaft of stone. Then sheathe the stone in glass block. Then tunnel out the stone, leaving the hollow tube.

If Notch ever decides to implement a system where you have to worry about budget overruns, we are so screwed. I’d end up with the Big Dig on my hands in no time.

We put an archway every 5 blocks, mostly to give the thing a sense of shape. While you don’t need to worry about physics in this world and are free to construct massive, unsupported structures from unlikely materials, I’ve discovered that things often look more pleasing if you give them visible support. Columns and arches have an innate elegance.


Having said that, I regret placing the support arches so close together since they block too much of your view when you’re in the tunnel. If I had it to do over again, I’d build it in deeper water and maybe play around with some vertical movement, bringing the tunnel close to the surface in places and going deep in others.

I wish the game had fish.

Note how even though we’re in standing water, from in the tunnel it looks like water is flowing down the sides.

Click for big view.
Click for big view.

If you teleport to a remote location that the game doesn’t have in memory, you can sometimes get this glitch where you don’t see your immediate surroundings. The ground you’re standing on is missing, and so all of the underground features are laid bare. This view lasts just a moment, and I usually try to smack the screenshot key before it disappears.

The above view is taken from the grounds near my house. The stairs you see just above center (you may need to consult the large image to make out the detail) are the bottom of a huge spiral staircase that runs from my house to the bottom of the world. Yes, ladders are more efficient, but I really wanted a staircase.

The black regions are natural caves. They’re black because I haven’t run into them yet and so I haven’t lit them up with torches.

The straight tunnels are the starting area of my massive branch mining operation. The tunnels are almost all dug right at the bottom of the diamond layer. I’d originally tried to tunnel towards the upper-left, but obviously I kept running into lava. At the time I thought I was dealing with isolated pockets and I just needed to find a way around it. Now I see it’s a massive lava chamber, and so I’ve abandoned those hellish deathtraps and dug in the opposite direction. I wish you could see more of the system so you can see how large it is. (I’ve dug up a full stack of 64 diamonds, plus change. So far. Which is enough to make all the diamond tools I could ever need, but not quite enough to be able to think about using it as a building material just yet.)


My “house” is looking less so. It seems to be turning into some sort of hanging gardens boondoggle. For those who were wondering about building on top of the clouds: Alas, no. You can see here that the clouds are passing right through the garden at the top.

Comments (142)

  1. ahluka says:

    Jeez! I thought some of the stuff I’ve been making is cool (fortress built into the side of a mountain, anyone?) but your world is just awesome. I’m going to take a couple hours off from writing this essay and mess around with underwater tunnels :D

    I’ve been playing the game for a couple of days now, and haven’t run into diamond or lava anywhere, although I do keep hitting these impenetrable blocks if I dig deep enough. Weird.

    • Lochiel says:

      The impenetrable blocks are the bedrock at the bottom of the map. If you dig laterally from that level, you’ll run into plenty of lava, and some diamonds. But mostly lava.

    • Factoid says:

      Think of the map as being 64 levels deep from sea level. 0 is absolute bottom and 63 is sea level.

      The bottom 5 layers are called “adminium” If you really try you can probably find a way through them because the bottom layer is not solid, it has holes. If you dig through it you literally fall through the bottom of the world and die. It’s fun, except your items are not recoverable.

      Lava occupies the next several layers from 5 to 9. DIamonds are best found between 10 and 16. You will not find ANY diamonds above level 16, so the only way to mine them efficiently is to dig horizontally.

      If you’re feeling saucy you can mine all the way from 5 to 16 looking for diamonds, but you WILL run into lava eventually. It’s not hard to outrun when you’re mining horizontally because it spreads slowly, so if you run into some just place a block in front of it to stop it and go around.

      If I’m on a diamond hunt here’s what I do, and it works pretty good, I have a couple hundred diamonds stocked up now.

      I drill a hole straight down until I hit the black blocks at the bottom. I then use the trick where you jump and place a block under yourself until I get to level 10. Then I start mining horizontally in any direction, usually making a 2-4 block high pathway. I’ll go a hundred blocks or so in that direction, then I’ll mine sideways a couple rows.

      The way I think about mining is revealing spaces I haven’t seen yet. So if I only go one row over I’m not gaining anything because I’ve already seen the other side of that block and I know what’s in it. So if I go 2 rows over my efficiency is better. because every block I destroy shows me new blocks I haven’t seen yet.

      My usual strategy is to do this and make about 20 passes going back and forth. This keeps me nice and close to my starting area. You find everything at this level, so it’s a great way to build up resources. I always come out of those expeditions with 8-10 diamonds and a ton of other stuff.

      If I’m flush with Iron I usually mine with iron pick axes for speed. Diamond is too rare in my opinion to waste on tools unlesss you’re farming obsidian.

      • Thom says:

        “Diamond is too rare in my opinion to waste on tools unlesss you're farming obsidian.”

        That was my initial thought aswell, but since I used diamonds for a pickaxe, I’m not going for anything else anymore. It lasts as long as 8 iron ones (thus saving loads of inventory space), and mines ores faster than the iron ones. So it’s a win-win situation. Besides, I usually dig for diamonds only, and get enough copper, redstone and iron on the side. For every diamond pickaxe that I “deplete”, I find enough diamonds to make 2 new pickaxes, on average.

        • Factoid says:

          If you’re mining really efficiently, yeah, you’ll probably make more than enough diamond, but I’m a horder. I haven’t done the math, but if I use up a third of my diamonds mining to find the other two thirds, I’m making my diamond mining a third less efficient…thus offsetting the time benefits of using a diamond pickaxe. I can mine just a little slower and use iron, but keep ALL the diamond I find.

          Depending on what the real values are it could very easily be more time efficient to use lesser materials to mine.

          Personally I use a LOT of stone pickaxes. Iron isn’t a very good material in my opinion. It only lasts twice as long as stone and try as I might I can rarely find 3 iron blocks for every iron pickaxe I use up. I keep iron pickaxes in my inventory only so that I can break down materials that require it.

          I want an indestructible obsidian pickaxe. Make it a pain in the ass to manufacture, I don’t care. I would go to incredible lengths to get a material that lasts longer and is less rare than diamond.

          • Kdansky says:

            What do you use your diamond for if not pickaxes?
            Also, your math is off (badly): You don’t use up your diamonds and gain less, because you mine significantly faster. So you end up with similar amounts of diamond and a lot more of everything else, and it also takes less time to mine and you’ve got more time to build.

          • Dys says:

            I also use only stone tools, because stone is disposable.
            I’ve had a think about it, and I figure there are two ways of looking at it.

            The first is to say there are infinite amounts of raw materials in the world, and therefore the RATE of mining is all that matters, so long as you end up with more blocks mined at the end of any given time interval, you’re golden.

            The second is to say that resources are finite, and any activity which ‘uses’ materials which are not commonly available is wastage, and to be avoided.

            I tend to the second view, even though it is, in minecraft, plainly ludicrous. The world, and therefore the diamonds, are near enough to infinite that you’ll never see the end.

            Stone is more readily available though. Carry a stack of wood and a workbench with you, and you have in two inventory slots the makings of… 64×4.. 256 picks? Which is more uses than a diamond pick whichever way you slice it.

            Mostly I think I just hate the feeling of… my pick’s broken… that’s three diamonds I’ll never see again.

            Oh, yes, and my most recent activity has been to dig a pit, to house a tower. 25x25x70 at least, somewhere between 40 and 50 thousand blocks. With stone tools.

      • thebigJ_A says:

        Actually, the most efficient way to reveal every block is three spaces over, not two. That way, both sides of the tunnel are new stone you haven’t uncovered before, rather than just one.

        • Majikkani_Hand says:

          I’m fairly certain that that’s what he meant, actually. Two spaces over of solid rock. He wasn’t factoring in the tunnel as another space.

          • Factoid says:

            Yeah, sorry, I meant skip two rows and then dig.

            It also works best if you’re in an area without a lot of natural cave formations. I got lucky and found a great area with very little lava and no caves, so I can dig and dig without running into anything.

            The one part that gets you into trouble with this method is if you dig yourself straight down into lava with no way out. The safest way to get down to layer 10 is to start at sea level and count down from 63…then you’ll be safe. And you’re below the bottom of the ocean so you never have to worry about flooding your tunnels.

            Layers 10-16 is where all the best mining takes place. The other way to do it is to drill down to 13 instead of ten. Then make a 2 block tall pathway. You’ll be knocking out layer 14 and 15 as you go, and you’ll be seeing levels 13 and 15 above and below you.

            Apply the same principle as the lateral movements when you’re ready to go deeper. Go down to level 10 (9 would be better, but you could end up in lava) and you’ll plow through levels 11 and 12. 10 will be your floor and 13 your ceiling, which you’ve already seen the other side of.

            I rarely bother with vertically stacking my mines like this, but if you’ve absolutely tapped out an area and have nowhere else close by to mine it works.

            • Sumanai says:


              So the best would be 1×2 dig, 3×2 don’t, 1×2 dig. Then right above head level dig right in the middle of the 3×2 part. You’ll see every block directly in the dug out area with minimal effort (only horizontal mining, but vertical has it’s own problems).

              Let’s see if I get this working:

              # - undug
              _ - dug


              Another method:

              # yadda _ yada


              Should be more efficient, but you’ll have to use your noggin’ to find all minerals (vein’s are always a certain shape, so at least one block is visible, but they can be connected diagonally) so I don’t use it.

  2. X2-Eliah says:

    Why are those tunnels so narrow? 5 width and 3 height would look better, I thinks.

    By the way, I love the whole ‘hanging gardens’ thing, much more sightly than underground lairs or ‘castles of stone and doom’.

    • Shamus says:

      Yeah, bigger would look better. 2×2 Seemed right when we were building it. It wasn’t until we hollowed it out that we were able to get a sense of how it really looked.

      Also, as I said, this spot was sadly too shallow for the project. It was only about 2 or 3 blocks underwater and 2 blocks from the bottom.

      • Factoid says:

        Clearly the solution is to mine out the bottom of the ocean.

        • grag says:

          This would have the side benefit of being able to construct a long tube and then have divers clear away the earth around it.

          Drainage projects are tough because notch doesn’t take the DF-realism route when it comes to the water (which is probably why minecraft actually works on most PCs)

          • thebigJ_A says:

            Oh, but if he did! We could have waterwheels! And mist-generating fountains that would give our dwarves happy thoughts, and oh my gosh my axe dwarf is throwing a tantrum I need to lock him up ohcraphekilled….

            Whenever I play minecraft, It makes me want to play DF. The reverse is also true.

        • Jarenth says:

          Given that water causes drowning ánd slows your rate of excavation, this is a bad idea.

          Cléarly the solution is to mine a giant cave just under the ocean, then destroy the ceiling by mining from below. Or TNT, I guess.

      • Geoff says:

        Oh, I didn’t realize it was elevated off the ground. Otherwise, I was going to say that dropping sand or gravel into the water (as it falls all the way to the bottom by gravity) is faster and can be mined out faster than stone once the glass shell has been constructed. It has the side benefit of any remaining bits you missed looking “natural” since the sea bottom at those depths is generally sand or gravel.

      • acronix says:

        I personally use a standard height of 3 blocks. Two is just above the characters head, which in turn makes even the biggest rooms claustrophobic.

      • Sumanai says:

        You didn’t realise that having the roof right above head wouldn’t look good? You just keep disappointing me. (Says the man who has spent most of his time in Minecraft fixing his own mistakes due to poor or non-existent planning.)

        If you’re going to make another one, I’d suggest also making at least one part of the floor stone or similiar. So it’ll be ready when the minecarts start working on multiplayer, since tracks can’t be placed on top of glass.

      • krellen says:

        I know nothing about Minecraft but what has been posted in these blogs, but shouldn’t it be relatively easy to expand the tunnel now that it’s already in place? Just build the “expanded” size around the smaller, then mine out the smaller?

        • acronix says:

          The problem is that underwater constructions is annoying. You can´t hold your breath long enough for big plans (I don´t know how those that made “Rapture” pulled that off). Raising the height would be simple, though. Just need to take away the floor blocks, take a deep breath, put a single block below the walls, get out of the water, and start making the floor.
          Remaking the walls would need work from the outside, though.

        • Shamus says:

          Sure. But the tunnel is in a tight spot and glass takes time to collect. (Dig up a crapload of sand, then cook it in the furnace for a while.) So it would be a big investment of time and resources and wouldn’t really be ideal. Better to build the “ultimate” version in a better spot.

          • Coffee says:

            You could also have built the tunnel “mold” out of planks, built up the glass, and then used the heat of burning all of the planks to fuse the glass together…

            Uh, I mean… Burn all the wood out with fire.

            • acronix says:

              Burn wood…underwater…?

              • Sumanai says:

                Obviously Minecraft doesn’t simulate oxygen reserves in the atmosphere/air. Placing torches in tight tunnels would be pretty dangerous otherwise.

                • Coffee says:

                  Placing open flames in mine shafts has been considered a Bad Idea ™ for quite a while now.

                • MrWhales says:

                  I always think about that, because i remember a show on the History channel that said that tried to explain how Egyptians light some of their tunnels, because torches ran out of oxygen and burned out.

                  While I’m here, I would love to see a water-pump system implemented. Since i have no experience with most programming, I have no idea what that would require of fair ol’ Notch, but i’d be fine if itr took awhile. Aslo, i love that the mutliplayer health system is broken, it makes things funner

                • Sumanai says:

                  Incidentally, I noticed something about it that stimulates my nitpicking nerve. Using a wet flint to start a fire? Damn the player character is good.

                  Coffee: Luckily gas pockets don’t exist in Minecraft. Not yet anyway.

                  MrWhales: Haven’t played MP, how is the health broken? And depends on how the pump should work. If it just creates a water block as long as it’s connected to a source, shouldn’t be a big problem. You’d need piping pieces probably, used similiarly to Redstone powder. Hmm… difficult to say. Could work easier with Pipe blocks.

  3. Lochiel says:

    Me and my friends just had a Minecraft LAN party (LANcraft party?) yesterday. 8 hours of us digging and building together in the same room, it was a blast. We managed to grow an epic tree from sea level to the build limit, among other things.

    God I love this game.

    • potemkin.hr says:

      How in hell did you manage that? You mean a single humonguous tree or trees stacked on top of the previous one?

    • Electron Blue says:

      Me and my friends just did this exact same thing. We have our own server and everything. It’s awesome. Of course, we’re using the classic version…

      • potemkin.hr says:

        In Classic your only limit is your nerves, as you have logs and leaves which you can stack to infinity and back. In the alpha, this is pretty impossible :D

        • Yonder says:

          Not impossible, just time consuming. You can begin placing your giant tree by making a log trunk and branches, then planting actual trees where you want leaves. After your real trees grow you should be able to carve away everything you don’t need, and the rules for persistent leaves are flexible enough that you can generally get the shape you need.

          There is a little trial and error from when you get a big tree but wanted a small one or vice versa, and since trees take a few days to grow it’s a long process, but it’s still possible.

  4. kmc says:

    That’s incredible! My husband and I made the mistake of getting my mother into Minecraft on our multiplayer server, and I’m not sure she’s slept this week. I was pretty proud of my little underground garden (even though it’s pretty small and also the water’s still broken), but I couldn’t figure out how to get two of the three trees to grow, until one day when I walked in there and the trees all had multiple branches, the leaves actually filling in the catwalk space high above. So I dug down in my basement until I found what I’m going to submit as my entry for the largest natural cavern system generated by the game. This thing spans the space under at least two mountains. All three of us got terribly, terribly lost and had to dig our way out, from obsidian, through diamond, redstone, gold, iron, and lots and lots of coal. Hooray, this game is awesome!

    • Sumanai says:

      A suggestion: next time when exploring a natural cavern place all the torches on the wall on the right side. If you can’t see the left wall, place torches on the floor. That way when you need to find a way out you can just follow the trail of torches on the left wall.

      • potemkin.hr says:

        I didn’t think of this idea, it could easily work even in 1×2 tunnels where you could easily desorient yourself if you lose count of turning if without the compass. Instead I carved arrow-like holes in the walls and then filled them with contrasting materials so the arrows were clearly visible pointing to the surface.

        • Greg says:

          I was even less efficient than this! I used the fact that torches point when you stick them in the wall to have each torch indicate the way to the previous torch, which means I can always get out by following the path the torches point out, but sometimes it’s murderously inefficient.

          • Sumanai says:

            I’m going to have to admit that this wasn’t my idea, my brother mentioned it after he had lost once in a cavern and got killed. Not a big worry for me, since I play on Peaceful and have a surprisingly good sense of direction in natural caverns and the surface. The “torches on the right” -systems still helps. Especially if I’m tired.

          • Coffee says:

            I’m so bad at finding my way around underground that I ended up burrowing into a mountain and carving out a 9×9 pit (plus a 1×1 stair way around the edges) from sea level +-, down to the adminium layer.

            It was pretty fun, actually. Oddly, not a lot of iron. I did make a pretty swanky diamond sword, spade, and pick, but the spade and pick wore out waaaaaaaaaay too quickly.

  5. KremlinLaptop says:

    I really love how your house has morphed and evolved, the hanging gardens with the waterfall looks like like something elves would build and I swear I’ve seen some fantasy painting with something very similar.

    On which note if you want to build in more interesting areas, go find a more interesting place and then build a tunnel system between there and where your current stuff is. With enough improvements you can make transport between them quick and it feels like they’re ‘connected’.

    Also I’ll admit I do cheat a bit, digging a 2×1 tunnel miles long tedious enough but expanding it to a prettier 3×3 form? Incredibly tedious. Get tons of TNT and places it with four block gaps in your small tunnel. Set one off and bam! Instant big tunnel — then you just have to go through and make it pretty.

    I tend to do a lot of my excavation for projects with TNT actually, damn useful stuff.

    • Merle says:

      Note to self…see about finding some TNT. That sounds like a massive timesaver.

      • Sumanai says:

        Creepers drop gunpowder, which used with sand makes TNT. Which looks like a dynamite block, and the crafting makes no sense (gunpowder+sand isn’t how either of those things are made. This is madness! Why don’t the Creepers just drop small vials of nitroglycerin?)

  6. SolkaTruesilver says:

    I have to say, I really like your house. Beautiful 3d structure.

    If you ever fancy, you should build multiple such high structures and have glass tunnels connecting them.

  7. Primogenitor says:

    Does that through-ground view mean that that is rendered at all times, and then the ground just pasted over the top? That seems inefficient to me.

    • Shamus says:

      I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of weeks now. I’m sure the game uses an octree to organize the world, but it’s a dynamic world so normal culling tricks wouldn’t work. I’m not sure how it handles culling.

      In any case, culling would be impossible if it doesn’t have the local scenery. I’d love to have a way to turn on wireframe rendering and see if those tunnels are still being drawn once the area is loaded.

      • DmL says:

        It is culling. If you hit F (changing fog levels) while you play, you’ll get a brief glimpse “through” the wall/floor while it rebuilds. Generally you’ll see nothing but sky and maybe one or two entities.

      • Jan de Wit says:

        Somebody made a mod where gold blocks (crafted from 9 gold ingots) are transparent and can be used to get a limited view of the tunnels. The screenshots indicate the tunnels are still being drawn.


        Also, the world is saved in 16×16 chunks with a height of 128 (one to a file). No optimization there at all :-)

        • Sumanai says:

          Does looking through the block right after placing it cause slowdown? Because if it doesn’t then you’re probably right.

          But I’d think that Minecraft uses… what’sitsname. The method used in old games where the engine sends a beam from a point in screen to travel until it hit’s something, then that part takes the color? Use similiar, but for culling. Since Minecraft uses blocks and has a maximum drawing distance you could make a grid of rays that’s thick enough to hit all the blocks at maximum range.
          Then just fully draw all the blocks that the rays hit (starting from the furthest, because that needs to be “painted” over by the nearer ones). If it works like that, then a block which is “invisible” (nothing drawn on it) would let the rays past drawing what’s behind. Although, I suppose just simple “crystal ball” tricks wouldn’t work, since it should just draw the blocks right behind it as opposed to just assume that those aren’t visible, and glitch.

          • Alan De Smet says:

            I think you mean raycasting. The last 3d game I was aware of to use raycasting for culling was Oni. I would be suspicious of the efficiency of raycasting, since with the maximum draw distance you can potentially see very, very small blocks. When high up with clear visibility to the horizon, you would be doing monstrous numbers of ray casts, each testing a huge number of empty air blocks.

            My wild hypothesis: for block A, if all of the 6 blocks immediately around it are opaque, it is impossible for A to seen, so cull it. Once calculated, this information can be cached. Using the octree, you can easily say, “this entire subset is hidden”, potentially allowing large areas to be culled with a quick check. When terrain is modified, you only need to update the culling values for blocks touched by the modification; even for an explosion that’s only a few dozen. This seems in line with the general physics system implemented in Minecraft; by and large if block A changes, it’s only necessary to check the 6 blocks immediately attached to A for a cascading change. (For multi-TNT explosions or massive waterfronts, it can grow very large, which would explain why those tend to grind the game to a halt.)

            This doesn’t explain why you can see inside of tunnels using the gold hack. (Assuming I’m seeing that correctly.) My naive implement would render the outer walls. You could do a sort of backface culling trick; for each face, if the immediately adjacent block is opaque, cull that face it. The far faces are backface culled using the normal rendering path. That seems expensive relative to the cost of rendering 2 lousy triangles, but I don’t know.

            I am curious what notch actually does. Quickly culling massive numbers of blocks seems key to making Minecraft as quick as it is. Until I know for sure, speculating is fun!

            • Sumanai says:

              Yep, thinking about raycasting. I actually thought it was dropped completely when games went polygon.
              I started doubting that at the end of writing my comment and now that I checked the size of the furthest blocks it seems very doubtful. Afterall, raycasting is never really efficient. Also when you’ve just loaded the map and turn around quickly you can see the blocks becoming visible from close to far. Shouldn’t happen with it.

              And yes, you’re seeing the opposite wall inside caverns.

              Minecraft obviously doesn’t do a opaque test, otherwise the exploit wouldn’t work. According to the link the engine has special code for glass blocks. Also it would save rendering the texture, not the triangles. In fact, couldn’t it mark during generation all sides that are connected to air as “may draw” but leave the rest on “don’t”? Then just do a local check every time the player places a block.
              And farfaces getting culled for being behind the front sides seems pretty likely, considering how the glass block looks like. Clearly only the nearer sides are rendered. Which means only three sides of any block is ever rendered. Sounds pretty efficient to me.

              But I might still be under the marketing of Dreamcast, which claimed that it’s graphics card only renders texture on visible polygons, making it faster without actual power increase. And I might remember wrong when I think that both Nvidia and Ati added the function to their PC cards. I don’t even know if “proper” graphics cards make a difference in Minecraft.

              • Shukumei says:

                Think about this. Everything is proceedurally generated from the seed. So if a block isn’t revealed maybe it doesn’t EXIST until it’s revealed and the generator queries the seed to ask “What kind of block would this be?”

                • Shukumei says:

                  Combine that with a visibility check to see if a player is facing a particular side to see if it’s drawn (with exclusions for faces that are hidden by another block) and that may be why you can x-ray through the near side of tunnels to see the far side.

  8. Cyndane says:

    Ha! Just yesterday I managed to finish my underwater house (more like underwater bedroom, but whatever) with every wall made out of glass. Putting torches in there makes it look really nice. I came to pretty much the same idea on how to build the bloody thing as you did, but since my world is snowy, I had a chicken wander into my glass house and stay awhile. It was kinda funny.

  9. bbot says:

    Something similar to the no-occlusion error state: MineViewer, which does a neat real-time cross-section thing, like MRI, but for Minecraft.

  10. Adamantyr says:

    Heh, I just built a glass tunnel myself. I realized the only way to get rid of the water was to block it out, so I used cobblestone to build a 3×3 tunnel across a channel, then did the same thing; layer it in glass. I then ran a mine cart track through it so I could traverse from the spawn point to my principal fortress.

    Interestingly, I saw a spur of sand and dirt that was rising from the bottom of the channel close by, and decided to mine down into it and create a glass window in the side, just for fun. And lo and behold I find a whole new cavern system!

    Love this game.

  11. grag says:

    I keep thinking about setting up a multiplayer server. I actually would be happier if it had mobs and combat, but the idea of being able to free-build without constantly dying has some appeal.

  12. Sydney says:

    Two-game combined challenge:

    Play a game of Dwarf Fortress. Once you achieve total “fun”, recreate your fortress in Minecraft.

    • FatPope says:

      As far as I know there was a tool to import your dwarf fortress worlds into minecraft. Can’t remember what it was though.

      Of course this also negates any challenge as well

      • Nidokoenig says:

        Yep, there is, it’s on the bay12 forums somewhere. The existence of that program is why I’m not touching this game. I’d be making forts to extract to Minecraft over and over. I’m sort of curious as to what the cross-stiched walls in my hive forts would turn out like. In Dorf Fort, they’re two blocks deep and have stone left in diagonally with stairs up and down in free spaces, allowing free movement for living things, but not miasma, smoke and arrows, like this:


        With the O's being smooth pillars and the the arrows being stairs. They'd probably just end up being walls with indents in them. Probably doesn't show the masterpiece hatches decorated with fifteen types of bone, either(buy as much raw fish as you can and forbid it as a cooking ingredient, you'll get a master bonecrafter from a mood). Hell, I haven't played Dorf Fort in about a year now, those walls might not even work now.

        Damn, I'm getting tempted to buy this game now, and play Dorf Fort. I'll go build an underwater house in Morrowind, see if that satisfies me, or puts me off the idea altogether. Both good.

  13. modus0 says:

    Shamus, if you want to deal with those large areas of lava, start carrying around a bucket of water.

    When you encounter lava, merely dump the bucket out, wait a few seconds, then scoop the water source back up.

    It makes obsidian farming less of a hassle, and allows you to access areas otherwise blocked by lava to get diamonds and such.

    • Geoff says:

      He’s playing on a multiplayer server and unfortunately, for now at least, the “water source block” doesn’t work in multiplayer, the water just sits there for a moment then soaks into the ground. It would still work, he would just require a lot more water and a lot more trips.

      • Nidokoenig says:

        I seem to remember Mumbles mentioning an exploit that fixed this, and then someone linking to a hack. Found the comments:


        Now I’m thinking, what if you just drained the ocean into lava? Make a nice, big mixing cavern with a tunnel up to the ocean with a switch operated door. Dig to lava and let some flow into the mixing cavern, then open the door and let the ocean pour in. Wonder what that would do to frame rate…

        • acronix says:

          I think doors block fluids even when open.

          • Jarenth says:

            It does. Really put a damper on my airlock idea.

            As in, you don’t really nééd an airlock for an underwater entrance. An open door will block water.

            • Nidokoenig says:

              Ah, crap. Can you construct waterproof blocks below you in running water? If you have a point where the water tunnel is only one square tall, you could open that up from the top, then block off the water by building a dam in it. You’d have to make that room small and have a door in case of accidents, but if that happened you’d just have to swim in to finish sealing it.

              Does this mean you could make a wall of open doors with lava on the other side for a spectacular view?

        • Sumanai says:

          If you pour water on a “full” lava block (one that can be picked up in a bucket) you’ll end up with Obsidian. Which takes about 40 seconds to mine through per block with anything but a diamond pickaxe, not yielding obsidian; or about 15 seconds with a diamond pickaxe, yielding obsidian.

  14. MelTorefas says:

    You know what sounds like fun? Build the Wonders from Civilization V. Or at least one or two.

  15. rofltehcat says:

    Nice. Now build Rupture.
    And then have the spoiler warning crew walk though it and criticise every corner of it :D

    • Peter H. Coffin says:


    • Macil says:

      Someone already did:


      Albeit they said they took some creative liberties.

      • MintSkittle says:

        Creative liberties or no, that’s still an impressive undertaking. I’ve started working on a moderate sized tower myself, and it’s amazing how quickly you can go through resources. I’ll need to expand my mining operations and my tree farm for all the smooth stone I need, and it’s going to be nowhere near as impressive as Minecraft Rapture.

        • Sumanai says:

          Eh, just make a few buckets and start hauling lava. Make a cast, fill it with lava (1 bucket for 1 block, make sure nothing is flowing when it’s full and that you don’t empty a bucket in a block that already has lava or it’ll be lost) and pour water near it. So that the water will flow on the lava. You’ll have obsidian, which should be impervious to explosions.

          Although it takes 15 seconds to mine with a diamond pickaxe (40 sec. with anything else, and you don’t get the obsidian block).

          • MintSkittle says:

            You must have misread my post, because I said nothing about obsidian, or bomb-proofing anything. Just lamenting my need for massive amounts of smooth stone (put cobblestone in furnace, cook to smooth stone), and commenting that whatever I do will pale in comparison to Raptuerecraft.

            • Sumanai says:

              I meant it as a solution to having to hack trees, since you don’t need to smelt it. And not having a building made out of cobblestone. I mentioned casting because mining the damn thing is a huge pain in the ass in comparison to hauling it (15s/block? Great fun). Assuming you have minecart travel to and fro, and enough iron to make several buckets.

              Although it does make for a pretty dark building, so it might be more trouble than worth anyway.

              You know what? I’m just going to blame that reply on my fever/headache -combo. Forget I wrote anything.

  16. Evan says:

    I think fish are actually going to be coming, eventually. You can build a fishing rod, so it’s definitely at least being considered.

    This game is way too addictive. You get an idea and start building and suddenly it’s next week.

  17. Neil Polenske says:

    You son of a bitch. You goddamned son of a bitch. LOOK AT ALL THAT! I got…a HOLE!

    Okay, I’m gonna go sit in a corner and cry now.

  18. Sumanai says:

    You forgot to mention that climbing a ladder nearly from the bottom of the world is a pain. It wouldn’t hurt to have a “fireman’s ladder” though. Make a 1×1 chute, at the bottom place a ladder right above head level so you won’t start climbing it when you pass by. As long as you don’t drop right on top of the ladder you don’t get any damage, for now at least.

    • Ernheim says:

      Or put a 3-deep pool of water at the bottom of the shaft. My favoured mine-transport method is a 4×4 shaft, the back two blocks of which are waterfalls, the front two, open. You jump down the open ones, fall into the water, losing fall damage, then use the boat bug (a boat will rocket upwards when placed under a waterfall) to get out again.

      • Sumanai says:

        I’ve been meaning to make a “boat elevator” but I’ll pass on the water bungee until the ladder-exploit is fixed since it’s nicer to use. What with not having to climb out of water at the end. The only problem is the chance of dropping on top of the ladder, but you really should mark the “safe wall” at the top.

        • Sumanai says:

          I had an idea. What if you’d make a 1x1x1 hole at the bottom level’s floor and put the water higher, so that it stays 1×1? It shouldn’t overflow, and if it starts at the right height, you could drop, stop, and just step out of the water.

          I’ll have to run tests if I remember the next time I start Minecraft.

          • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of bile and cynicism says:

            Works. Quite nicely.

            I made it 1×1, because you shouldn’t need bigger and it’s faster to get out. I made in a corner of a 2×4 shaft, so I dug a 2x2x1 hole at the bottom. One for the water to endlessly pour, and the rest for Step blocks. They stop waterflow like full ones, but enable you to just walk out of water without swimming upwards.
            I made a “ring” 3 blocks higher than the bottom of the hole (higher might not be worse though) to force the water source to output a 1×1 pillar.

            And that’s it. One bucket of water, in a corner 3 Step blocks and 3 blocks of whatever with a 2x2x1 block hole. In a center of a room it would be 8 Step blocks, 8 of whatever with a 3x3x1 hole and you could step out at any direction.

            Edit: Having the water source one block higher doesn’t seem to affect anything except make the bottom part feel more spacious, which I think is good.

  19. 4th Dimension says:

    You know what would be cool to add to that? An underwater pool, that connects to the ocean!!!

    It will work if the Alpha’s water engine is as broken as in classic. See:

    Apparently the water engine takes only in account the height of the TOP of the hole (between the containers), NOT the level of the water OUTSIDE the container.

    Sou you can build a room in the sea, and then hole the floor.
    It will work in classic, but I don’t know about Alpha.

    • Cerapa says:

      Alpha has a bit different water system, but you could make a pool like that.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      “Apparently the water engine takes only in account the height of the TOP of the hole (between the containers), NOT the level of the water OUTSIDE the container.”

      Actually, the water engine works like this: Still water blocks generate flowing water in they are in a space that can generate flowing water. Still water blocks can be “replicated” to fill a whole space by placing them perpendicularly to each other. You can use pretty much any other type of block to “overwrite” unwanted still water, and flowing water can simply be eliminated by moving it’s source (a still water block). Oh, and you use buckets to transport still water, and flowing water isn’t picked up at all.

      Otherwise, still water is basically normal blocks. No “water pressure” simulation or anything.

      Once you realize this, water-based engineering projects are a lot easier.

      • 4th_Dimension says:

        In other words, water will only come up to the height of the top of the hole.

        • Sumanai says:

          Yes. Because simulating water pressure would cause huge slowdown. Forgoing it and just looking at the water level on the “outside” would cause strange behaviour, like a 3×3 hollow building containing water would push water levels outside it unreasonably. Unless water blocks actually start moving from place to place instead of just causing a flow.
          But then we’d have strange situations where a pool of 3x2x2 is emptied by less than 6 blocks and the engine start flowing the surface blocks around. Which is okay in Dwarf fortress, since water has 8 levels per block and you don’t actually see it. But I’d guess slowdown and strange visuals in Minecraft.

  20. Ian says:

    In the end we discovered that the best way to do this is to build a solid shaft of stone. Then sheathe the stone in glass block. Then tunnel out the stone, leaving the hollow tube.

    That seems to be the only way to do it.

    When I did my underwater staircase, I used mud to “hollow out” the tunnel. It’s cheaper and much faster to cut through.

  21. TheAngryMongoose says:

    Just bought the full (alpha) version of Minecraft today.
    One important thing I learn, when mining a large hole to find some natural caves, stop once you find bedrock. I mined through it, fell into the void, and lost all my steel, coal, and ladders.

    • Cerapa says:

      How did you mine through bedrock? 0_0

      • TheAngryMongoose says:

        There was a gap in the bedrock. Keep looking and you’ll find one. Could make a [strike]useful[/strike] needlessly cool garbage chute.

      • modus0 says:

        The way bedrock is set up, sometimes there will be holes in the placement, through which you can access the Void.

        I’ve so far found one, and tested out the Void by jumping through without anything in my inventory.

        I try to avoid standing on a block I’m mining, both to avoid taking an accidental lava bath or a trip to the reload screen.

  22. Davie says:

    Brilliant. I also began building an underwater house, but then gave up when I realized there’s really nothing worth looking at underwater…

    The gardens are pretty mind-blowing. Also, I’m impressed that you actually organized your mining operation and didn’t just dig random tunnels in all directions. That’s how everyone else does it, right?

  23. bit says:

    I love your house, as it is now. Very pretty, very elegant. Your water tunnel is pretty cool, too.

    My current state in Minecraft is billions of resources, with little more than a huge pit mine going down to bedrock, and a hole in the side of a hill crammed with boxes. Soon, I will construct my ultimate project. Soon, fueled by pure will and stupidity, I will construct…

    A house, made up of isolated rooms connected by glass tunnels.

    Under a sea of lava.

  24. MadTinkerer says:

    “I wish the game had fish.”

    Just six more days left until the Halloween update!

    “You can see here that the clouds are passing right through the garden at the top.”

    I was irritated by clouds passing through my really tall projects until I installed a mod that moved the clouds up just above the maximum build height. A little less scenic, but now my living room isn’t periodically opaque.

    If you really want to build on a floating island(or just have a magical midair castle), you can either search all over until you find a good one, or construct an artificial one by building off from a cliff and then getting rid of the connecting scaffold. You can also build straight up from the ground but I find the cliff face + big floating thingy to be more dramatic looking.

  25. Spatticus says:

    Shamus, can we get a little more of that barrel-ly building on the left there? That looks interesting(by that I mean I want to study it and use it myself) and I want to know what’s inside.

    Also, we need a 20 Sided Minecraft server.

    • Mr. Wizard says:

      I wonder if it will be better than the Escapist community one. They are nice folks, but they have a tendency to build very random things, like a Floating pyramid, a suspended bridge of glass that goes off in one direction for 20 minutes, or huge craters from exploded bombs (built in the middle of nowhere, nobodies stuff was harmed. Nice community.) At least they got around to building roads, which made exploring what everyone built easier.

  26. DungeonHamster says:

    I’ve only barely scratched the surface of Minecraft myself (been reading books more than playing games lately, and most game time has been devoted to Civ 5, so about a quarter hour is all I’ve put in yet), but is it possible to move large objects after construction? After all, when, say, the Chesapeake Bay bridge tunnel was built, they made hollow airtight sections, stuck them underwater, then sealed them together and opened them up. It seems like it should be possible to build a section small enough to be transported, seal the ends off with some readily available base material rather than a crafted one (e.g. stone), and then simply mine through the seals rather than a whole distinct tunnel. This would also minimize the time spent underwater, making the breath time limit and lighting issues much less severe.

    Again, I’m not sure if this is workable or not, and even if it is it might end up being rather more time consuming than less, but I’m curious to know if it could work.

    • Alan De Smet says:

      No such luck. There isn’t any way to move blocks short of removing them one at a time, then replacing them one at a time.* The various blocks you can build with “stick” once placed. You can even remove all of the blocks around one, and just leave that one block floating there. (Sand and gravel are a special case: they will fall downward if nothing is under them.)

      * You can use a third-party level editor, of which there are several. But then you’re not really doing it inside of Minecraft.

  27. Jan says:

    Grmbl… Yesterday I finally broke down, bought the game, and played for 4 hours straight (just one more night…). Then, I couldn’t sleep, I kept thinking what to build, and I thought an underwater tunnel would be a cool new idea (hadn’t seen that one yet). Now you’ve gone and beat me to it!
    But the way of building seems like a good idea, I was thinking too about draining, but apparently it doesn’t work :(

    • Sumanai says:

      I had an underwater tunnel before Shamus did this post, but it’s shorter (it’s purpose is to go underground, not for show) and uglier.

      I’ve also made two obsidian towers, and I’m sure those have been done for ages before I started building the first one.

      Just remember: whatever you’ve just thought of, someone has already built it, expanded it and then made it look cooler than anything you could think of.

      But the important bit is, that’s not your building, that’s theirs. Surely you want something to call your own? Something that you feel you’ve earned. To build something that after finishing you can proudly claim:
      “Not the prettiest, not the most impressive, but by god I made it and it’s mine.”

  28. Jarenth says:

    Damnit Shamus, stop preemptively stealing my ideas.

    I’ve been planning for a while to build an underwater glass dome city, but I keep running into the same problem as you: the ocean just isn’t deep enough to make anything really big underwater. I suppose you could mine out or bomb the ocean floor to make it deeper, but that’s just a hassle.

    And since everyone else is doing it: I’m currently working on building an oceanic water-platform city. Glass-domed, of course, if I can find enough sand nearby.

    And by ‘working on’ I really mean ‘Oh ye Gods, Minecraft, I don’t have any time tonight! …oh well, just an hour or so couldn’t hurt…’

    • Sumanai says:

      You could look for a wide area of water and dig under it from dry land, build at least basic parts there (horizontally full, vertically so that you can expand) and then dig the ground above it, leading to a deeper water.

      There’s always enough sand if you just start at a beach and make an open mine. Be aware how far the actual shore is so you don’t get flooded and bring ladders just in case. If there isn’t enough, find another shore.

      Edit: And I suggest making several (3-4 minimum, depends on how much you need) stone shovels. If you have iron to waste, it’s very much suggested, since the fast digging speed of sand makes the shovels brake very quickly.

    • Bit says:

      Depending on how big you want your city to be, you could always do the whole thing in a man-made lake. time consuming, yes, but considering the scope of the things you can build without worrying about drowning, I’m sure it’s worth it.

      This is how I plan to do my crazy lava house, by the way. I don’t think digging into a lake of lava is a particularly smart way to do things.

  29. Person says:

    What is the seed?

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