Wednesday, March 7, 2012

And they shall inhabit a new and glorious land

I go the Minecraft server set up.  I also got the Minecraft client to run on my younger daughter's laptop, which was surprisingly hard considering.  I used to play/program a game called crossfire and it had a java map editor and I managed to get that to run on a laptop with 32mb of ram.  Minecraft however balks at running well on a laptop with 1GB of ram and really the graphics are not a huge sight different*.

Run you poor bugger, run!
When I set up the server I had quickly rushed around to secure myself before nightfall and had build a small hold, which had gotten blown apart by a creeper. After barely surviving that night, I had built a much nicer hold in the side of a nearby mountain.  I also built a couple monuments with torches to mark deep holes to avoid in the dark and to investigate at a later time.  All in testing the server you realize...  Anyway, when my girls first appeared in the game world they spawned close to the ruins and they immediately looted the torches - the little rogues.  Everyone spawns in the same general area when they first start, or when they die, and that was in a field not too far from my mountain home.  I went out and led them back to the mountain hold and then explained a few basics of crafting to them, as well as handed out stone axes and swords.  I logged out and told them to go exploring and gathering food, but they started fighting right away and the older killed the younger one because she was digging holes in the hold wall.  She spawned back at the start and could not remember the way back and it was getting dark.  Much shouting could be heard over this, so I had to log back in and lead her back to the fort while avoiding the zombies.  It was pretty tense actually because it was also supper time so we had a deadline and could not afford to get killed again.  Despite this altercation, the kids liked the multi-player survival mode.  They asked their mother to join in but she politely declined, even with the promise of keeping her own chicken farm.

After supper we logged back in and I took my older daughter on a tour of the natural caves below the hold.  We packed a pile of torches and went exploring the deep, mining coal and a little iron as we found it.  We also fought a bunch of spiders, skeletons, zombies and a few creepers.  The caves were pretty extensive and we found a couple waterfalls and natural amphitheatres before we ran out of torches and had to turn back.  We were just using text to communicate and when I asked how she liked the caves her comment was "Scary".  Good scary I think, the finest kind of gaming brings immersion that gets your nerves tingling like this.  She wasn't playing Webkinz now!  We returned to the hold with our loot and I set her to refining the ore into iron while I ran out to get some food.  I found a herd of wild cattle in a nearby valley and returned to fry up some steaks on the stove.  I had enough iron to made iron helmets and iron swords for us.

Then it was bed time.

This was a lot of fun and I was thinking a lot about it.  Getting the kids involved in this kind of gaming is fun for me and I think it builds some procedural logic skills that will be useful for them.  I was very tempted to set up a home Crossfire server as well and let them run around on it.  I think that that game might have a bit too high a learning curve at the moment (tons of key bindings to keep up with the mostly text command parser), but I am certainly keeping it in my back pocket.  Crossfire was an excellent experience for me because it got me into the guts of team programming (especially exposure to C and Python), and I've taken a lot of those concepts into the workplace, even if I'm not doing much programming.  It will be interesting to see if they get into programming via video games like I did.

Oh yea, and the WASD control scheme will train them to play Left 4 Dead with me too!

*ok it is 3d and there is lighting effects but still it's all regular polygons here and Minecraft must have incredibly inefficient code to require so much RAM.

Monday, March 5, 2012


Behold a new and unspoiled land!
My oldest kid has been playing minecraft in her browser, that's how you play the older version.  She asked me if I could get her the new version with crafting in it and I thought that might be fun so I looked into it and picked up a copy.  I also picked up a copy of the portable version for android.  I also got the minecraft server so we could set up a shared instance to play on.  I also got a big needle full of smack ready to ween myself off this later, because it's super addictive.  I was 'testing it out' for her and I ended up testing most of the day.  I tested how to get killed by spiders and how to kill a chicken and how to run from zombies.  I tested getting wood and digging a safehole.  By the end of the day we were swapping recipes for torches and stoves and talking about the dangers of eating rotten meat and dark caves.  It's pretty fun.  I haven't got the server set up so we aren't doing multi-player and we have 4 different worlds going on at the moment, one on the tablet, one on my phone, and two on our computers.  The portable minecraft doesn't have crafting in it but it works very well - even on my phone.  On the Transformer Prime tablet it runs like snot.*  My daughter prefers creation mode but I'm hard into the survival.  There is a real story in there surviving your first night in a dark hole while the zombies shuffle just outside your makeshift wall of dirt.  Crafting refines that experience, gathering wood, finding coal and making my first torches was an amazing experience.  Penny arcade did the perfect cartoons for this:

I can see me and the kids sitting around with headsets on fortresses and building crap on our home minecraft server.  It must be said that it's a hell of a lot cheaper than Lego.

*that means good in case you didn't grow up in Northern Ontario.