Things have taken a surprising turn.

When he left me, he was but a learner, but now he is the master.

I spend my free time puttering around World of Warcraft. My son has mostly abandoned WoW for the (sometimes) greener fields of Minecraft.

He has a routine. He watches some videos about Minecraft on Youtube (I set him up with his own age-gated Google account), then he plays some Minecraft. He watches mod reviews, then asks me to install ones that intrigue him. He sees maps explored, then has me download them so he can Parkour.

I didn’t know what Parkour was before Minecraft. Now I do. We live, we learn. In my day, we called it jumping. And in a game, we called them jumping puzzles. Sometimes we glided, and called it Spyro. Whatever.

It is what he does for fun. He studies Minecraft, he tests builds, he watches reviews and laughs at some of the truly amazing music video spoofs and fan-made animated Minecraft movies. He’s made working redstone lighthouses and imitation Japanese fortresses with incredible detail work.

I’m going to tell this story two ways. Tonight, I’ll post the story, and tomorrow I’ll post directions (with screenshots) on how to get to the exact same place in the seed so if you felt like it you can go visit these places, explore, enjoy the scenery too. Minecraft is like that, you can share.  

The Cub has been playing Minecraft version 1.6.4 with the Forge loader and a few of his favorite mods, including TooManyItems and Flans Mod.

The game itself is updated to 1.7.4, but the wonder of their new system is, if you want to run a mod that was stable with one particular game version… you can run the game at that version. No problem at all. It’s brilliant. Eternal backward compatibility with old mods and maps.

He plays 1.6.4 with mods, but only in single player worlds, and on maps I download for him (or he makes himself). No multiplayer.

I have never allowed the Cub to do multiplayer in Minecraft. We’ve done some LAN games together, but I’ve never let him go out into the wild jungle of Minecraft servers, and his friends at school apparently aren’t savvy enough to share server IPs with each other in 5th grade.

He’s been perfectly fine with it, never asked to. He understands our objection to the language of, well, your average Microsoft Live user.

Last weekend, all that changed.

One of the things we gave him for Christmas was a book about Minecraft from Amazon that got pretty good reviews, The Ultimate Player’s Guide to Minecraft by Stephen O’Brien

We were operating under the principle that anything worth doing was worth obsessing over. He’s already got the Youtube and game down, why not add books? This way we can sneak in some reading practice by giving him something he WANTS to read. This is what being a parent does to you; makes you think of ways to trick your kids into learning whether they like it or not.

We were right. Of all the presents he received for Christmas, he loves that book. The book, and his plush Creeper, which he has named Creepy and carries with him everywhere in the house. He loves that damn thing. You’ll be walking around the corner, and hear “Sppshhhh…. BAM!”

Anyway, the book.

The book is current up to the most recent game version, and in the back goes into pretty good detail about multiplayer options . The book gives suggestions on server communities, where to find them (like Planetminecraft), how to make sure you can log in safely, and even referenced a server with mini-games aimed at kids, The Hive (at eu.hivemc.com).

Hmmm. Perhaps, just maybe, with my constant supervision in the room with him, I can unleash the beast onto an unsuspecting world.

Off he goes into the world of multiplayer servers, and a Spleefing champion is born.

For those of you poor souls that don’t know what Spleef is, it’s a game of player versus player combat.

The catch is, you never directly hurt the other players. Instead, you’re playing on a snowy field… and the snow is a thin layer one brick thick, suspended in the air over lava. You are armed… with a shovel. You try and dig the snow out from under your opponent’s feet so they drop down into the lava and die, while they’re trying to do the same to you. Much running, super scurry, call the troops out in a hurry.

This is a gameplay type evolved by players from a game with destructive terrain. Destructive terrain can be a gameplay mode all on it’s own. THIS NEEDS TO BE A THING, DAMNIT.

So, he’s playing multiplayer Minecraft, I’m in the office with him, what the hell. I’ll fire up Minecraft, update it and go for a spin in vanilla 1.7.4, no mods, just mess around in Survival with it set to Easy.

For those interested for later, I created a new world in Vanilla 1.7.4, without mods, set to Creative/Easy, with chest enabled, cheats enabled, and default world type on seed -5263306753596067336

If you’ve never played Minecraft, that means nothing to you. If you do play, then armed with that data you can perfectly duplicate, to the very last brick, the entire world I am playing in as it was in it’s pristine state.

I started walking around, ooh look over there, pretty stones, ooh, what’s that, a river? I saw a nice rocky mound in the distance, and headed that way.

The Cub sees that I’m in Minecraft, and immediately abandons his multiplayer gaming to come coach me.

I am now the old man with the VCR, while the young boy tries to teach me how to program it. How did this happen?

He calmly pointed out that I could kill the cows for meat, but I’d need to build a furnace to cook them into the more nutritious steak.

He reminded me that the sheep I found would give me wool, and three wool with three wood would give me a bed, and I could reset my spawn point to wherever I put my bed.

I holed up in a handy cave midway towards that interesting rock mound just as night fell, and I used the time to mine up some coal for torches and got lucky with some iron. Ten minutes in and I’ve got plenty of wool from sheep, food from cows, wood sticks, coal, a handful of iron for some good picks… wow! Okay, this is a nice world.

My son sees I’m having fun and getting lots of materials, so he creates a brand new survival world. Suddenly, it’s a competition. Who can gather the most cobblestone, find the most diamonds, make the nicest house, etc.

I reach an interesting pyramid-shaped sand sculpture, I look over, and he’s already got a house. With fence and gate. A garden. He hoed a garden and planted carrots already, just wtf.

Fine, you know what? I’m gonna be a traveling man. Let’s see what lies over the next ridge.

Oh, another hill. And a river. And a desert.

My son, who is surreptitiously watching my every move, is instantly jealous.

“Sand biomes have the best chance of having a sand village!”

“Is that good?”

“Yes, you can trade with them!”

“Oh, okay, I’ll look for a village.”

I look over at his screen. He has raw data scrolling like the Matrix down the side, and is mining a tunnel down, lining it with torches. He reaches some goal as I watch, because he mutters to himself, “Okay, layer 11 on the Y coordinate, this has the best chance to find diamonds in a 16×16 chunk. Now to dig a tunnel along the X!”

Really? Really, dude?

Then I recall… holy shit, this was me with Bear Druid tanking for five years. I’m so proud! He’s gonna be a min/maxing geek just like his daddy.

Me? I got a stone pickax from the bonus chest. And some torches. Coal and wood, made a crafting table, made a furnace.

Let’s go look at that weird double-hill thingie. It’s like a patch of raw cobblestone in the middle of the desert, and I swear I can see a cave.

And what is that, just over the hump… is that a building?

13 - onthesandpile - adoublehill

Let’s go find out.

I come up on the top of the right-side hill, and what should I find but a village. A sand village!

begindaylight

Don’t try to duplicate this shot yourself in the plain game, I made a 20-block high tower on top of the left hill to get a nice view.

The Cub looks over, and he abandons his game to come look at my village. He has, by the way, acquired 10 diamonds in the short space of time it took me to walk over to the hill. Apparently, he knows how to find dat diamond.

I thought I was playing the game, but the Cub is now in full-on mentor mode.

“Look, you’re so lucky! They already have farms so you’ve got unlimited food, and there is water, and houses, and OOOH! A library! And you can trade with the villagers, and, and…”

“Breathe, Alex. Breathe.”

It is getting very dark, so I find myself a nice, cozy cottage to call my own, close the door… and realize I never made a bed, and don’t have any wood to make one. All I have are sticks.

Well, waiting out the night.

I watch as bad guys roam freely through the darkened village, but they never come close to endangering me.

beginnight

There are a few torches around the village, but evil spawns anywhere a shadow can be found, until they are vaporized like real vampires in the cleansing light of day. Zombies, skeletons and spiders are abundant.

Just as it’s starting to get light, the Cub says, “I hope your villagers are okay, the zombies will break down doors to get them at night.”

Wait, what?

I burst outside, just in time to see a pack of zombies entering a house.

I run around like crazy, taking on everything, but I get overwhelmed and die.

I didn’t have a bed, so I respawn where I started. Shit! All my stuff is back where I died. Double shit!!

I start running like a madman across the zone to get back and get my stuff.

I return to the village, only to find that of all the villagers, only two have survived the night.

Two.

I turn to my son, who says to me with great sadness, “They were fine until you came to the village. Your coming caused the monsters to spawn nearby. Now they’re all gone. They’re all gone.”

OMG.

Will they… will they, like, respawn?”

“No… no, it’s just those two. And when night falls again…”

Oh, HELL no.

No, kiss my butt, we are NOT playing Mexican Vampire Standoff with me losing the whole town to the blood suckers. This ain’t a John Carpenter flick, this is Groundhog Day!

I turn back the clock, copying the world as a fresh spawn. I am John Connor. I can fix this. I just have to go back there to the eighties one more time, stop Skynet’s plan.

This time, I stop at my little cave and burrow in like a tick. I carve out a sizeable chunk of cobblestones, hundreds of blocks. I chop down a forest for wood, I find me lots of coal. I prepare over several days, there in my little hidey-hole.

Then, when I felt fully prepared, I tore out of my burrow at the crack of dawn and beat feet across the rivers and the desert, following the landmarks as I remembered them, until there it was. The village, alive, vital, with the sand temple behind it full of treasure to plunder (according to the Cub, I ain’t been inside yet so I have no idea what is in there).

Immediately, I spring into action. Every second of daylight is precious.

I put Operation De-Maginot into effect. I start laying down a wall of cobblestone around the village.

I am going to build a wall two blocks high around the entire village. No villager gets eaten on MY watch, damnit! I can save them, I can go back in time and do it right!

I work like a beaver on crack to build my dam wall, and as I get within spitting distance of linking them together, darkness falls across the sands.

Two zombies rush me, but I quickly cut them down with my stone sword, link the wall together, and start running around inside putting torches EVERYWHERE. The monsters can spawn anywhere there is a shadow, and that means they are going to start spawning inside my wall!

I get torches on the inside wall, torches on the loose sands, torches on walls and buildings and even on the well.

Then two spiders come OVER my wall and eat me.

Oh yeah… I never DID make that bed.

The Cub says, “If you go to sleep in a bed, nothing happens while you’re asleep.”

“So… if I made a bed and slept in it, monsters wouldn’t spawn and eat the villagers?”

“Nope.”

Sigh…

“Also, spiders can climb up walls.”

“I think I caught that, but thanks for clearing that up for me.”

“They can’t climb upside down, though.”

“You mean…”

“Put a one-block overhanging parapet along the top of your wall, and spiders won’t be able to climb over it to get at the village.”

“So then they’ll be safe?”

“Yep! But you need more torches too, you have to have the light of a torch within 7 squares to prevent monsters.”

Okay, I can see this is going to take some work.

Through the last three nights, he has coached me on making an enchanting table, how to make an anvil to repair really precious stuff once it’s enchanted so it doesn’t LOSE that enchant, how to harvest and plant vegetables in the gardens, how to make a bucket, capture water, and splash it on lava to make obsidian blocks.

He’s taught me a lot. And he’s jealous as heck, because this world has it all.

Plentiful coal, iron, emeralds, wood, a sand village, lava near water, lots of interesting biomes, not one but TWO sand temples to eventually plunder, a library, just… everything.

He spent an entire night trying to find sugarcane near water in his world, so he could build an enchanting table. You have to have a book to build the table, you need paper to build a book, and sugarcane to make paper.

My sand village came with a library. A quick swipe with an axe at one of the bookcases would have given me a book… if there wasn’t a pond 5 feet from the village with a bunch of sugarcane growing right there.

The greatest advice he gave me, though, came tonight.

I was miles down deep, hunting for diamond along Y 11, just as he directed. I had no idea where I was, how to ever get back home, and my bags were full of diamonds, redstone, iron, coal, emeralds. I had no room for anything more.

There was no way I was going to survive to make my way back. I’d already taken down a dark witch, multiple creepers and skeletons and survived a fast dunking in lava. My luck was going to run out, and I would appear, naked but alive at my bed in the village. All my loot, gone forever.

The Cub says, “Type in a /, then type gamerule keepInventory true, It’ll say your game rule was changed, and then when you die you’ll keep all your stuff. You do have cheats enabled for this world, right?

YES! Yes, I do!

About 5 minutes later, I tried to maneuver a creeper to fall into lava, fell in myself, it blew up, and I woke up in my bed.

WITH ALL MY STUFFS.

I was able to use all the coal I gathered to finish off stage one of the De-Maginot Line.

You’ve seen the before shots.

Now for the after.

begindaylight

Finaldaylight

beginnight

finalnight

Nobody is coming into MY village and eating MY citizens.

Not on my watch!

I hope you villagers like those houses, because you’re never leaving here again. Give thanks and welcome to your new Supreme Overlord, for I shall keep you safe from all harm, whether you want me to or not. I have claimed this village in the name of yankee imperialism, and I’ll keep you damn savages safe with my civilized ways. And my wall. And torches. Lots and lots of torches.

And my diamond sword with the level 7 enchant, Knockback 1 and Sharpness 2.

I call it my BOOMSWORD.

Seriously, if you don’t have one of these kids that learn everything about video games and teach you what to do, you gotta get one of these. This is great. It’s almost like I knew wtf I was doing!

Tomorrow, he’s promised to teach me how to make a concealed-switch automatic piston door for my gatehouse!

It just doesn’t get any better than this.

3 Responses to “The Cub Report – Mentoring Minecraft”
  1. My kids (8,13) spent three hours yesterday playing a LAN-based Adventure map my son had created for my daughter.

    Seriously, this game is a revelation is so many ways :D

    • bigbearbutt says:

      I know, right? So one person can make an RPG adventure map, with anything they can imagine, including traps and pressure plates and hidden doors, REALLY hidden doors with secret entrances, and monsters and treasure and everything, set it to Adventure mode so players can’t break bricks to cheat, and other people can play in it.
      And MULTIPLE people can play in it as a LAN game or if it’s on a hosted server.

      I do love the possibilities.

  2. Great post, big bear. I have three kids myself including girls aged 13 & 12, and a son aged 8. I got them (and my wife) into Minecraft a few years back after I’d found it.

    Since then I setup a multiplayer family friendly server that my kids and others play on. It’s called Nyvaria and it would be great for you to come on to visit.

    The website is http://nyvaria.net where you can find out more about it. If you interested, please send me your usernames so we can whitelist you.

    Cheers,
    Paul Thompson
    aka captbunzo

  3.  

World of Warcraft™ and Blizzard Entertainment® are all trademarks or registered trademarks of Blizzard Entertainment in the United States and/or other countries. These terms and all related materials, logos, and images are copyright © Blizzard Entertainment. This site is in no way associated with Blizzard Entertainment®