Sunday, April 24, 2011

Minecraft 1.5

The long-awaited achievements/statistics/weather update has been out for a while now, and I've had plenty of time to play with it.  Chances are, if you play Minecraft, you've probably updated by now, but just in case you haven't (or you haven't yet gotten the game), I'll run over the major changes and my experiences with each.

Achievements are there to satiate the metagaming desire that gamers seem to have these days, but the way they work in Minecraft is different from other games.  Sure, one of the achievements is making a cake, but if you update and immediately make a cake, you won't get it.  There's a heirarchy you have to go through.

Upon spawning into a world for the first time after updating to 1.5, the game will flat out tell you how to get the first achievement: Open your inventory.  Doing this gets you the achievement, and lets you progress on and get the next one, which you get for chopping down a tree and picking up the wood blocks.  The next one is making a crafting table out of four planks, and then it branches out from there to crafting tools.  So basically, the achievements are the tutorial that's been notably absent from the game for so long.  All of the achievements are relatively easy to get, save for two of them.

The two that are harder to get than the others have special borders in the in-game achievements window: When Pigs Fly and On A Rail.  When Pigs Fly sounds simple in practice, but is tricky to get.  You'll need to ride a pig off a cliff, and have the pig die from fall damage.  So before you can even attempt it, you need to find a saddle in a dungeon.  Then you have to find a pig near the edge of a suitably tall cliff.  Toss the saddle on, ride, and discover that pigs are surprisingly reluctant to walk off cliffs while you're riding them.  This is where you either ragequit or punch the pig with your bare hands when it gets close to the edge, sending it off the cliff and getting you the achievement.

I racked my brain for a while trying to corral a pig while riding it, used all the blocks I had with me at the time, and couldn't get the pig I was riding to jump off the damn cliff until I punched it.  Don't use a weapon, you don't want the pig to meet its inevitable demise too soon.

On A Rail requires a large resource investment.  You need to ride a minecart for 1 kilometer.  This is where it becomes relevant that blocks in Minecraft are one meter in all dimensions.  So you just need enough iron for 1000 minecart tracks, and a minecart, right?  Wrong.  Riding that far is going to be difficult without a way of keeping the cart moving, and while you could just have it go downhill periodically to provide extra momentum, there's an easier way, though it needs more materials.  Another part of the update was Powered Rails, which when they receive redstone power, will boost a passing occupied minecart for 64 meters.  To craft those, you need gold in place of the iron, and redstone dust.  The hard part of the achievement is getting the materials and constructing it.  Then you can just hop in a minecart, start your journey, and if you set it up right, wait a few minutes and you'll have it.

I haven't attempted this one yet, but we've just undertaken a large-scale mass transportation project on my SMP server, so I'll probably build the branch of it that takes you to the once burning forest (which has an extensive cave system below it that I haven't fully explored yet) and grab the achievement then.  Oh yeah, wood no longer burns indefinitely.  It's a shame, because we had a huge burning forest on my SMP server that was started by lava touching a tree.  If you want eternal flames now, you'll need Netherrack.  I think this was a sad, sad 1.4 change, actually.

Of course, there's more to the update than just achievements.  I already mentioned Powered Rails, but there's also Detector Rails.  They essentially act as pressure plates triggered by a minecart moving over them.  They can be crafted in a manner similar to regular minecart tracks, but with a pressure plate in place of the stick, and some redstone.  Both Detector Rails and Powered Rails will provide redstone power to the next few minecart tracks, so you could conceivably have a Detector Rail followed by a Powered Rail and not even need to place redstone torches to power the rails.  One important aspect of Powered Rails I haven't mentioned is that if they don't have power, they will stop a minecart.  This makes them useful for building train stations, as you can easily hook up a button to power the track on demand and send yourself on to your next destination.

I made some Powered Rails pretty much immediately to enhance the minecart ride a friend of mine built.  Before this you just had to place a minecart near where the slope started and quickly right click to jump in it.  Now you can calmly set one down and hit a button to start the ride.  I haven't made any detector rails yet, but I probably will for the aforementioned mass transportation project.

The statistics do what you might expect them to: they keep track of various things you do in your worlds.  Everything from number of blocks mined with your diamond pick to the distance you've travelled by pig.  There's not much else I can really say about them, other than that there isn't a statistic for time spent looking at statistics.

Weather was something everyone's been waiting for on some level.  Ever since snowfall was removed from the game so long ago, mostly.  Now it can either snow or rain, depending on the biome you're in.  I haven't experienced snow yet, but I've seen some rain.  When it rains, it gets slightly darker, and there's the ambient rainfall sound.  Rain affects various things, such as putting out fires.  However, sometimes when it rains, there will be a thunderstorm.  When this happens, it gets even darker.  Dark enough for enemies to spawn during the day.  There will be periodic lightning strikes as well.  If a pig gets struck by lightning, it will turn into a zombie pigman.  I've also heard that if a creeper gets struck by lightning, its explosion gains more power and range.  I can infer that snowfall will put a snow layer onto blocks that can be shovelled to get snowballs, but I'm unsure of anything else it does.

Now, some other minor things.  Pigs that die by fire will now drop cooked pork chops.  This is handy for any hungry explorer that happens to have a flint and steel, or who might be short on coal/wood at the moment, or whatever the reason.

Ladders no longer work with a gap between each one like they used to.  I never liked that they worked like that to begin with, it just didn't look right.  Well, now it's finally fixed and people actually have to build proper ladders.  I did have to fix a ladder on my SMP server, and the ladder in my base in my main singleplayer world needs reworking now since you can't place ladders on glass...

This is technically from the 1.4 update, but I didn't really get a chance to play with it until now: There are also wolves.  They spawn naturally in packs, in certain biomes and rarely elsewhere.  If you give them bones, you can tame them, at which point they'll have a red collar.  A tamed wolf can be commanded to sit or stand by right clicking it.  They can be fed food to replenish their health, which is indicated by the angle of their tail, the lower it is, the lower that wolf's health is.  If you get a certain distance from your wolves, any that are standing will teleport to you.  Those that are sitting will stay where they are.  You may not want to bring them with you mining, as they won't avoid lava.  The best part: wolves will attack anything you hit.  Tag a skeleton and watch your loyal pack of wolves descend upon it.  Or genocide cows.  Sky, limit, etc.

Wolves are also pretty damn cute.  If you hold food, they'll turn their heads to one side.  If they jump in water and then get back on land, they'll shake themselves dry.  It's kind of fun just watching them run around while you just stand there.

It'd be nice if the achievements and statistics were uploaded to sometime soon, as I've already experienced a reset of mine due to a game crash.  Now that I've got When Pigs Fly, I really don't want to have to do it again, though I did build a nice corral on the server with an area you can push a pig into, block it in, and then ride it off the adjacent cliff for the achievement...

As for achievements I'd like to see, it'd be interesting if there was one for building a drowning trap at a dungeon, though I don't know how exactly the game would detect that.  How about building a library out of bookcase blocks?  Notch has already said he doesn't want achievements like "chop down 10,000 trees", but getting an achievement for making one bookcase block seems like not enough work is required.  Also, the Nether is completely absent from the achievements...  activating a Nether portal could be a decent achievement.  If you use your head it doesn't even require a diamond pick.

Anyway, the 1.5 update has been fun so far.  If you don't yet have Minecraft, get it now!

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