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Give a nerd an AND gate...
September 30, 2010 7:00 AM   Subscribe

8-bit computer in Dwarf Fortress? I'll see that and raise you a Minecraft-based 16-bit computer (well, ALU) described in The Elements of Computing Systems and designed in Baezon's Redstone Simulator.
posted by griphus (95 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
I don't understand what makes a 16-bit computer a 16-bit computer, but I know that this is a cool thing.
posted by Think_Long at 7:03 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


This dude kicks my ass in Minecraft and computers.
posted by Mister_A at 7:06 AM on September 30, 2010


The rolling hills and green valleys, reduced to an expanse of computronium...
posted by Artw at 7:09 AM on September 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


Shouldn't that be "Give a nerd a NAND gate..."?

These games have basic logic elements built into them, I'm far more impressed that you can build computers using Conway's Life.
posted by ecurtz at 7:10 AM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Are you listening, pig?"
posted by longtime_lurker at 7:12 AM on September 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


I've seen a few LCD displays built, but I don't think it's currently possible to output anything at a high enough resolution to play MineCraft in MineCraft.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 7:14 AM on September 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


I can make a ladder out of sticks.
posted by swift at 7:17 AM on September 30, 2010 [15 favorites]


I don't understand what makes a 16-bit computer a 16-bit computer, but I know that this is a cool thing.

It can mean different things, but normally it means that its fundamental operations (adding, subtracting, that kind of thing) work on two 16-bit numbers at a time. Bigger is generally better, though anything past 64 bits is only useful in certain niche applications like serious science number crunching because 2^64 = 18446744073709551616, which is a much bigger number than most people ever do math on.

An analogy to a calculator may be helpful. Imagine if your calculator could only handle 2 digit numbers. Adding up small numbers would be easy, but suppose you needed to add 75 + 75. Now you have to break it down into a few smaller problems and use some scratch paper to keep track of carrying. Not impossible, but it slows things down. Now suppose you want to add 199,999 + 199,999 or something else really big with a lot of carrying. You can see how things get tedious quickly.

Having more bits means a computer can do more useful calculations without getting bogged down in subproblems. Many of the first useful home computers were 8 bits, but they didn't really take off until 16 bit processors became available (e.g., the original IBM PC). 32 bit processors were pretty standard for a long time, but the industry has now settled on 64 bit for the foreseeable future.

The number of bits can also refer to the amount of memory (i.e., RAM) the computer can use, but that's a less common meaning.
posted by jedicus at 7:22 AM on September 30, 2010 [8 favorites]


Minecraft post frequency is increasing at an exponential rate.
posted by smackfu at 7:24 AM on September 30, 2010


Here is a 2-bit ALU that can do addition, as well as the binary operations AND, OR and XOR. A[0] and A[1] represent an input number of two binary digits (bits). B[0] and B[1] represent a second input number. The OP bits tell the ALU what operation is required on the numbers, such as addition.

The OUT bits represent the 2-bit output number. The largest integer this ALU can deal with normally is 3, because the 2-bit integers are 00, 01, 10, 11. So if you try to add 10+10 (two plus two), the output is 00 and the CARRY OUT bit is set to 1 to indicate that we have an overflow.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 7:28 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


These games have basic logic elements built into them, I'm far more impressed that you can build computers using Conway's Life.

Depends on what you mean by logic element. Gates have to be constructed in Minecraft from elements that are analogous to switches, transistors, and wires. What most people think of as logic elements are not present as basic building blocks.

I now want to make a terrible pun about 'mining OR.'
posted by jedicus at 7:29 AM on September 30, 2010 [3 favorites]



I don't understand what makes a 16-bit computer a 16-bit computer


A 16-bit computer operates on combinations of 1's and 0's that are 16 digits long. If you interpret each digit as a power of two* you can represent the numbers 0 - 65535 with 16 bits. You can interpret the 16-bit values as floating point numbers too, by setting some number of bits to be the integer portion and the rest are the 'decimal' portion**, so you can represent numbers like 8.125. The more 'decimal' bits you have, the more precise you can be.

Your laptop or desktop computer uses 32 or 64 bit values; a 64-bit variable can take on over 18 quintillion values, so you can imagine the obscene precision possible. The simpler computers in your TV remote, microwave, or alarm clock use 8 or 16-bit processors.

If he finishes the processor (and there's a lot to do beyond the ALU), this guy's Minecraft world could run the simple OS on your phone.


* in four bits:
0000 = 0
0001 = 1*(2^0) = 1
0010 = 1*(2^1) = 2
0100 = 1*(2^2) = 4
0101 = 1*(4) + 1*(1) = 5

** this kind of scheme is called fixed-point math, and is more common in embedded systems than in PCs. Your coffee maker uses fixed-point math, but your PC does floating-point calculations, which are more complicated but much more accurate.

posted by tylermoody at 7:29 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


The DSM now recognizes a new mental illness characterized by looking at the elevated portion of I-95 and planning how you could build it in MineCraft.
posted by Mister_A at 7:30 AM on September 30, 2010 [14 favorites]


BTW, in the 2-bit ALU, the curved shapes are logic gates that produce an output bit based on two input bits, by using a binary operation.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 7:31 AM on September 30, 2010


At the rate at which Minecraft FPPs and videos are being posted, Minecraft can easily consume all my free time without my ever having to get a Minecraft account.
posted by ardgedee at 7:34 AM on September 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


The number of bits can also refer to the amount of memory (i.e., RAM) the computer can use, but that's a less common meaning.

It's actually the exact same thing. Your computer spends tons of time figuring out 'where is this thing in memory?' Calculating memory locations uses the same ALU hardware that you use to calculate 199,999 + 199,999, so the range of available memory locations is the minimum of:

1) the hardware installed
2) the largest number that the ALU can handle

If you installed 32-bit Windows XP on a PC with 16 gigs of RAM, it would still only be able to use about 3 gigs, because the operating system isn't able to think in large enough numbers.
posted by tylermoody at 7:37 AM on September 30, 2010


There's a limitation on how large minecraft projects can be (300x300x128), which is 11 million blocks. Which I guess sounds like a lot, but it really puts a hard limit on how complex a cpu can be, particularly with RAM -- this 4 bit ram takes up an entire room. All of that to store and retrieve the state of 4 torches.

All of this is what's needed for a 60 pixel ticking display.

Notch is hinting at adding the ability to make craftable redstone circuits, but I really hope he doesn't. It'll probably be a bitch to get working and take away from coding the actual game.
posted by empath at 7:41 AM on September 30, 2010


These games have basic logic elements built into them, I'm far more impressed that you can build computers using Conway's Life

The only thing that minecraft has is redstone dust, which acts as a wire carrying power, and redstone torches, which provide power unless they receive power from an outside source (which makes them a NOT gate). All of these projects were built from that only.

Although the first minecraft adder was built from falling sand, and didn't use redstone at all.
posted by empath at 7:45 AM on September 30, 2010


If he finishes the processor (and there's a lot to do beyond the ALU), this guy's Minecraft world could run the simple OS on your phone.

Technically, given the right emulator written for the processor and sufficient memory, it could run any program you want. The problem is that it would be unfathomably slow. But speed isn't really the point. Once fully finished it will be able to do things like add numbers together roughly as fast as a human punching on a calculator.

this kind of scheme is called fixed-point math, and is more common in embedded systems than in PCs. Your coffee maker uses fixed-point math, but your PC does floating-point calculations, which are more complicated but much more accurate.

First, that's integer math, not fixed point. Fixed point is a way of representing real numbers, like floating point. Also, unless you're playing a game, most of the math that a PC does is integer-based. Intel-based PCs didn't even have dedicated floating point units until the 486 was introduced in 1989. Macs got dedicated FPUs with the Motorola 68040, released in 1990 and used in the Mac Quadra in 1991.

It's actually the exact same thing. Your computer spends tons of time figuring out 'where is this thing in memory?' Calculating memory locations uses the same ALU hardware that you use to calculate 199,999 + 199,999, so the range of available memory locations is the minimum of: 1) the hardware installed
2) the largest number that the ALU can handle


That's technically accurate but not for the reason you gave. Example: the Motorola 68k. It's a 32-bit processor that originally could only address 24 bits of memory (i.e., 16 MB). So, yeah, 'the hardware installed' would never be more than 16MB (what would be the point?) but it wasn't limited by what the ALU could handle but rather the external bus.
posted by jedicus at 7:47 AM on September 30, 2010


Here's an introduction to Redstone that focuses on actual gameplay uses for it.
posted by empath at 7:47 AM on September 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


"Bitness" is actually a LOT more complex than it sounds, because it can refer to several different things -- at the very least, integer size, number of address lines to memory, and width of data transfers to and from that memory. There may be more measures that I'm not thinking of.

In this context, it's just the maximum integer size that the math unit can handle. But don't extrapolate that to real computers, because it's not that simple. I've tried and tried to find a simple way to explain the different kinds of bitness, but I've never yet managed to do it succinctly. Particularly with modern PCs, it's very hard to point at any one thing and say "this is a 32-bit machine" or "this is a 64-bit machine", because the three different measures are all over the place. "32-bit" and "64-bit" are vague approximations, not so much concrete reality.
posted by Malor at 7:48 AM on September 30, 2010


I get the same vibe while wandering multiplayer Minecraft worlds (especially in the freebuild Classic version) as I did exploring Alphaworld for this FPP. And that environment was a decade and a half in the making. I wonder how it compares, area-wise, to everything that's been built publicly in Minecraft so far.
posted by Rhaomi at 7:49 AM on September 30, 2010


If you installed 32-bit Windows XP on a PC with 16 gigs of RAM, it would still only be able to use about 3 gigs, because the operating system isn't able to think in large enough numbers.

Tyler, you're way off here. Any Intel chip with the PAE extensions can do 40 bits of addressing. Versions of XP prior to either SP1 or SP2 could use PAE mode and address up to 64 gigs, but Microsoft disabled that because of driver problems -- some drivers were assuming any RAM they got would be in the DMA space (first four gigs), and would crash spectacularly.

For a nicely concrete example, go way back in time to 8-bit computers. If 8 bit computers used 8 bits of addressing, they'd only have 256 bytes of RAM! But most of them could use up to 64K, because they used segment:offset addressing -- 16 bits. And early 8088s were 16-bit chips with 20 bits of addressing, giving them 1MB... again using segment:offset.

Like I said, this is hard to explain in a reasonable post size. It's a lot more complex than it first looks.
posted by Malor at 7:55 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I actually had fun creating NAND, AND, etc gates myself. I've never taken a class on this stuff or anything, it was in interesting logic problem for me.

For example -- to make a XOR gate (output is only on if one of two torches is on.)

First you need to create a NOR gate for two inputs. You do this by running wires from you two inputs into a single a torch. This torch will only be on if both inputs are off. But you actually want the opposite of that. You want it to be OFF only if both inputs are off. You do this by running the output of that to another torch, so that torch will only be ON if both inputs are off. This is called an OR gate. It's on if either input is on, and off if both inputs are off.

Then you want to create an AND gate. You do this by taking splitting the output of the first two torches off to a torch to each of them, which reverses them. Then you take both of those outputs to another torch. That torch will only be on if both inputs are on. That's an AND gate.

So now you have 1 torch which is only on if both torches are OFF. You have another torch which is on if both inputs are ON.

You take both of those outputs and run them to another torch. That torch will only be on if both of the input torches are on -- either because both inputs are off or both inputs are on.

This is a XOR gate. It's only on if one of two inputs is on.

That took me like an hour to figure out without referencing premade circuit diagrams, just knowing that it was possible.

After that, making an ALU is a completely mindblowingly complex project to me.
posted by empath at 8:10 AM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


A computer engineering education is interesting. You learn how transistors work from a physics background. Then you learn how transistors make up gates, and forget about transistors. Then you learn how gates make up ALUs and such, and forget about the gates. Then you learn how ALUs and such make up a processor, and forget about the ALUs.
posted by smackfu at 8:19 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Between that Enterprise replica and all that circuitry stuff, I'm suddenly not quite so proud of my treetop promenade.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:23 AM on September 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


Can we flag entire minecraft threads as "will suck every moment of free and not so free time from your very essence?"
posted by MysticMCJ at 8:42 AM on September 30, 2010


Minecraft post frequency is increasing at an exponential rate.

And, disturbingly, Dwarf Fortress post frequency is declining.

There's a new(ish) version of Dwarf Fortress out. Run out and get it! In addition to there now being a use for soap, there is also eyelid damage now. For each eye.
posted by Sukiari at 8:47 AM on September 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


In addition to there now being a use for soap, there is also eyelid damage now. For each eye.

Oh sweet, have they taken a moment in between soaping and eyelidding to make a user interface that isn't the shittiest thing since shit came to Shit-Town? No? Ohhh...
posted by FatherDagon at 8:53 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


The user interface, I think, is deliberately baffling and confusing, in order to increase the perceived eliteness of the players among themselves.

Hell, if a person manages to merely get a fortress that has enough beer to go around, they have proved their nerdly puissance to my satisfaction.
posted by Sukiari at 9:12 AM on September 30, 2010


Kinda new to minecraft here.

I can't get the audio on the video right now, does it explain how this was actually built? I see he used an external program to draw up the schematic, but did he actually mine and place all the necessary blocks by hand? How did he get the schematic into minecraft to show where to lay everything? It shows him playing alpha; how'd he keep the green exploding dudes from mucking it up?

Or is there a minecraft level-creator out there that you can just plop things wholesale into MC with?
posted by mrgoat at 9:19 AM on September 30, 2010


He designed it in the Redstone Simulator and used MCEdit to create it.
posted by griphus at 9:24 AM on September 30, 2010


Ah, that explains it, thanks. Of course, that does nothing to diminish how awesome this is, especially when I compare it to my own Minecraft achievements. (I tried to keep a duck as a pet. It escaped.)
posted by mrgoat at 10:08 AM on September 30, 2010


mrgoat: "Ah, that explains it, thanks. Of course, that does nothing to diminish how awesome this is, especially when I compare it to my own Minecraft achievements. (I tried to keep a duck as a pet. It escaped.)"

Given a world and no goals; I initially tried to farm the cows and pigs (and chicken/ducks) with no success. Then I discovered mobile barbecue; build lava pits near the animal spawn points and just keep visiting them int he morning; before long I discovered I was farming, without having to build fences or walls.
posted by NiteMayr at 10:12 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


The user interface, I think, is deliberately baffling and confusing, in order to increase the perceived eliteness of the players among themselves.

Nah, it's more that Notch is better at creating an awesome crazy world than he is at refining user interfaces. Or, at least, that he's more interested in or excited about the implementation of the fun bits of the former bit than the fiddly bits of the latter. I look forward to the interface (and the in-game learning curve stuff) improving a bit more so it'll be more accessible to brand new players, but in the mean time the Minecraft Wiki is a good and steadily improving resource.
posted by cortex at 10:16 AM on September 30, 2010


cortex: Nah, it's more that Notch is better at creating an awesome crazy world than he is at refining user interfaces...

I'm pretty sure that post was referring to Dwarf Fortress.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:21 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Heh, whoops. I stand by my assessment of Notch and Minecraft but, yeah, I understand the comment better now. DF is far more opaque; the interface for MC needs work but it's not remotely as mindbending to acclimate to.
posted by cortex at 10:23 AM on September 30, 2010


the interface for MC needs work

Really? What are you thinking of? It seems quite simple and elegant to me. About the only thing I can think of would be a key that lets you drop an entire stack of something from your inventory instead of having to drag it off the edge of the inventory screen. Or maybe a few crafting hotkeys. Other than that the interface seems quite good.
posted by straight at 10:39 AM on September 30, 2010


Really? What are you thinking of? It seems quite simple and elegant to me.

It would be nice to have optional mouseovers that identify blocks in your inventory. The simplistic graphics have a certain charm (and make performance under Java bearable, I'll bet), but a new player may not intuitively realize the difference between coal and flint or what gravel is (and thus why it falls down when undermined when other blocks don't).

Also, some people seem to have trouble understanding that a hoe is a hoe and not an axe or a one-sided pick. I've seen videos of people mining away with hoes, so it's a not uncommon problem.
posted by jedicus at 10:45 AM on September 30, 2010


What jedicus said. Mouseover info would be huge. Really, any kind of orientation for a new player whatsoever—Notch has talked about e.g. a recipe crafting tree that new folks could work through, which would be a far, far better solution than the current "if you even know that crafting is possible, go look at the wiki for information if it's responding to web requests, otherwise just bang on rocks with your bare hands forever until you get bored and quit".

Better inventory management when dealing with containers would make earthmoving projects in particular less tedious, as well. The chat interface right now is conspicuously primitive for a multiplayer game. Other little things. Like I said, needs work. Not horrid, certainly nothing that's stopping me from enjoying the hell out of it.
posted by cortex at 10:57 AM on September 30, 2010


It's almost like he rolled back gaming to the days when we were playing muds on telnet sessions and decided to start over from scratch in a new direction.

WoW etc have been doing Mud + polygons for so long that I think everyone forgot that there might be other foundations to build compelling gameplay experiences on. I think in another 2-3 years, we'll be seeing big budget minecraft clones in droves.
posted by empath at 11:14 AM on September 30, 2010


I see. I guess I'd consider most of what jedicus and cortex list as documentation or tutorial issues rather than the interface. Once you've learned to play the game, tool tips would just be clutter. I assume you're not having ongoing problems distinguishing hoes and axes?

But the container thing is a good idea. If you could select 12 things in your inventory and move them all into a chest at once, that would be a big improvement.
posted by straight at 11:49 AM on September 30, 2010


Once you've learned to play the game, tool tips would just be clutter.

Presumably there'd be an option to turn them off. Or even have them off by default. Or maybe a one-time popup when you start the game that asks "Are you new to the game? Would you like tooltips?" Something like that.
posted by jedicus at 11:57 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Crafting is a bit of an issue. I assume that the original idea would be you;d experiment and make new discoveries and that process of discovery would be part of the game... the actuality is that without the wiki or a video tutorial to get you started you are screwed.
posted by Artw at 11:59 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I loved the feeling of experimentation and discovery, but that only extended so far. After a couple of days I was looking things up on the wiki due to having no idea what an icon was, or no amount of messing with something giving a result. A bit of transparency with the most needed and common things would definitely be useful early on. Thankfully Notch totally agrees, and that will be remedied by the time the game is finished.

I'm not certain what the best way to solve the issue would be overall. Obviously, the thrill of discovery is awesome. There are, however, some things that I could never possibly hope to just stumble across making. I think that a system for teaching you the most basic things would be a good start. The rest could be left as now, with rarely found (drops? dungeon chests?) recipes teaching you things from time to time. I'd much prefer that way of doing things, because I'd know that with continued exploring and playing the game I'd eventually learn to make new things. Things that currently I wouldn't know exist or ever figure out how to make without the wiki. Leave the thrill of discovery in, remove the frustration and feeling that you're missing a big chunk of the game.

Also, secret friday updates could stay secret (to me), and I'd be content knowing that I'd eventually find out about anything new slipped in.
posted by Stunt at 12:08 PM on September 30, 2010


I built a hole in the ground. Not quite the same, huh?
posted by inigo2 at 12:19 PM on September 30, 2010


NOTE: WHAT FOLLOWS IS THE JADED PERSPECTIVE OF ONE USED TO PLAYING WONDROUS GAMES. DON'T LET ME TELL YOU NOT TO ENJOY SOMETHING. YOU MIGHT GET WHERE I AM EVENTUALLY, UNTIL YOU DO ENJOY THE TRIP.

I played Minecraft during the free weekend and, while it certainly has some great ideas, I wasn't really as taken with it as everyone else seems to be.

What I liked: the infinite world, the construction aspects, the resource management, how treetops "decay" when you remove the wood from inside them, the day/night cycle imposing periodic, predictable times of danger, the ability to get lost, the resource management, finding a hole in the ground that turns out to be a huge, awesome cave extending out to forever, the voxel-like graphics, the variety of things, water (rather cool how it flows), and the excellent terrain builder.

What I didn't like: the "tech tree" which is hugely dependent on either FAQs or trial and error to find anything useful (clicking around a crafting box over and over hoping to stumble upon something cool really isn't fun; finding something cool, when it happens, is fun), the fact that there isn't much reason to explore those awesome caves, the UI (took me almost an hour to find out you had to HOLD the mouse button to break down a block, that repeated clicking appears to do something but really doesn't), Redstone (it's rather an arbitrary inclusion isn't it?), water (the coolness of the flow extends only until one discovers how fakey it is), and how the game doesn't really expose greater layers of depth as you explore, build and create (other than the bow, you abilities never really improve beyond having armor and more durable weapons).

What I would suggest: focus on more things like plant growth and decay, that's really interesting. More things like that, please; crystals growing underground, vines covering mountainsides, man-eating plants, coral forests in the water. Don't limit this to simulating natural processes. Maybe give the monsters some priorities other than killing the player, like maybe killing animals, smashing constructions, stealing stuff. Maybe add some neutral monsters with other priorities than wandering around looking tasty. Add more monsters too; there really aren't that many. Add in some useful items that can be found, instead of having to make them all; Minecraft has all this wonderful space to explore but little reason to explore it other than resource gaining. More types of liquids. Redstone seems arbitrary in its use as a circuit component, but the idea of hard-to-find minerals is a good one.
posted by JHarris at 12:44 PM on September 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


the fact that there isn't much reason to explore those awesome caves

There's a very good reason to explore caves. Natural caves expose an enormous surface area, thus making it comparatively easy to find mineral veins. Since wear and tear on your equipment is a significant issue, in my experience it's much better to explore a cave than to dig out mile-long shafts yourself. It's also considerably less monotonous.

Pretty much all the rest of your points are well taken, though.
posted by jedicus at 1:08 PM on September 30, 2010


I think everyone agrees that minecraft could be better, including notch. It's just an amazing platform to build on. Probably the most important game in terms of creating a new genre since Grand Theft Auto 3.
posted by empath at 1:17 PM on September 30, 2010


Though a part of me wants to take Dwarf Fortress out of the Rogue-Like genre and somehow fit it into the same genre as minecraft.
posted by empath at 1:18 PM on September 30, 2010


Dwarf Fortress is not a roguelike. It has a roguelike mode, but the main game, the one everyone things of as being "Dwarf Fortress," only looks like a roguelike. It's really a management simulation.
posted by JHarris at 2:04 PM on September 30, 2010


There's a very good reason to explore caves. Natural caves expose an enormous surface area, thus making it comparatively easy to find mineral veins. Since wear and tear on your equipment is a significant issue, in my experience it's much better to explore a cave than to dig out mile-long shafts yourself. It's also considerably less monotonous.

But that's not something you can only get from caves. Caves, with their great risk of getting lost, of being overrun by monsters, of finding dragons, aren't really worth it (by what I know) unless you're looking for Redstone, and that's kind of a weak justification. Wear and tear would be more of an issue if making a replacement weren't relatively simple.

What I'm really complaining about is that there's no reason to explore caves. There should be all kinds of awesome stuff down there. I suspect that there will be eventually, in fact; just not at the moment.
posted by JHarris at 2:17 PM on September 30, 2010


Redstone (it's rather an arbitrary inclusion isn't it?)

You shadduppa you face! Redstone is awesome, partly because it's such a you-don't-have-to thing. I think that especially once there's a couple more moving parts that can be powered/controlled by redstone circuits there's gonna be a lot of practical engineering uses for the stuff. No one's fort needs a 4-bit adder, certainly, but gimme a powered drawbridge or retractable torches or a lava floodgate or or or...

water (the coolness of the flow extends only until one discovers how fakey it is)

On that we agree. I long for slightly more robust water physics.

crystals growing underground, vines covering mountainsides

A semi-transparent mineable crystal would be a fun alternative to smelting glass and would definitely open up the expressive range of lighting a bit. Vines on mountainsides would also be nice—Notch has mentioned the possibility of mossy cobblestones eventually having the same viral nature as grass, which might be a nice way to address that.

All in all, I agree with the notion that having some more depth to the world and direct incentive for exploring would be good. I think it'll happen. For now I'm enjoying what does exist enough that I don't really mind one way or the other that that hasn't happened yet, but at the same time I can see Minecraft getting to this sort of crest of memehood where more and more when people come to it for the first time now they're going to (a) maybe not be the core self-selecting ideal audience of the game and (b) they're going to have been hyped by its current players and fans to the point of maybe feeling like "really, this is what you won't shut up about?"

I'm really interested to see where it is in three months, six months, a year. There is so much potential here.
posted by cortex at 2:26 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, redstone nothin'. (Budding Minecraft EEs' materiel needs notwithstanding.) You're down there looking for diamonds, to make awesome tools with so that you can do a whole lot of work above-ground without constantly chewing through picks and shovels and so on.

Or you're looking for obsidian because you want to make something awesome and black and shiny and you have the patience of Job.

But agreed: at the moment you go caving because (a) you need supplies for more caving or (b) you just like digging shiny shit out of procedurally generated walls or (c) you enjoy the natural crawl through spooky monsterfilled environments for it's own sake. The first hints at grind, the second is a question of what sort of Solitaire you prefer, and the third is a subjective sort of thing that doesn't work for a lot of people.

Tacking on a (d) and (e) and (f) to that list would certainly round the experience out a bit and offer more breadth of allure to players.
posted by cortex at 2:30 PM on September 30, 2010


I might be alone on this, but I go caving because I love the feeling of placing torches, turning dark, monster-filled caves into safe, well-lit places where you could theoretically have a dinner party. This act is so weirdly compelling that I don't really need another reason.
posted by IjonTichy at 3:31 PM on September 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


Crafting hints or something similar would be great. I finally discovered how to make stair blocks last night. After making two long dual block/step arrangements to get to the bottom of the world to go mining. I had somehow missed them everytime I looked at the wiki.

Also a tip on how to NOT get them sideways would be super.
posted by Big_B at 3:39 PM on September 30, 2010


You shadduppa you face!

Heh, Redstone isn't bad but it's rather... extra. I think there needs to be a little more core there.

What's weird is, while fighting monsters is nice, I'm not sure it has to be combat. Maybe a food requirement, so it's not enough to hunt animals just to heal up, that you have to do it even if there's no monsters around. That could be implemented as simply as long, slow natural health loss (maybe a heart a day). Alternatively, period monster hordes (maybe once a game month?) could liven up aboveground exploring. I'm reluctant to suggest that, however, until the player has better ability to defend himself.

The thing about tool durability is that it's not that hard to just make more. The need for better tools to mine the hardest minerals is nice, but again... Redstone.

Big_B: You need to look into making ladders. Making stair blocks the right orientation shouldn't be hard, you just gotta make sure the game can't get confused as to which direction they should go. When making stairs, just make sure there's only one higher block adjacent to the stair.
posted by JHarris at 3:54 PM on September 30, 2010


JHarris, that's one of the more cogent critiques of Minecraft I've seen. I completely agree with everything you said. But, at the same time, it's worth pointing out that the developer wasn't ready for all the attention yet -- HE doesn't think it's done, he just released early to get money to eat with while he worked on the game. And he's been badly distracted by its runaway success and all the problems that's creating for him.

I saw a claim yesterday that, last week, Minecraft outsold Starcraft II. I envy his problems, having people throwing money at him faster than he can deal with, but they are indeed problems, and I wouldn't expect too much more from Minecraft for another month or two until he gets some fires put out.

I think he intended it as a fun little hobby/niche game with slow and steady development, but the world has other ideas. Under the circumstances, I find it hard to criticize the game for what it doesn't have. It is, after all, still just an alpha. And it's only 10 Euros.
posted by Malor at 4:00 PM on September 30, 2010


Wait, dragons?
posted by Artw at 4:02 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, and: YES, the game desperately needs tooltips. That one thing would improve its accessibility enormously. Double tooltips, where you get just the name on first mouseover, and then a longer explanation after a couple of seconds, would be perfect. Something like: "Shovel" turning into "Use shovels to remove dirt, gravel, and sand quickly. Also works on snow." And "Hoe" turning into "Hoes are for farming; right-click on dirt blocks to prepare them to take seeds." With hoes, a third timed tooltip would be nice: "Don't use hoes to dig with, use pickaxes or shovels instead."
posted by Malor at 4:06 PM on September 30, 2010


I think every game designer in the world is playing the "Man, I should program a Minecraft-clone, but better" game right now.

Notch better get off his ass and hire some developers pronto, or he's going to get passed by.

Hell, I barely know how to program, and I'm reading up on stackless python to see what all would be involved in coding a massively parallel version of the server.
posted by empath at 4:32 PM on September 30, 2010


Intellectually I understand that this is amazing, but I couldn't help wishing that his processor would suddenly catch fire, or he would be suddenly blindsided by a zombie or something. I've learned to expect certain things from MineCraft videos.

(I did notice the way he casually began brutalizing a pig as he explained the inner workings of the ALU.)
posted by No-sword at 4:35 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Artw: I was reading the wiki and it turns out that yes, there are dragons in the game as rare underground monsters. Not sure if they're in the current version though.
posted by JHarris at 4:42 PM on September 30, 2010


What empath, what does stackless Python (which is, admittedly, sweet) have to do with it?
posted by JHarris at 4:43 PM on September 30, 2010


I would like to point out that sometimes in the caves you find items which are not craftable and can be found no where else. That is all.
posted by cyphill at 4:46 PM on September 30, 2010


What empath, what does stackless Python (which is, admittedly, sweet) have to do with it?

I really meant just doing a minecraft clone. The same kind of 3D cellular automata-like system, the same idea with chunking, terrain generation etc. Just not in java, and in a language that would let you do a One World, Massively Parallel version of it. (That is, maybe there a bunch of servers, but they're all connected into one giant planet with different continents).

Imagine Minecraft on the scale of Eve. I want cities and nations, not villages.
posted by empath at 4:56 PM on September 30, 2010


The user interface, I think, is deliberately baffling and confusing, in order to increase the perceived eliteness of the players among themselves.

Nah, it's more that Notch is better at creating an awesome crazy world than he is at refining user interfaces. Or, at least, that he's more interested in or excited about the implementation of the fun bits of the former bit than the fiddly bits of the latter. I look forward to the interface (and the in-game learning curve stuff) improving a bit more so it'll be more accessible to brand new players, but in the mean time the Minecraft Wiki is a good and steadily improving resource.


I'm pretty sure that post was referring to Dwarf Fortress.


Yeah, I was referring to Dwarf Fortress. If you think the interface to Minecraft is difficult, well, hand in your internet passport and all geek credentials, please.
posted by Sukiari at 4:57 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't say it's difficult, but it lacks a certain discoverability.
posted by Artw at 4:58 PM on September 30, 2010


I would like to point out that sometimes in the caves you find items which are not craftable and can be found no where else. That is all.

I missed seeing anything about this on the wiki. Have more information?
posted by JHarris at 5:01 PM on September 30, 2010


There are "treasure rooms", smallish rectangular prefab units of cobblestone with mossy cobblestone flooring, containing one or two chests with items inside as well as, notably, a monster spawner that will keep generating new monsters at a steady clip until such time as you light the place adequately (monsters naturally spawn in dark places, a spawner just induces this spawn effect aggressively, so if you eliminate nearby dark places, it goes inert) or beat the spawner to death.

Mossy cobblestone, like some of the items that can appear in chests (notably: pig saddles), only appears in these special rooms. The rooms are spawned at random below sea level.
posted by cortex at 5:08 PM on September 30, 2010


I've yet to see a monster spawner.

I did recently wall off my plot of land and liberally dot it with lights, which seems to have cut monster attacks down considerably, though I think there must be some dark corner of the mines below that is unlit because I still see the buggers there.

Oh, and for a while monsters would spawn on top of my wall, until I put lights up there as well. Not much fun when it's a skeleton archer.
posted by Artw at 5:14 PM on September 30, 2010


No dragons, yet. Something that notch has talked about wanting to do though, so I maintain hope that some day I'll break into a massive underground chamber, and then flee screaming. On fire.
posted by Stunt at 5:50 PM on September 30, 2010


I found a record in a chest inside a monster-spawn room a couple days ago. I guess I have to make a jukebox to play it, but I haven't done that yet.
posted by Malor at 5:51 PM on September 30, 2010


Oh man, first time I was in a cave and encountered a mob spawner it freaked me out quite badly. TONS OF SPIDERS. But I got a saddle. I didn't think to try it out on anything but cows. Pigs are sort of counterintuitive.

Now I stick to my original, monster free cave but I've got some armor and it's time to find a zombie spawner because I saw this sweet feather factory that involves water and constantly dying (drowning? can they drown?) zombies.
posted by Mister Cheese at 5:58 PM on September 30, 2010


I have yet to read the wiki, because of the spoilers.
posted by swift at 6:09 PM on September 30, 2010


Oh, if only...
posted by Gator at 6:47 PM on September 30, 2010


Does anyone else think it weird that a game has made as much money as DOOM but 15 years after DOOM and with the same graphics as DOOM?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:52 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's what this game is missing: The BFG 9000.
posted by Gator at 8:03 PM on September 30, 2010


Does anyone else think it weird that a game has made as much money as DOOM but 15 years after DOOM and with the same graphics as DOOM?

No. Only a shallow person with no special insight into what it is that makes games worth playing at all would think that.
posted by JHarris at 8:22 PM on September 30, 2010


Oh, you're just feeling touchy because Nethack hasn't made any money off coming out 39 years after Scrabble and using the same graphics.
posted by cortex at 8:33 PM on September 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


Okay, that is impressive. But I had to stop it the video half way through. I can't stand to listen to it. I'm a total arsehole who keeps visualizing the creator as the comic book guy.
posted by Jimbob at 8:52 PM on September 30, 2010


I go caving because I love the feeling of placing torches, turning dark, monster-filled caves into safe, well-lit places where you could theoretically have a dinner party.

I too am a fan of spelunkrification. Or gentrifrilunking. I sort of feel bad that I'm not playing the game to it's full potential - and still feel guilty about going to wiki fairly often, but at the same time, it's that sandbox/imprinting your own style onto the game that's so addicting to me. I think I'm going to try and build a large Homer Simpson head this weekend.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:05 AM on October 1, 2010


I'm a total arsehole who keeps visualizing the creator as the comic book guy.

No shame in that, I was thinking the same thing. If I were to ever record a video like this, I would hire a voice actor.

Yes, I am that self conscious.
posted by Think_Long at 6:37 AM on October 1, 2010


One of his comments on the reddit page where this was announced is basically "hey, you'll probably recognize me on campus, I have a bit of a...distinctive voice".
posted by inigo2 at 7:01 AM on October 1, 2010


On that we agree. I long for slightly more robust water physics.

Amen to that. I went to build myself a cool underwater fort/grow-op yesterday, and figured I'd do it the easy way: extrude a huge solid structure up from the bottom of the ocean to the surface, then dig down, leaving the walls intact as a drydock, and build the thing up with glass to ~10 meters below sea level, then tear down the outer walls between the top of the glass structure and the water's surface to flood the whole thing out. It, um, didn't go as well as expected. WTF, hydrostatic pressure?
posted by Mayor West at 7:56 AM on October 1, 2010


Sadly, I think improved water physics is one thing that Notch has said upfront that he won't really be working on, at least not anytime soon.
posted by inigo2 at 10:13 AM on October 1, 2010


The problem is that simulating water is really hard, and he's working in Java and doesn't have that much processing time to spend on it. Dwarf Fortress does a better job with water, but it slows the system down a whole bunch when there's a lot going on, and it has weird problems too. So Minecraft just fudges, mostly.

To fix that hole in the water, what you're gonna have to do is fill it all in with solid blocks to 1 below the waterline, and then use buckets to scoop water from several spaces away in the ocean. That will make 1-space holes in the ocean, but they'll fill in and turn back into water sources as long as they're surrounded by either still water or dirt/stone. That means you can scoop the same hole repeatedly if you wait a couple seconds between scoops, until the water fills in and goes still.

Then you'll have to fill in most of the top layer of water -- you'll probably only need to put water sources down on every other square. Once you get to the second row, the "empty" spots in the prior row should start to fill in. Once you've gotten that whole first layer back to smooth water, you'll have to dig out each layer and fill it. I'm not sure what the fill rules are underwater -- to avoid weird currents, you may end up having to put water sources in every square. It may also fill in and go smooth -- I haven't experimented with it. Either way, you can gradually dig back down to your skylight, either manually filling holes or letting the engine do it, depending on how it reacts.

A nice tip on water sources: if you dig out a 2x2 hole, 1 square deep, and put water sources in both corners, the whole 2x2 square will go smooth, meaning all four squares are water sources. This lets you repeatedly dip out new water sources -- the hole will promptly refill and go smooth, letting you dip from it again. This means that you can get infinite sources out of one 2x2 square, once you put 2 sources in it to begin with.
posted by Malor at 10:42 PM on October 1, 2010


Hurm, I must have done that wrong (2x2x1, water sources in opposite corners) because I didn't get any smoothness and actually ended up losing a source.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:23 PM on October 1, 2010


I think the hole has to be on dirt or stone. Water acts differently on at least glass.
posted by Malor at 12:27 AM on October 2, 2010


Apologies if you've already seen this: Boo! Coming October 31!
posted by Artw at 11:37 AM on October 4, 2010


Oh boy. Oh boyoboyoboy.
posted by Gator at 11:59 AM on October 4, 2010


I've had a few hilarious moments with water. Try accidently pouring your bucket out in your home or in your mine. Good times.

This is also why I don't carry around lava anymore.
posted by Big_B at 12:20 PM on October 5, 2010


Game of Life
posted by empath at 7:59 PM on October 5, 2010


The all time best minecraft vid.
posted by digitalprimate at 6:16 PM on October 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Minecraft Interstate
posted by Artw at 3:14 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


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