8 October 2012

Minecraft Monday #7: New Platform, New County!

Minecraft Monday is a feature on Hyp/Arc that documents playthroughs of the hit indie game Minecraft, as well as discussing news and updates regarding the game and the cult phenomenon surrounding it.

Previously on Minecraft Monday, we left behind the Little Town of Remedy in Alexander County and went on a summer hiatus. Now, Minecraft Monday is back - I'm here to show you guys around Kentigern County, my Minecraft world for the Xbox 360 platform!

Since May this year - when Mojang and 4J Studios released a version of the hit indie game Minecraft onto the Xbox 360 platform - I've been building a new Minecraft world called Kentigern County. Since it's on the console version of Minecraft rather than the PC, Kentigern County is a lot smaller than Alexander County, and it's lacking a lot of features since the Xbox 360 version is a fair few builds behind the PC version. One of the things I've been missing most is villages - as you might expect, given that my previous playthrough of Minecraft focused exclusively on my escapades building and living in a village called Remedy.

I adore the villages in Minecraft - any kind of structure, in fact, such as the abandoned mineshafts, strongholds, Nether Fortresses, Desert Temples and Jungle Temples that have been added into the recent PC updates. I play on single player a lot of the time, so for me, stumbling across a village in the middle of nowhere, or spotting the wooden arches of an abandoned mineshaft from the top of a ravine are little hints of a greater narrative - they suggest that I'm not the first person to have explored, and built, and destroyed, that there were people (if not whole societies, whole civilisations) before I appeared in the now-empty world. It infuses the world with so much more significance and storytelling potential when you're crafting your very first wood-and-earth hut on top of a vast underground network of railways, or when you're traversing a vast desert plateau and spot the silhouette of a temple offering shelter just before nightfall.

Of course, the idea that there were people before us in the Minecraft world isn't true: all of the structures in the game are pre-generated by the game itself. It doesn't need to be true, though: that's the beauty of fiction. We need only act like the stories we're telling are true, and a world of significance opens up to us. Narrative magick.

As I mentioned, villages don't appear in the Xbox version as of yet. However, since the appearance of villages is due in the next Minecraft update, I figured it was high time to show off my alternative before it was rendered obsolete:

Welcome to Western Rise, the first village of Kentigern County.

Western Rise

Western Rise started as a little hut at the far end of a bridge I'd built, connecting the mainland to my base, which was a little ways out to sea (where zombies, spiders, skeletons and creepers were unlikely to spawn and murder me in my sleep). From there, it slowly expanded into a hamlet of twelve-or-so houses.

Most of Western Rise was built roughly in line with the dimensions of the various elements of villages in the PC edition of Minecraft - predominantly 3x3 sized walls, a roof one step higher, roads three blocks wide and made of gravel, and so on. I added a little bit more flair here and there, but the result is still recognisable as your typical Minecraft village.

Western Rise boasts a lot of quaint wee structures, like the Western Rise Spa, which is a series of pools spread across two floors with a waterfall connecting them.

The Upsault is docked at the pier down the road from the spa, where Western Rise's sole pub, Upsault's Rest, gets its name.

There's a Fisherman's Pier for catching fish nearby, complete with a chest for fishing rods and the ever-elusive catch-of-the-day (seriously, fish seem to avoid me when I'm fishing - then again, I don't suppose being pulled out of the ocean and shoved in a box for the remainder of your days is a particularly alluring prospect).

The Western Rise Mining Commission is the main safehouse and storeplace for the materials found in the sprawling caves underneath Western Rise - safety's paramount, with iron doors to prevent enemies getting in and glass panelling to make sure workers aren't ambushed as soon as they step into the mine.

Some of the houses of Western Rise have a trapdoor in the floor, which you can stand at the top of with a bucket to collect water - that's because there's a rudimentary Sewer System running underneath the southern part of the village - It's entirely possible to move through Western Rise using just the drain tunnels as well. I've found there's something immensely satisfying about building subterranean tunnels for water, which is probably just my love of urban exploration manifesting in the game.

Whistler Bluffs

The Whistler Bluffs lie further into the western hills, and it's not a very densely populated area. It's split into two zones - north and south - by a pretty hefty hill, but there's a passage through the hill that links the two up. There're also roads in from Western Rise.

This is the Northern district of Whistler Bluffs; it's the newest area in Kentigern County.

In fact, it's so new the only thing of note in the Northern District is the Agartha Lodge, an innocuous-looking structure that hides a secret....

...It leads a long, long way down...

...all the way to Agartha. Agartha was initially just an experiment to see if it was possible to use sunlight passing through that glass tower up in the pool above to give saplings planted in the bedrock enough energy to grow - and, in fact, it does! So far, the four trees of the experiment are the only things in Agartha. Like I said, it's pretty new.

In the Southern district of Whistler Bluffs is the Palais, visible from the outside as architectural structures such as doors and windows built into a mountain.

The Palais itself is a medium-sized complex made up of 3x3x3 rooms, with walls that can be knocked down and moved about to create a modular living space.

Pelagia Plaza

There's a long bridge that takes one out of Western Rise and over the sea, to Pelagia Plaza, my main hub of operations. It's accessible only by the bridges - there's one going in each direction until it meets land - and the water column in the centre, making it effectively undead- and spider-proof (I detest spiders).

Pelagia House is the main structure on the plaza - the lower floor contains chests filled with resources sorted by type, and upstairs is a bedroom and viewing platform to check out the panoramic sight of Western Rise.

Pelagia Plaza also has a dedicated Smithy filled with furnaces that allow folk to smelt different materials concurrently - the nearby dispensers have enough coal and lava buckets for any job.

Beside the Smithy is the Pelagia Farm - entirely unrelated to the one from Skyrim, coincidentally named the same thing - where wheat and sugarcane grows and chests are provided to store them (alongside seeds and farming equipment).

There's also a cheeky wee Office in Pelagia Plaza, for no other reason than I wanted an office.

The last building in Pelagia Plaza is the Atlas House. Inside is a board that shows the names of the different areas of Kentigern County, which can be cross-checked with the in-game map. Not all of the areas of Kentigern County have yet been named - only those with significant structures and habitations in them.

Pelagia Plaza has a secret. The unmistakable sound of spider-hiss and zombie-moan is present as you enter Pelagia Plaza from the Water Column in the middle of the area, though no zombies or spiders can be seen. This is because of the Forbidden Cloister, which is accessible if you simply drop down through the water column.

This leads to the head of the cloister, a dark room with a water column leading down into the ruins of my old base of operations. I'd decided living under the surface wasn't very handy, so I TNT'd the place - and bear in mind, this went all the way down to the bedrock, with rooms and passageways being cut into the stone. It's pitch-black in the Forbidden Cloister, and there's enough space for zombies, skeletons, spiders and creepers to kill you within seconds of you drifting down into the vaults below the sea.


To the east of Pelagia Plaza, situated smack-bang in the middle of the map, is Wolfshead, which is made up of two main parts: in the north is the Wolfshead Trade Centre, identifiable by a massive tower that reaches the sky (and also allows access to the deepest depths of the world, too - it's entirely possible to jump from the top of the tower and hit the bedrock at the bottom without stopping). In the south is Wolfshead Plateau, a massive sheet of ice, shaped somewhat like a wolf's head, giving the area its name.

Access to the Wolfshead Trade Centre is fairly controlled - the only way in is through a set of iron doors in the main lobby. There's a pretty good reason for this - it's where the majority of Kentigern County's resources are kept, from stockpiles of gravel for paving streets to caches of diamonds used for improved mining equipment. Coal, Iron, Gold, Redstone - even Dandelions and Roses - are all kept in a massive bunker vault underneath the ground, safely away from any monsters with a penchant for detonating and taking much of their surroundings with them.

Near the Trade Centre is the Wolfshead Beach, where two beach-houses stand, replete with parasols and sun-loungers.

The Wolfshead Plateau is separated from the Trade Centre by the bridge that leads back to Pelagia Plaza - there's also a small pier that provides boats access to Port Antarah, east across the ocean.

The most distinctive part of Wolfshead Plateau is the Obsidian Stone Circle, a ring of monoliths made out of obsidian. There's even a doorway to the Nether here - through the arch that sits at (0,0), (0,1) - the centre of the entire county.

The Nether

Walking into the Nether from the Obsidian Stone Circle brings you to Nethercross, a cobblestone platform in the centre of the Nether, with bridges that lead all the way to the bedrock at each compass point of the hellish dimension.

Each bridge clearly states its destination...

...and at the terminus of each bridge is a Nether portal that takes the adventurer back to Kentigern County, albeit at the very edge of the archipelago. There's one portal at each compass point of the map, just as in the Nether - and often in an innocuous-looking building, like Netherhall at the northernmost central point of the map here.

Port Antarah

Even Port Antarah, in the far eastern part of Kentigern County, is connected up to Nethercross, albeit through a long pier that leads out to sea.

Port Antarah is Western Rise's younger sibling - it's as big as Western Rise is, but it hasn't been around as long.

In fact, initially, the only thing at Port Antarah was the Burj Antarah - a wooden monument that towered over the desert area.

Over time, small houses popped up, primarily made of sandstone and cobblestone, since they were the most abundant material, and were appropriate for such a small settlement - however, these quickly became difficult to source without ripping up most of the surrounding environment.

The solution was to adopt the wood-and-cobblestone building style that was used in Western Rise, which led to a distinct dichotomy of building styles in Port Antarah, and later split the town in two - the New District, with the Western style buildings, and the Historic District, with its sandstone structures. Interestingly, I'd initially started on Port Antarah wanting to turn it into something like Dubai, only without the horrendous human rights abuses - in a sense, that's just what I got, with ramshackle housing every bit as ubiquitous as more grandiose structures.

Port Antarah also had the first Mason's Lodge in Kentigern County, which seemed just like a wee pub...

...but which provided secret access to an area called The Crypt, an empty cavern with a roof of sandstone - in fact, while walking around Port Antarah, there's usually only two blocks of matter below your feet - whatever your standing on, the sandstone holding it up, then nothing but the crypt below you. All it would take would be for one creeper to explode to cause part of the village to literally collapse into the crypt.

The Rest of Kentigern County

There's a lot of other little tidbits scattered throughout Kentigern County I built just to give the place a wee bit more mystique. There's nothing like coming back to an area you haven't been to since you started only to (re-)discover you built a cache of iron there or something, after all.

Spread throughout the world are little Wayhouses, which are pretty simple affairs - no windows, just wood. They're usually situated in places that creepers, zombies, spiders and skeletons can't get into, so you can safely throw a bed in it and go to sleep there. It's a welcome comfort, especially when it's pitch-black, raining, there are spiders hissing all around you and you want to go home.

There're also little Camps dotted about, usually above a major mine that I'm in the process of excavating. I tend not to go through mines and grab all the resources at once - it's more a case of grabbing any iron I see while checking how far down it goes and setting up a system so I can find my way through it next time. Some mines don't ever get revisited, but it's nice when you're exploring to see the light of a campfire up ahead - it makes the world feel less empty, I guess.


Sometime within the next week or so, Build 1.8.2 of the Xbox 360 version of Minecraft will be released, bringing with it villages, strongholds and the like, and given that I've explored all of Kentigern County, I don't think it's likely they'll be popping up in my save file - in essence, this makes this the first and last trip to Kentigern County we'll have up on Hyp/Arc, oddly reminescent of our single trip to Alexander County back in the day. We've kind of come full-circle - a blog post at the nadir of a county, pending a new update.

Still, I think this is a good thing: the next update also brings Creative Mode to the table, which gives a lot more scope for designing and building new structures. I don't know what the next county we'll be visiting will be, but I'm sure that I'll have something cool to show you folks when it arrives. See all y'all soon!

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