I For One Welcome Our New and Old Robot Overlords

Posted by admin on December 6th, 2015 filed in Development, Java
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At James Gosling’s Toy Show at JavaOne 2007, Sun Microsystems showcased the latest hip Java-programmable device, the Wowwee RS Media robot. Attendees were asked to program a little dance for the robot, and the coolest dance would be shown on stage on the final day. Maybe the best ones even got to keep the robot? It’s quite a while ago and I don’t recall the details.

In any case, during the conference, people were queuing with their dancing code to test it on the provided robots. Which of course limped along miserably after a week of hard dancing work, but hey, I can’t dance any better… :-D It sounded like a cool idea, but alas in reality, the demo was less awe-inspiring than expected. There was music. And Robots moved their arms. Out of sync with each other. Meh? Robots just don’t have any sense of rhythm! And you couldn’t program these to have one, for the life of it!

In that year, I was at JavaOne, mostly backstage. If I had been an attendee, I would have chosen the song “Love Don’t Roam No More” by Murray Gold from the Doctor Who soundtrack for this demo. Why? It’s a “crooner” — here a performance by Gary Williams, so you see what I mean:

The tune is electrifying, but at the same time, the performer does not have to dance in rhythm. Of course it would be best if the robot could subly tap or sway, but one can forgive a robot for not having fine-motor skills like that? Just slowly raising a finger up or pushing the open palm down, slowly nodding forward or looking up with the head leaning backwards, slowly turning the upper body from one side to the other looking around, pointing the palm to his chest at the word “I”, or pointing at the audience at the word “You” — any combination of these moves would be enough to pretend to be “dancing” to this song.

In this more recent video, some NAO robots dance Gangnam Style relatively well. But you notice how often the video had to be cut, sped up or slowed down, to make the movement just barely fit the rhythm:

Under Oracle, programmable robots (here another NAO) were recurring guests at JavaOne in recent years. So I still have a chance: Someone in San Franciso, please write a dance routine for “Love Don’t Roam” (the audio version sung by the The Divine Comedy guy) for next JavaOne? :-)

Space Cowboys — How to Get it Right

Posted by admin on November 22nd, 2015 filed in Science Fiction
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“Cowboys in Space? That’s gotta be stupid.” These are often the first thoughts that many (including myself!) had when they heard of the scifi show Firefly. Then I watched the first episode, and got hooked…

People have certain negative assotiations with “cowboy” movies: Lacking depth of characters, old-fashioned stereotypes, heroes we no longer identify with. Firefly is the opposite of that — Whedon truly made it “the best of both worlds”.

If you are curious which aspects of Western and Scifi make up Firefly, watch this short amazing analysis!

Crash Testing Space Engineers’ Planets (Literally)

Posted by admin on October 4th, 2015 filed in Games, Science Fiction, Space
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Check out the current Space Engineers gameplay in the dev build from September 2015!

You’ll see a large player-made ship with a great looking interior and functional components. The game supports modding, which means that players can download the sources and add and share new content! The ship approaches a planet — planets are the new feature that was added. Since this space ship isn’t aerodynamic, some of the decorational pieces and landing gear is “torn to shreds” by the physics simulation. :-o

The player manages to land the ship impressively well with the remaining landing gears, although he forgot to switch off the ship’s gravity generator. :-P After a (ho-hum) minor elevator accident he gets out of the airlock and onto the planet surface. The development version of the planet doesn’t have any content other than soil, grass, trees, and mushrooms, but minable resources will surely be added. (I notice the current version doesn’t have any bodies of water yet, either.)

Since you can’t have a Space Engineers video without “a large explosion that can be seen from space!”, he proceeds to crash the test ship into the test planet… Which looks spectacular and leaves an appropriate crater in the voxel planet. Somehow, the poor astronaut gets catapulted into the air. Next he downloads a cool scifi buggy from the Steam Workshop, and drives around on the planet surface a bit.

If you don’t know Space Engineers yet, the video also shows you how creative building works in the game. All ships and vehicles and space stations in this game are custom-made out of functional components with physical properties! Despite the growing lag (too much debris nearby?), he builds a working Miner, and proceeds to drill straight down into the planet. Nice! Planetary mining works surprisingly well already, the dev build is just lacking ores. Be aware that this game is a physics simulation, so every time your Miner collides with the sides of the cave, it will be damaged, and you have to you repair it — or it falls apart.

This is going to be great, you will be able to build planet-side settlements, supported by orbital factories, military space fleets, and asteroid miners… We can play “king of the hill”, coop, or conquest tournaments in multi-player… Every player can bring in their custom designs and compete to see which one is most robust… :-)

See also the list of Space Engineers features.

Firefly-shiny, not Star Trek-shiny

Posted by admin on June 20th, 2015 filed in Games, Science Fiction, Steampunk
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Support the creation of a Firefly game by downloading a free app on Steam, called the Cortex!

The Cortex is not yet the game itself, the download numbers just show the developers how many people are interested in an upcoming Firefly game. You can also make a donation through this app (which I did) which buys you a unique „big damn hero“ science ship that will be yours to pilot in the finished game. Can I pimp it with anomaly scanners, like the Probe ships in EVE Online, and find more shiny loot in abandonded sites? =-) That would be fun.

The rest of the Cortex app is a news reader that keeps fans informed about the status of the game. Developers post short demo clips, concept art, and 3D renderings, or write about how they work or which gameplay feature they just implemented. You can tell they want to make this personal and convey how hard the devs work for us. I assume it will still take a while for the game to be finished, this is why they want to keep fans interested during the waiting period. It makes a lot of sense, I would do that too, in their place.

You get a brownie point (hur hur) every time you read a new blog entry, watch an actor interview, or recommend the game to a friend, etc. These reward points translate to some in-game currency later, and we will be able to buy… uh, maybe a nice hat? :-) Seriously, once around Christmas, GuildWars2 had „ugly socks“ and „ugly sweaters“ as rewards! A nice woolen hat for my char is not too much to ask for.

The Cortex app already has Firefly’s visual theme down perfectly, a good way to win fans’ hearts, and it shows they mean business. They studied the original series thoroughly, and carefully bottled the essence ;-) of what people liked about Firefly.

Their blogs repeatedly confirm that, yes, characters will be customizable! You will be able to give them that practical rugged retro-futuristic half-spaceman half-cowboy look! Yes, the ships and hardware will look worn and functional! Because we all know, in Firefly’s ’verse, you as the captain would buy an old, used ship and repair it. Ships will have customizable interiors, so you and your crew can feel at home! There will be little bonsais and posters and couches to make your ships’ interior as custom and un-startrek-like as possible. FFO wants to be Firefly-shiny, not Star Trek Online-shiny.

Nothing against STO, I play that too. STO do an equally good job of channeling „that Starfleet feeling“. The two worlds are just for two very different moods.

There is also a „mini-game“ in the Cortex. Well, it’s just an interactive map really, there’s no fighting nor strategy nor logistics. „Find moon A of planet B in system C and click it. Thanks, you get a point for looking at the map.“ Just an “in-game” interactive way to show us the size of the map and introduce us to the names of the planets.

And the music! Even the bit of music in the news reader is very well written and perfectly Firefly-like. Looking forward to more of that in the finished game! I don’t like cowboy music, but I keep Steam open in the background, just to listen to space fiddles and guitars… :-)

The Third Phase of Minecraft Addiction (3)

Posted by admin on June 13th, 2015 filed in Games
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Continued from The Third Phase of Minecraft Addiction (2).



Next FTB candidate: TechWorld2. I skipped this modpack at first because it’s based on a sluggish Minecraft 1.6 with scary chunk loading problems (see spectacularly buggy screenshot), but I am definitely looking for a techy mod now.

TechWorld2 doesn’t drive you through the game via tutorials or quests. Instead you get several manuals, and off you go to do what you want. It’s better because you cannot get stuck in a questline, but on the other hand, you need to figure out the order and dependencies between all technologies yourself (cf FTB wikis).


The randomizer dumped me into a winterland, half snow plains, half show taiga, next to a frozen river leading into an ocean. My first reaction was „Let me reroll that“, but I kept this world. It does look picturesque, and dealing with snow is an interesting challenge. Should be fine, especially since this mod does not have any extreme temperature or hunger management, and only a normal amount of monsters. Well, normal apart from this madly sighing, snowball throwing, scary white Snow Blaze at the bottom of every cave…?! [Update: He’s called Blizz, hah! Brilliant name.]

minecraft blizz snow blaze

My Winterland came with trees and huntable animals, so wood and food are no problem. Near my spawn is one lake that doesn’t freeze over, so I build my farm there. There’s great scary underground mazes, with ores and minerals to mine, many of which only become useful during later stages of the game. I randomly collected and bred some bees and extracted honey from the combs using my first primitive clockwork engine. Yay!
minecraft techworld2 my first machine
Next steps? Analysing bees for targeted breeding doesn’t sound very thrilling, I’m afraid. So first, I’ll craft grout to build an efficient TinkerConstruct’s smeltery. Then I’ll craft bog earth to grow BuildCraft fuel, peat. I’m growing granola—uh, canola seeds that can be turned into fuel. Next, automate the heck out of everything! There are oil lakes, sludge lakes, sewage lakes, and lava lakes that are begging to be piped and ducted.

Also I’ll craft iron armour and a bow and arrows, and hunt down this silly Blizz that stands between me and my precious ores. I will build a proud factory in my native Winterland, out of… whatever it is that Snow Blazes drop! [Update: Heck no, they drop snow balls?! X-) But also Blizz rods!] Okay, maybe I have to set my blast furnace’s surroundings on fire with flint&steel a bit (sic!) to balance out the biome’s low temperature, but apart from that, Winterland is turning out nicely! :-)

When I have enough resources, I’ll build a railroad, and plunder — uh, colonize the neighbouring non-snowy biomes… assuming there are any? o_o [Update: Yup, found jungles, forests, and plains a daytrip away.]

TechWorld2 is simple enough for a beginner, without being completely boring and peaceful, and I already have some ideas what to do next …

The Third Phase of Minecraft Addiction (2)

Posted by admin on June 7th, 2015 filed in Games
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Continued from The Third Phase of Minecraft Addiction (1).



Next attempt: Pathfinder sounds playable! It’s technology- and space-themed, no extreme hunger, and starts out peaceful. You are an explorer in a ship equipped with alien dimensional technology that allows you to craft whole planets! Sounds like the scifi version of MystCraft!

In MystCraft, you put pages in books, here you put „dimlets“ into a „dimensional matrix“ to define properties of the target world. You want a mob-filled world with yellow skies and clay islands in a liquid iron sea? Place those dimlets in the matrix, pack your survivalist generator, dial the teleporter, and there you are.

I admit to cheating and deactivating several features because they annoyed me, including complete darkness and restricted inventory. The game comes with a good tutorial that walks you through the new recipes and gameplay, including energy management. It was easy to travel to the first random planet — a harmless quiet half-plains half-desert world, with trees, some lakes, and zero ravines or caves. Turns out it was so quiet because there were no animals, so I could not continue the plant breeding quest that required a feather/quill. I also could not continue the „dimlets“ creation quest because there was no lapis lazuli.

OK, no big deal, right? Just create a new dimension! But apparently applying my precious „lapis lazuli modifier“ to the „village feature“ is not a legal move, and it was ignored. Also the new dimension turned out permanently dark and I don’t even see the cool night sky I programmed. Oh… is that maybe caused by the “caves” dimlet I used…? “Caves” does not add caves below the ground, but traps me permanently inside large dark cave? Interesting. Luckily the cave was full of animals and villages, and I got my feather, but still no lapis lazuli.

Back at my crops farm planet, I spent a lot of time running around to all alien huts collecting dimlets because I couldn’t craft them. I wanted to automate tree cutting, but it turned out that Pathfinder nerfed the Vanilla tools’ durability (makes sense: to force us to use the mods’ tools). At the same time, it includes Progressive Automation recipes that require the Vanilla tools to be durable… I couldn’t find any way around that issue, and took a break from the game to reconsider my automation plans.



Maybe I should look at something other than scifi, and give magic a try? I picture Regrowth to dump me into a desert, and I will slowly turn it into a blooming oasis?

My world indeed started out in a desert, next to an ocean (yay!) and a little wooden hut (double yay!) with a trading hobgoblin NPC. The hobgoblin disappeared before I could find the trade item he asked for. I used his hut as shelter (and source of wood logs…) while building a large walled and lit „relatively safer“ area. I personally build along natural features, not straight „100×100“ rectangles like the guys on youtube.

I died several times in stupid unexpected fights — someone please remind me that the harmless-looking cat and dog, and tiny enderlike creatures are deadly… I got to a point where I had enough resources to crossbreed a few useful plants, and I could trigger the grow of random flowers and trees. I also found a resource that may be an oil well. The next step in the quest book was to start with plant magic and mana pools.

However, a hard-to-grow white flower that I was supposed to pick kept disappearing, for no apparent reason. Also most of the newly grown plants are (still) useless, and my motivation to waste my time and energy breeding inedible plants is low that early in the game. At least I solved the mystery of the disappearing books, they automatically go into a „binder“ that the quest instructed me to craft, duh.

Next, the quest book tells me to make a mana birdbath, all I need is to breed yet another useless flower… Sigh. I’m taking a break from Regrowth because their quests felt like a boring pointless grind. But I may get back to it later, when I snap out of my „magic is st00pid, scifi rules!“ mood. :-)

The Third Phase of Minecraft Addiction (1)

Posted by admin on May 29th, 2015 filed in Games
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You might have noticed the subtle build-up in my previous posts with me “complaining” that Vanilla Minecraft has become somewhat boring. I already went through the “extreme biomes survival” phase. Obviously, the third phase of minecraft addiction is …

Mod it till it crashes!!

A colleague recommended I download the Feed The Beast client. This free app contains many Minecraft mods that work together, and it’s an installer and launcher for fan-created mod packs: Some modpacks come with fan-written adventure storylines and extensive quests. Other modpacks just dump you in a world with 2386 new machines and recipes, and let you choose your own path.

  • FTB pros: There are many brilliant mods, people worked hard on adding interesting new gameplay. It’s great to see an application’s modular design pay off so nicely! These mods add more monsters, more magic, more train sets, more technology, more decorative stone chiseling, more animal hunting and breeding, more plant farming and cooking… We get fish farms, bee hives, mana pools, ores bushes, portalguns (!), jetpacks (!), engines, and reactors. Woah!
  • FTB cons: Unsurprisingly, there’s a steep learning curve to these new recipes, and how the pieces come together. When several similar mods are installed, it’s not clear whether they are compatible. As a beginner, the first few mod packs that I tried struck me as inconsistent and overloaded. Why are there 10 pipes and none works with that machine? I rage-quit several times :-D because the jumble of new recipes and blocks felt unplayable. I gave each of them several attempts (days of playing) to win my heart. I even watched several Let’s Plays by the biggest fans, but you can hear the frustration in their voices, too.


Crash Landing sounds like a game I want to play. It’s the typical „stuck on alien planet and rebuild from dust“ scenario. I enjoyed watching a dozen Let’s Play episodes for Crashlanding on Youtube. The one player stayed in the shelter and automated gathering water, food, and materials „from nothing“. The other player built a tower and wings, and explored surrounding alien structures, and brought back valuable loot. :-D They stuck to their plan and knew what they were doing — and still died every second episode, in hilarious ways.

But dehydration and heat stroke, diminishing food and hunger management, coupled with Ex Nihilo and a hundred new recipes too learn, plus hardcore deadly monsters — too much for beginners. It’s embarrassing to starve in the shelter while reading the quest book! X-) Okay, I need to try an easier one first. 

Blast Off!

Hm, what about “Blast Off!”? Again, stuck on a desert planet. My quest is to rebuild technology from meteorite crumbs to rejoin civilisation in space. Yesss.

Nope. Not easy for beginners either… How do I leave the bunker?! :-D After restarting a few times, I gave up clicking walls and floors, and watched GOC’s Let’s Play episode for Blast Off. In GOC’s recording, the game looks different, and his version had a trampoline to jump up one floor? Hmmm… Back in my version, pressing the jump key on the marked spot (which I had tried clicking), indeed teleports me to another room. Hurray! Now I can actually play. *sigh*

The second room has hidden exits behind curtains. First step outdoors — eaten by zombies — no loot. Sad face. OK, I need to take this more seriously to beat the game. Blast Off! also requires water and temperature management, but I didn’t even get to the point where I died of that, nor to a point where I could craft or mine anything. This needs some serious preparation!

Blast Off could be an option to play before Crash Landing, but I don’t have in-game time learn all those new recipes… I need to play a simpler mod first where I don’t starve right away. Stay tuned…

Difficult Minecraft Seeds – Extreme Survival!

Posted by admin on April 26th, 2015 filed in Games
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Starting in safe villages and fertile plains in Minecraft makes you yawn? Then you need these Extreme Survival seeds! From day one, they drop you into oceans, abandon you in deserts, lose you in jungles, or starve you in ice plains… o_O

Extreme Survival Challenges

These rare starting locations are challenging because you need to survive in vast, uniform, barren, unfriendly biomes: You can’t just „walk over to the plains“. You have to deal with limited resources, lack of food options, crops destroyed by freezing water, no animals (no wool for beds!), or rough terrain.

Playing these seeds in survival mode is relatively difficult. What I call “easy extreme survival” will be hard for Minecraft beginners — and a lot of fun for an advanced player. Role-play a survival story in a themed setting, or even extreme survival co-op with some buddies! Let’s hope you have experience making shelters and charcoal, fishing and farming, and creative uses of spider string…

Tip: Create the game in creative mode, place some mysterious signs, and hide treasure chests in the most hardcore location (e.g. on an ice spike). Hide signed books with life-saving spoilers and treasure maps in chests in interesting locations close to the starting point. Then switch to survival (or adventure mode) and start a multiplayer game.

Mission: Difficult Desert Survival

  • Your Minecraft 1.8 seed: -4369862195398617814
  • Your situation: Island. Desert. Cacti. *eye twitches* Six wheat seeds. Sandstone. No wood. *eye twitches* This is the evilest (scariest) start location I can imagine. :-D
  • Spoilers: There’s a collapsed surface dungeon near the start. Explore what’s east right across the little bay from the start location… Explore the tiny islands northwest, and southwest, of the start location. Also one of the treeless north-western islands has a mineshaft below. This is survivable! If you’re fed up with sand, explore the continent in the south-west.

Mission: Easy Mesa Survival

  • Your Minecraft 1.8 seed: 8370819764096523522
  • Your situation: You start on top of a mesa peninsula. A clay desert with no animals, surrounded by an ocean, but at least your mesa plateau comes with trees, grass, and water.
  • Spoilers: The swamp in the west connects the mesa to more civilised lands, and a friendly mooshroom island awaits the curious adventurer across the ocean to the east.

Mission: Medium Mesa Survival

  • Your Minecraft 1.8 seed: -6588534024171206345
  • Your situation: You start in the valley of a huge picturesque continental mesa. There is trees and grass, somewhere up there.
  • Spoilers: If this mesa gives you cabin fever, head 1km south east: You will have to cross a spiky bryce mesa inside the main mesa, until you come across a birch forest and finally plains. There’s a beautiful little farming village at a natural harbour, a ravine, and a hard-to-find stronghold.

Mission: Difficult Mesa Survival

  • Your Minecraft 1.8 seed: -846515491861754350
  • Your situation: You start in a huge picturesque continental mesa, at the edge of a river valley. There is some blades of grass and one tree. :-)
  • Spoilers: If you’re desperate for wood, climb the plateau south from the start location. In the long term, prepare yourself for a long trip north, across an in-mesa lake and through a beautiful bryce, to reach a swamp and extreme hills. Or prepare yourself for a long trip east, past another bryce, through deserts and savannas, for a chance to find two beautifully located desert temples, and small plains with a friendly village.

Mission: Medium Island Survival

  • Your Minecraft 1.8 seed: -2418605763386107003
  • Your situation: You start on a tiny island with grass, no trees, and a handful of pigs.
  • Spoilers: Swim north and east overall to find small islands with trees and plains. Further north-east you’ll eventually come across a life-saving Mooshroom island. Don’t forget your soup bowl.

Mission: Difficult Island Survival

  • Your Minecraft 1.8 seed: 1801079296083022203
  • Your situation: You start out drowning next to a tree-less desert island. Fish shoot you with lasers. Great. Just great. :-|
  • Spoilers: From the start point, first swim north to grab some trees. 1km east from there is a beautiful island with Mooshrooms, continued by a desert, and leading to a small forest with cozy plains. A survival fairytale!

Mission: Medium Jungle Survival

  • Your Minecraft 1.8 seed: -7672495913189343608
  • Your situation: You start out in the middle of a large mountainous jungle. The good news? There’s grass, cocoa, melons, animals, jungle temples, and an endless supply of wood. The bad news? Jungles are exhausting and confusing to navigate, and aggressive mobs survive in the shade during daytime.
  • Spoilers: Best direction for an easier life (i.e. plains) is south.

Mission: Medium Ice Taiga Survival

  • Your Minecraft 1.8 seed: -7737005355040326451
  • Your situation: You start on ice plains, between ice spikes and a cold taiga. High mountains, deep caves, frozen lakes, grass, trees, pumpkins, and a blade of sugarcane. Maybe you’ll meet a wolf, but I’m still hoping for chickens.
  • Spoilers: Best direction for more comfortable long-term survival (i.e. a cozy plains village with a farm and animals) is north-east.

Mission: Difficult Ice Plains Survival

  • Your Minecraft 1.8 seed: -7213637072292167171
  • Your situation: You start at an icy bay, with a few trees, grass, a blade of sugarcane, and mountains. After an arduous 1.5km track north through the snow, you encounter a cold taiga with a cold heart full of cold ice spikes.
  • Spoilers: Best direction for long-term survival (read: plains) is west, but that would be boring.

Tip: Not extreme enough? Create your extreme survival game with world types “Large Biomes” or “Amplified”! A “Large Biome” world is scaled wider, which means it’s unlikely that you will ever reach another biome on foot. An “Amplified” world is scaled taller, which means… um, well… look for yourself. :-D In contrast, in a “Default” world you always still have the option to just walk a bit if you need to import goods from neighbouring biomes to civilise the heck out of this place.

Intermediate Minecraft Seeds – Biome Exploration

Posted by admin on April 6th, 2015 filed in Games
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The first time I saw an ocelot, I wondered what was running away. The first time I saw a wolf, I wondered what was running towards me… The first time I saw a Mesa, I thought Minecraft was nuts. The first time I saw a mushroom island, I thought I was nuts…!

You can play minecraft for months, and still come across a rare biome or animal that you have never seen before. Just check out these „themed“ survival seeds where you get your chance at exploring rare biomes. Some of these biomes extend 500m to 1km in each direction, so bring some spare leather socks and hold on to your pumpkin helmet!

Extreme & Rare Biome Exploration

It’s not difficult to survive here, but uniform worlds inherently come with certain additional challenges. That’s why I would consider them intermediate, and wouldn’t recommend them for beginners. Use these seeds for themed multi-player adventures, or if you want to build a themed home in a specific setting.

Vacation package: Welcome to Your New Island-in-Mesa Home

  • Your Minecraft 1.8 seed: -7425002264200452688
  • Your situation: You start out right at a survival-friendly archipelago of tiny islands next to several low-lying underwater monuments. After you secured wood and wheat, look for the larger flatter island, which makes a good base (bring bones, I saw a wolf there!). When you are ready to cross the ocean and head for the mainland — you’ll notice that 80% of the surrounding shores are mesas!? Pretty crazy place.

Vacation package: Tame Wolves in a Continental Mega Taiga

  • Your Minecraft 1.8 seed: 117036858270340384
  • Your situation: You start out on top of one of the tallest trees in a taiga. Mountains, trees, sheep, cows, wolves, mushrooms, and mobs as far as the eye can reach. Brilliant seed if you enjoy taming wolves: Focus on collecting bones first, and don’t run around too far, so the wolves don’t despawn before you have enough bones.

Vacation package: Indiana Jones’ Jungle Adventure

  • Your Minecraft 1.8 seed: -2669895394793511890
  • Your situation: You start on a tree at the edge of a jungle peninsula near an inland sea. The jungle is tough to navigate, but rich in resources — wood, melons, cocoa, grass, trapped treasure temples, and a stronghold. Cross the ocean north east of the starting point to explore a large mesa, and swim east for a trippy mooshroom island. Choose this world if you enjoy the challenges of the jungle and exploring exotic landscapes by boat.

Vacation package: Landfall on Planet Bryce

  • Your Minecraft 1.8 seed: -8389145599236388234
  • Your situation: You start at the bottom of a huge bryce mesa, surrounded by weird colorful clay spikes. This world is unique, fascinating, and very alien. It’s not difficult to survive here (there are trees etc.), but the valleys are very steep, which makes moving around a challenge.

Easy Minecraft Survival Seeds – Villages

Posted by admin on April 4th, 2015 filed in Games
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These are some of my favorite Minecraft seeds, plus my suggestions for a survival challenge or mini-game. My categories (easy, intermediate, difficult) are roughly based on how hard it will be for a beginner to find resources/food, move around, and find shelter at the start location during the first few days.

Starting on lush plains with forests? Easy!
Starting at the bottom of a treeless valley? Difficult.
Starting on top of the highest tree, surrounded by wolves? … Intermediate. (No complaining! YOU HAVE A TREE!)

City Building Challenges

Minecraft villages provide you with food and shelter, but your mere presence attracts mobs. NPCs have no defenses against zombies and, as a result, the village you stay in could die out in a week. Can you reward the villagers’ hospitality and prevent that? Yes! Light up the place, build city walls, set up monster traps, build stables, and plow farmland.

You will notice that Villagers plant and harvest vegetables on any farmlands within villages. While you build more zombie-save housing, they tend crops. After a certain number of vegetables and houses (i.e. doors) are present in a village, villagers start multiplying. Simply increase the size and security of a village, and you can watch it grow and prosper.

City Building is a creative long-running mini-game, and also suitable for beginners who enjoy building.

Easy Village Mission: Horsing around in Horsington

  • Your Minecraft 1.8 seed: -1159117477290614370
  • Your situation: You start in a large horse traders’ village in the plains with a library and blacksmith.
  • Your Surroundings: Continental plains, caves, forests, and swamps full of resources (such as slimes to craft leashes) are close by. Deserts, savannas, and oceans are over 2km away.
  • Your challenge: If you enjoy breeding horses, look no further: These villagers have practically all colors of horses, plus donkeys! They need a bit of help with farming however. Grow the population, keep out zombies, and protect the horse stables from creepers. Then make the villagers work as farmhands for you, while you go for horseback rides.

Medium Village Mission: Unite Porkville

  • Your Minecraft 1.8 seed: 2747445053228389581
  • Your situation: You start on lush plains with three villages a stone’s throw from each other! Vegetables, library, church, blacksmith, lots of pigs and other farm animals are easily found.
  • Your surroundings: Plains surrounded by forests, mountains, taigas, and inland oceans. Swamps and deserts are rare and about 1km away.
  • Your challenge: It may be a bit time-intensive, but it will be rewarding: Set up defenses and build city walls and new houses between the three villages, until they merge, and grow one huge prosperous city! Bonus challenge: Attract a golem into your village.

Medium Village Mission: Fortify Sheepham

  • Your Minecraft 1.8 seed: 3906430579344617764
  • Your situation: You start in a prosperous village with fields, a church, library, and blacksmith, lots of sheep and all kinds of farm animals. The downside? The village stands on top of several shallow caves full of angry mobs. The Upside? At least there’s cool natural gravel stairways leading down to your doom.
  • Your surroundings: Nice variety of biomes within reach. Plains, forests, and ocean on one side; large deserts, savannas, and pretty mesas on the other. Swamps are rare and over 1km away.
  • Your challenge: Secure and grow the village. Build mob traps in the caves.

Difficult Village Mission: Cultivate the Desert Oasis

  • Your Minecraft 1.8 Seed: -7184741135147749929
  • Your situation: You start in a small farming village with flowers, pigs, sheep, acacias, and cacti, next to the coolest skyscraping mountain I have ever seen.
  • Your surroundings: Savanna, a few groves — and endless dessert. Forests, taigas, ocean, and swamps are all over 1km away.
  • Your challenge: With somewhat limited resources, can you turn this quaint village into a fortified, bustling Las Vegas?