Last week my son Chris and I loaded up the old Minecraft server and got to work building some cool stuff. For those of you not in the know, Minecraft is an interactive 3D world where the graphics look worse than Wolfenstein 3D (Dos based FPS not the new one or the old top down one on the Apple II) where you begin your existence with just the shirt on your back and empty hands. You run around and beat up stuff like trees and rocks and even dirt until you have collected some basic items that you can combine. The Mine portion of Minecraft comes from the fact that after you have crafted some digging equipment you can build mine shafts and explore the caverns underground looking for more items to combine and to kill off zombies and creepers.

What I like about this game is that you start with nothing and you are pretty much building and collecting your own ‘lego blocks’ that you can use to build some really impressive stuff. After you’ve had your fill at building static structures you can put on your electrical engineer hat on and dabble with “redstone” which is a stone that contains energy. You can combine this redstone with switches, relays, doors  and minecarts to make some very ingeniousness devices. Last night I was working on a model train track that uses pressure plates to turns on redstone to power the traintrack. Later I found out you can put the indigenous animals in the minecart and have some fun making them go around and around. Last we found out there are some plugins for the bukkit server we are using that would allow us to make “warps” so we can warp between various areas of the map. I ended up building some switches with labels above them that when pressed take you to various areas that Chris and I frequent.

Saturday Chris and I had a competition to see  who could make the most impressive display using glass and lava. In this words glass is very strong and lava can’t destroy it. The rule was that we couldn’t see the other persons build until we were both complete. I thought it would be a cool idea to make an entrance to my “bedroom” by making a glass tube that had lava pouring around it. My goal was to build the structure with no lava yet give myself a way to place the lava starter blocks on the top of the structure and be inside the tube to watch it start. Unbeknownst to me Chris took it a few steps further and build an entire room floor to ceiling of lava encased in glass. Like kids with an unlimited supply of legos we were squeeing like schoolgirls until we both felt that we were done. After checking out one another handy work we forgot about the competition and congratulated one another on our achievement.

So how do you get started with Minecraft? Easy, buy and download a copy of the program (or use the in browser version, both of which run on Java) and get to building. If you want to play multiplayer you can roll your own and run the Minecraft server on a machine on your network (or out on the cloud) or connect one to many servers people are hosting themselves. Minecraft unlike most online games does not have a central server or servers like World of Warcraft does. Still not sold? Check out the MANY videos on youtube of people playing warcraft and all the crazy stuff they have build.


Some guy built the USS Enterprise Someone else build Hogwarts! Another guy built a 16 bit computer! this guy built Pong. This kid made a cannon

Sometime this week I’ll get around to screencapping our build and show you around a bit. We’re still learning about redstone and the cool stuff you can build with it so there isnt much interactivity going on other automated minecarts :)

This looks interesting too: