Thursday, March 24, 2011

Part 13: Exit, pursued by a bear

I had spent the night in a pit with Boxter, listening to a bear roam the woods above us.  Boxter had guilted me into quitting mining (I wasn't finding anything anyways) and instead spending the night with my sword drawn, waiting to defend us from bears dropping on our heads.  It wasn't till nearly morning that the bear wandered off.

The view that greeted us at the sun rose hinted that today's going would be slow.

Sure enough, I had some difficulty getting us out of the pit.  To an outside observer it must have looked rather odd: a human on horseback lunges out of a pit up a rough-hewn dirt staircase.  The human's head is bonked on a tree, and the two fall back into the pit.  After a second the human and horse emerge again and scrabble at the edge of the pit, bouncing and turning in all directions, hitting their heads on every available tree branch.  They fall back into the pit. Presently the human emerges alone and bats furiously at the foliage, making branches fly everywhere.  The human disappears into the pit.  Human and horse leap up together again and this time clear the pit edge and keep running, crashing into branches and tree trunks, turning and spinning.  They disappear over the horizon when they fall off a cliff.

I wonder if the going would be easier if I just set fire to all this?

We hadn't been traveling long when we came across yet another bear, this time at much closer range than yesterday.   We barely had time to react before the bear attacked, proving beyond doubt that although bears don't attack humans on horseback, they do attack horses under humans.
The bear looks positively evil in this shot.
We raced away at top speed, with Boxter's neighs probably translating to, "#@%ing human... I TOLD you so.  Did I not?  I TOLD you."

We also found out that creepers, although they don't attack horses, do attack humans on horseback.
Notice how the creeper leaves the horse to the left alone, and heads straight for us at a dead run.
We managed to get away without damage from the creeper, although the bear did nick Boxter.  Without a health gauge for him, though, I have no way of knowing whether he was in serious need of healing, or whether it was merely a flesh wound.  With the creeper and bear hot on our trails, I had to hope for the best.

Fortunately, our luck held out - the forest cleared and we entered a flat desert, where we could finally pick up speed and leave our pursuers in the dust.
We raced along at blinding speed, happily crossing the entire desert in no time.  No predators here (or horses either), since they all spawn on grass, not sand.

At the far edge of the desert, we came across the first dirt hill we'd seen in quite some time.

It was - very well occupied.  Animal Party Hill.  Completely covered in bunnies, birdies, foxes, boars, lions, bears, cows, pigs, sheep, all bouncing and jumbling about and chasing each other.  A bear was in close pursuit of a cow, who saw us coming and ran toward us in an evident attempt to transfer the bear to us instead.

Fortunately, in the open desert Boxter and I are much faster than cows or bears and, now that I had gained a healthy fear of bears, we fled at top speed.
It was getting toward late afternoon when we came upon this:
Lake (with shark) on one side, tall cliff on the other side, and thick forest in between.  No way I was going to try to navigate this by nightfall.

Some sheep beckoned us from a nearby dark overhang.  "Come!  Join us!  It's safe here!  Saaaafe!"
I declined.  Not only was the hole already dark and scary, the opening was much too large to secure before nightfall.  "Commmme!  Join ussss!"

Plus the sheep were starting to creep me out.  We ran to the other side of the mountain, and I got to work digging a pit.  This time I risked a roof, since there was high ground on either side that things could drop on us from.  I built the roof high and gave Boxter a haystack (which keeps him standing quietly rather than bouncing about, sticking appendages through walls and roofs).  He stood still staring at the dirt wall - feeling sorry for him, I installed windows.
I set to work mining, working in a straight line so I could keep an eye on Boxter and turning around every once in a while to make sure he was all right.  I kept the entrance narrow so Boxter couldn't wander into this section with the dangerous low roof.  I think I found a few coal.  No iron.
I think I found enough coal to cover the coal I used up in all these torches.  Maybe.
As morning approached, I wandered back to Boxter's room and joined him at the window, staring with resignation at the thick forest outside.
Also, a spot I missed when building the pit!  Luckily nothing dangerous is small enough to get in through that hole.  Unless bunnies are dangerous now too.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Part 12: I hate forests.

I had just finished spending the night in a pit with a menagerie: Boxter the horse, a very noisy duck, a wild horse that had seen I was building a safe hideout and wanted in on the deal, and a mourning dove that seemed to want in but didn't quite have the brains to figure out how to fall into a hole.

The dawning sun didn't reveal anything scary on the brink of our pit.
But since I couldn't even see the dove, and I knew it was out there, I had to assume the worst.  I built the world's ugliest staircase, and, sword in hand, charged out of the pit.

It wasn't so bad.

Momentary calm.  Little does the pig suspect...
As long as I had my sword drawn, I might as well do some chores - specifically, racing around the countryside killing anything that moves.  Pork!  Leather!  More pork!  I can't do any hunting or even item collecting from horseback, and it's a pain to jump off every time I need to do something, especially when I then have to go chase down Boxter.  So, I seem to be spending my days as a pacifist, and my mornings as a bloodthirsty killer.  Kind of like a werewolf, except only during sunrise.

Finally, when I had run out of things to kill, I returned to the pit.  The wild horse and duck were gone, with the dove in their place.

The dove was probably harmless, but the darndest things in this game turn out to be dangerous (cobblestone ceilings, to take an example at random), and I didn't know exactly what had happened to the other horse and the duck.  I quickly made stairs for Boxter, and we skedaddled.

This part of the world seemed to be made of thick forests.  Boxter is about as easy to steer through a forest as a semi truck on ice skates would have been, so we stuck to the coastline for as long as possible.
Finally, the coastline curved away to the east, and to continue north we had to make our way through the forest.

Have I mentioned I hate forests?  Through some strange feat of physics, a semitransparent block of leaves is fully strong enough to support the weight of a horse and rider, or to prevent us from barging through.  If I could somehow affix a snowplow to Boxter, allowing us to barge through leaves, I would do it in a heartbeat, aesthetics be darned.  I tried jumping from treetop to treetop, but that didn't end well - Boxter is less resistant to falling damage than Squares had been, so when we fall out of trees, it hurts a lot. 

Presently the forest cleared somewhat and my spirits lifted.  I spotted a bear and grew curious.  "You know, Boxter, bears attack horses always, but never attack humans in the daytime.  I wonder if bears attack humans on horses.  Let's go closer and find out."
Boxter was probably less than pleased with this experiment.  I inched us closer and closer, while Boxter commented.  Finally I grew skittish as well, and we backed off, with me able to draw the conclusion that bears probably didn't attack humans on horses.

More tromping through the forest, until I eventually checked my watch and judged it was time to stop for the night.  There was no good place to stop, just whatever space I could find in between trees with some room to maneuver and build a pit and walls.

I may have gotten carried away building the pit this time.

The problem was, I had started the pit in a slight depression in the forest floor, then realized that anything up in the trees would be able to jump down on us, so I would therefore have to build the walls halfway up to the treetops.

Finally we were secure, and I began to mine into one of the walls, hoping to strike iron (Iron, though commoner, is much more valuable to find than gold).
Then a bear roared from almost directly overhead.

Boxter appeared concerned, and stood at the doorway to my mine, looking in with an expression that clearly read, "You with the sword.  Come back here and defend me! .... please?"

"I'm pretty sure I built the walls high enough," I told him.  "The bear can't get in.  See?"
Boxter seemed unconvinced, and pressed close to me.  I sighed, and gave up mining, instead setting up a crafting table and a forge.  In retrospect, the smell of grilling porkchops probably did nothing to disperse the bears from our immediate surroundings.  Every time I turned around, Boxter was standing as close as possible.

"Do you hear that?" he seemed to be asking.
"That! The bear!  There's a bear out there!  Bear bear bear bear...."
"The bear can't get us."
"How do you know?  Can't you hear it?  BEAR!"
"If the bear could have gotten in, it would have done so by now."
"The dove was outside all night last night, and then just before morning it was inside!  The bear could be inside next!  Panicpanicpanic."
"Look, Boxter, do you mind?  I'm trying to do some crafting here, and it's pretty hard when I'm getting pushed across the room by a skittish horse."
"Then doooo something about the bear!  Make it go away!"

But there was nothing I could have done about the bear, not without leaving the pit in the dark, and exposing myself to the very real danger of Creepers.  Creepers!  Brrr...  They were probably out there now...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Part 11: Entering the new world

I spent another night mining beneath the hovel, this time at least finding something: a few lumps of coal, just before dawn.  What I really need is iron, though, since I seem to be going through a lot of armor.

This morning Boxter lingered out of the way, leaving the path clear for me to break a hole in the wall and leave the hovel. 

There were no monsters waiting outside, and I decided to let Boxter sleep in while I went to see whether we'd be able to continue on from the bridge I built yesterday, or whether another day of bridge construction was in order.  Fortunately, the bridge seemed to be connected to a long peninsula of the mainland.  I went back to get Boxter, and we crossed the bridge slowly and carefully, me trying my best to steer us straight as we wobbled drunkenly over the cobblestone.  Horses are hard to steer, and for all his brains, Boxter is no exception.

Soon we were on our way northward again.
There was a tense couple of minutes when I had to dismount to battle a pride of lions that was standing squarely in our way.  Sadly, there's no way for me to ride into battle on horseback - right-clicking to fire an arrow merely results in my jumping off Boxter at the worst possible moment, leaving my horse running around defenseless and prone to friendly fire in the middle of battle.  The lions spread out over the hill and tried attacking from different angles, but the landscape was clear enough that I could use my bow from a distance.
I didn't manage to kill all the lions, but I did clear us a path ahead, so I jumped on Boxter and we raced off, lion roars gradually dying away behind us.

This new country had horses too, and was riddled with what seemed to be a large network of scary caves.  I could hear zombies and lava.
In fact, although it was getting to be night time, every time I considered stopping for the night I would hear the lava, or the zombies, or the topology would not be right for pit-building.  Racked with indecision, I wandered on with increasing desperation as the sun began to set.  Finally I could not ignore the darkening sky any longer, and stopped by a slight depression in the sand, intending to scoop out a pit there, and attempt to build walls around it and all the rest.  I dismounted, and Boxter immediately ran off and stopped at a nearby sinkhole, staring meaningfully down into it.

"Nono, Boxter, that hole's scary," I told him.  "Look, I can hear a spider down in there.  Can't you hear that? Let me dig a different pit over here"

Boxter continued to stare at the sinkhole, then back at me.

It was getting quite dark now, and I realized he was right - I would never get another pit dug and walled off before the monsters started arriving, and since the pit would be in sand, I wouldn't be able to dig myself a safer shelter, but would have to stand under the stars waiting for spiders to jump on my head.

I jumped on Boxter and we leapt into the sinkhole.  The spider was waiting for us, sure enough, and I jumped off Boxter's back, fumbling for my sword in the dark as I caught a glimpse of beady red eyes.  In the confusion, I managed to get a screenshot - of Boxter standing bodily in the spider's way, blocking it from attacking me while I got my bearings.  Spiders don't attack horses, and Boxter was using this fact to our advantage.
Boxter delayed the spider for just long enough, and I charged in for the attack.
The spider was finally dead, and I fell to the task of lighting and securing our lair for the night.  First thing was to block up the scary hole that led to the rest of the cave.  Once I had finished, Boxter retreated to the tunnel, out of my way while I replaced the grassy floor of the sinkhole with safe cobblestone (predators can spawn on grass, even lit grass).
We were not alone in the sinkhole - another horse had jumped in with us, and was busily engaged in bouncing of the walls and making a racket. 
I had a momentary heart attack when I felt something bump against me where I was sure there had been no horses - this part of the sinkhole, after all, was open to the stars, and I wondered if a creeper had suddenly landed on my head.  It turned out to be merely a duck.

The duck busied itself checking my work as I replaced the rest of the grass floor with cobblestone.
By the time I had made the pit as safe as I could (without adding a roof, though the horses seemed unaccountably to prefer the roofed cave section), it was nearly morning.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Part 10: Progress over water is slow.

I spent yet another night mining beneath the hovel while Boxter rested in his roofless room, and yet again had absolutely nothing to show for it in the morning, not even a single chunk of coal.  But with Boxter in a roofless place, and I in a spot that was very much roofed in, I was feeling much more secure than I had in a long time.  Except for the zombies gurgling and snarling on the other side of the wall inches from my face.

Morning came, and I drew my sword and prepared to bust through the door to exit the hovel.  To my surprise, Boxter on his own had broken the Spell of Haystack that I had laid on him the previous night, and had leapt up against the wall, barring my way.
I tried to push past him, but he wasn't budging.  I reached around him and busted a hole in the wall, but still he didn't get out of the way.  I tried shoving him - nothing doing. 

Now had this been Squares, I would have assumed he was now convinced he was playing "I'm a cobblestone block" but since this was Boxter, I suspected that something was up.  I abandoned my attempts to exit that side of the hovel, and instead broke through the wall on the other side and took off running full tilt.

Sure enough:

There had been a creeper lurking right by the hovel, and Boxter had been trying to prevent me from exiting directly into the creeper's path.  From a safe distance I shot the creeper full of arrows, then returned to the hovel to get Boxter.

Next thing to do was to press on northward, and attempt to cross the chain of islands to what was (hopefully) another large continent.  Before long, we came to the divide between us and the first island, and I had an Oregon Trail moment as I stopped to consider how to cross the narrow channel of water.

It wasn't terribly wide, but the dropoff was steep, and I was pretty sure that Boxter couldn't swim with me riding him.  Plus there were sharks in the immediate vicinity.  A boat was out of the question, since Boxter would never fit in one.

Only one thing to do:

Start building.

I dropped Boxter off in the shade of a large tree, and gave him a haystack to chew on while I began to construct a bridge over the water.  I could hear Boxter making his normal horsey noises beneath the tree ("85331, 85333, 85361, 85363,...."), and every once in a while I would turn to reassure myself that no predators were approaching.

There were, however, predators on the other side.  Most curiously, there was a lion spinning in circles under a tree while looking up into the air.

Also: Tree Horse has figured out how to avoid lions!
As I drew closer, I discovered the reason: another lion standing in a pit just in front of him.
The lions appeared to be flummoxed.  They were designed to run toward each other and fight each other; that was easy enough.  But suddenly they found themselves faced with actual topology and had quickly run afoul of the 3rd dimension.  "I've run as close as I can to the other lion, but it's not working anymore!" They seemed to be saying. "What's happening?  I can't get to the other lion! What do I doooooo?"

I knew what to do: I carpet-bombed the area with arrows.  Problem solved.  Coast clear.

Now time to head back and get Boxter and.... oh.

No way I'm falling twice for the "sunrise" trick.  I retrieved Boxter, and we retreated to the hovel for the night.  Our bold new land would have to wait for tomorrow.

Progress over plains on horseback: fast.  Progress over mountains on horseback: ok.  Progress over forest on horseback: sorta.  Progress over water on horseback: might as well jump on a glacier and catch a ride.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Part 9: In which I am still not good at building shelters

After some moments cowering at the back of my tunnel, I gradually came to the realization that the menacing sheep was probably not planning to attack.
But if the sheep had managed to wander into the pit, that meant that I had not made the protective walls high enough, and the shelter I had built probably had a closer resemblance to a buffet dish than to a fortress.  The next creature that entered the pit might be bad news, and by huddling back here I was abandoning Boxster to his fate.

I pushed aside the sheep with some difficulty, and joined Boxter and the sheep in the main pit.  I spent the rest of the night staring vigilantly up at the stars, sword drawn, trying to maintain my footing as Boxter and the sheep jostled me from side to side.
"Whoa, careful of the sword there!  Stop shoving!  I'm trying to defend you guys!"  I realized that if a bear or lion dropped into the pit, my odds of being able to actually hit it with my sword in the ensuing moshpit frenzy were very low.  A creeper would be disastrous.  I began to hear a spider somewhere above us.  Movement caught the corner of my eye and I whirled.  It was another sheep, coming to join us.  "I heard there was a party going on in here?  Rock on!"

"Get - mmmfff - move it - stop it - rrrrrgh!"  Morning was a long time coming.

When at last rosy-fingered dawn appeared, I climbed out of the pit to battle with a lingering spider, which had so luckily been too dumb to actually fall into the hole we were sheltering in.
As long as I was out of the pit and Boxter couldn't go anywhere, I might as well collect some more leather to use for another pegasus saddle.  I chased down two cows, then turned to go back to the pit.  Where was it?  Uh-oh.
I spent some moments stumbling about in panic before I finally caught sight of one of the torches I had placed last night.
Luckily, Boxter was still there.  "What took you so long?"  he seemed to ask as he looked up at me.  "Did you get lost or something?"
"Shut up," I told him, and commenced digging a stairway out of the pit.  We set off again across Horse Heaven, passing yet another light-brown horse demonstrating its mastery of forced perspective.
Mega-Horse returns!
Then I saw a bit of the territory that looked strangely familiar.
We had in fact started at almost this exact spot the previous day, which meant that we had been going in circles.  As I rechecked my compass and continued northward, I wondered if Boxter's frequent neighing was not "I'm a horse!  I'm a horse!  Look at me, I'm a horse!" but something more along the lines of "*&@@ing human."

Before the day was out, we had crossed to the far side of Horse Heaven and were now in a sparse woodland.  Even worse, we appeared to have run out of continent.  We wandered along the northern shore before finally spotting a mountain off in the distance, with a chain of islands between us that might possibly be hoppable.
I would have started for the far island right away - but then I saw a bunny rabbit.  These rabbits, in addition to being completely adorable, are supposed to grant horses extra powers if you ride the horse while wearing the bunny on your head as a hat.  I know, I know.  But here was a bunny and of course I had to give it a try!

Have I mentioned before how cute the bunnies are?  I love the way they're tiny and hop extra-high.  And they look even cuter when on your head!
Hey! Stop laughing!  I am a mighty warrior!
We hopped around, with the bunny's toes visible hanging down over my forehead. 
Tee hee!  Cute little bunny feet when I look up!

It appears that having a bunny on your head somehow grants your horse the power to jump extra-high.  Maybe if we had been in the mountains the bunny's added jumping power would have been useful, but as it was, all we did was jump high before coming down hard, taking falling damage.  A few jumps later, I'd had enough of falling damage, and lifted the bunny back off again.

Now it was time to build a shelter - night was coming soon.  I selected a spot and began digging, while Boxter watched.
After a moment, Boxter began to wander off.  He disappeared around the other side of a tree and I quickly grew nervous and went to go look for him.  Here's where I found him:
How did he DO that?
Yes, he had apparently figured out what I was doing, then showed me up by finding a much better natural hole in about ten seconds.  It was perfect - a shaft straight down for a few blocks, with no scary side tunnels. This horse was not only smarter than Squares, he was a genius.  I built up the sides of the pit so nothing could climb over them, then - after some maneuvering - joined Boxter in the pit.  I gave him a haystack for his efforts, and he settled down quietly for the night.