Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Part 44: More help from Twobit.

My horse Twobit stood squarely before the front windows, a problem since we couldn't escape for the day until I could get past him.

"I'm happy to report that it's a beautiful morning, and the sun is shining all nicely," Twobits told me.  "This is a great house!  Are we going to be adding more of these awesome windows today?"

"No, we're going to walk north as far as we possibly can, and then build another."

"Wow, so we can have two houses!"

"When you put it that way... I have about forty houses by now.  Except each one gets more or less destroyed as I leave each morning."

Twobits gave me a quizzical look, as if not quite sure to make of this revelation.  "You destroy the houses as you leave?"  he said finally.

"Just the entrances, usually.  Watch."

I shouldered past Twobit and busted my way quickly through the windows, running at full speed for the horizon to outdistance anything that might have been hiding just above or to one side.

Good morning, Twobit

There was no danger lurking nearby that morning, so the end result was that I just looked like I'd gone bonkers.

The mountain appears to be sliced by a huge cave that I pointedly avoided exploring.

I returned to the shelter where Twobits was still excitedly bouncing.

"Wow, that's a really fun way to leave every morning!  I love running!  I can help run next time."

Hey, out here! ...did I really leave the ceiling open all night?

I widened the opening, but it was some time before Twobit found his way out of the shelter.

"Ha, that's great," he told me as he finally bounced his way out the door.  "A maze puzzle every morning.  You're really clever."

I decided not to disillusion him.

Yes, very good, Twobit.

We raced at Twobit's top speed (a determined chug) across the northern end of the open plains, and soon fetched up against hilly and tree-filled coastline.


Inland, things were even worse, although Twobit expressed his delight at the interestingness of the scenery.

Wow.  But darnit.

Eventually I decided to stick to the coastline, since I could see areas of sea ice up ahead which would make the going easier.

"Look how fast I'm going now!  Must be all this practice!  I'm a great horse!"

I didn't have the heart to tell him that it was the effect of the slippery ice.

We came across another shark, spawned on the wrong side of the ice (nearby, a more fortunate shark had also appeared underneath the ice).


The shark, out of water and dying, still spotted us and attempted to flop toward us to make a kill.  Twobit was thrilled at the prospect of helping with an exciting battle, but I deemed it best to avoid the whole confrontation.

Never - flop - give up - flop flop

The ice thinned out as we followed the coastline northward, and I turned us again inland.  Things looked bad.

"Wow, look at those big trees!  It's like a real jungle!  Do you think we'll see some jaguars?"

"There aren't even ocelots in this version of Minecraft," I told him.  I decided again to stick to the coastline.

But our way northward along the coast was blocked by a prowling lion.

I'd learned my lesson with the bear - I dismounted, left Twobit in a convenient sheltered alcove, and began firing arrows at the lion.  I was a bit far away, and something's changed about my controls that prevents me from drawing the bow all the way back, aiming, and then releasing.  Instead, I fire off dozens of arrows in rapid succession.  I didn't hit the stupid lion even once.  It wandered nonchalantly as my arrows rained down to either side, not even deigning to notice their impacts.  Finally I gave up and went around by the shoreline, splashing through a short section of water to reach the sea ice.

I am a terrible shot.

Once on the ice I headed away from the increasingly-forested mountainous shoreline, reaching a series of low islands jutting from the ice.

One of them held a flat wall beneath a sheltering overhang.  "Twobit, what if we stop here for the night?"

"Oh, boy!  This place looks great!  I can help build the shelter!"

Complete with deadly diving board

"How about if you go, um, over there, and ask those boars if they've seen any pegasus?"

As Twobit happily trotted off, sliding wildly across the ice, I set to work constructing another shelter, using the formula that by now was becoming tried and true.

As long as he doesn't step through a hole in the ice.  I have no idea how I'd get him back out.

Eventually I finished the cave part of the shelter and looked for Twobit.

"They said they saw a herd of them thundering across the ice just yesterday!  Maybe if we hurry up and run all night, we can catch them!  Wow, a whole herd!"

"Traveling during the night is a very bad idea," I told Twobit.  "I'll explain once we get in the shelter.  The safe, safe shelter."

At least they're boars, not bears.

I rode Twobit over the entrance barrier, and dismounted.  He immediately zoomed to the entrance, where he began bouncing repeatedly.

"Oh, boy, are we going to start putting in windows now?  Hand me the glass - I'll help you!"


"I'll do it this time - step aside."

"But I can help!  I really can!  I need to learn all this stuff if I'm going to be the best horse ever!"

"Maybe next time."  And, with an increasing sense of urgency, "Can you please move?  It's going to get dark soon, and as I was going to tell you earlier, dark is a Very Bad Thing."

Twobit continued to bounce in a spot that completely prevented me from reaching around him to place any blocks to seal the shelter.  I tried to no avail to bodily shove him aside.


Finally, I gave up and leapt onto his back, rode him to the back of the shelter, and then dismounted, racing him to the front of the shelter.

"Wait for me!"

I quickly placed two gravel blocks below myself, just barely getting the second one in place in time to prevent him from walking up the stairs to exit the shelter and inspect it from outside.  His nose appeared over the top of the gravel block.

"Whatcha doing?"

But now I was free to work, taking a deep breath and looking around at the panic-inducing darkness of the night sky, feeling the breeze eerily blowing through nonexistent shelter walls.

He seemed not to mind me standing on his nose.

I managed to secure the shelter, and then started working on enlarging the interior, as I was in desperate need of elbow room.

At least the ceiling appears to be high enough.

"Now what are you up to?  Crafting?  I can help with that!  I can hold the table!"

Also, a ghostly cow goes by in the night.

"Hey, you dropped some cobblestone!  Here you go!  I picked it up for you!"

Gee, thanks, Twobit.

Finally the main room was large enough for me to have some hope of riding Twobit out the door, if necessary.  With some relief, I started mining, hearing Twobit's exclamations in the shelter above me.

When I began to come upstairs in the morning, I found him waiting for me.

"What are you doing?  Is it fun?  I can't see!"

Hello, Twobit.

"Um, Twobit, I can't actually get out of the mine when you're jumping up and down right on the only exit."


I eventually convinced him to step aside, and made it upstairs to watch the sun rising over ice and sand. Somewhere in the distance, a cow seemed to be ice skating.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Part 43: Twobit

Throughout the lonely night I mined, once breaking through into a cave (a scary moment, but it turned out to be a short dead end, free of monsters), and once breaking through into clear night air (even scarier, since I knew without a doubt that there were monsters out there).

Oops!  Brickitup brickitup

In the morning I continued my search for a new horse.  It was an auspicious beginning - good weather (admittedly, in this version of Minecraft it's always good weather) and open country.

My last night's shelter was somewhere back in the fold of the hill - I ran so far this morning that it was out of view.

I came across a high-altitude pumpkin sheep party.

Hey, who invited the fox?

And soon I came across a pair of horses!  One was full-sized, and the other was a mini.  They were both the bottom-of-the-line light brown horses, but the mini horse intrigued me.  If I could possibly tame and ride my very own mini horse, I would.

The big horse bounced up and down, apparently trying to attract my attention.  But my sights were fixed on the mini-horse.


I went up to the little tiny horse, and tried to put a saddle on it.  Nothing happened.  Perhaps the horselet needed to be sweetened up with some sugar cubes first?  I tried feeding the horse some sugar cubes, which it happily devoured.   I tried the saddle again.  Nothing.

It looks like I'm trying to put it in a hamburger bun, but that's a saddle, apparently.

More sugar cubes, perhaps?  I fed the minihorse some more sugar cubes, but still the saddle wouldn't go on.  Eventually I noticed that with each sugar cube, the tiny horse was growing gradually larger.  Oh.  I was merely turning the minihorse, at the great expense of a rich diet of sugar cubes, into a perfectly ordinary large horse, at which point the saddle would probably go on, and I'd be in possession of an plain light brown horse.

Slightly-bigger minihorse

Well, if I wanted that, there was already a full-grown light brown horse just over yonder.  I turned my attention toward the big horse.

It jumped up and down.  "Oh, boy, oh, boy, pick me!  I'm a good horse!"

I hesitated.  The light brown horses were the economy models among horses.  They were supposed to be slower, weaker, and less able to jump.

"Oh, boy, oh, boy!  I can help!  I'm a really good horse!"

There were no other horses in sight, and in the spirit of a journey northward on horseback, I realized I really ought to tame the very first horse I saw.  In this case, that meant the lousy light brown horse.  "Okay," I told it, and put the saddle on the horse - it went on immediately, with no need to coax with sugar cubes.

"Look how well it fits me!  As if it were made for me!  This is gonna be great!"

In its excitement, the horse has begun to bounce down a cliff.

The next step in taming a horse is to sweeten it up by giving it sugar cubes, then try to climb on.  Usually the horse will throw you at least once, and you'll take considerable damage from the fall.  Eventually the horse will let you stay on, and you can then ride away.

I gave the light brown horse five sugar cubes and then climbed on its back.

In retrospect, it probably wasn't a good idea to try this on the side of a steep hill.

As expected, a split second later I was at the bottom of the hill, having taken quite a bit of damage.  It was a moment before I realized I was still on the horse's back.  Apparently rather than the horse throwing me, we had simply walked off the edge of the hill and hurt ourselves by falling to the bottom. This was probably not a terribly auspicious beginning.

"Wheeee!  Let's do it again!  Did you see how far I jumped?  This is gonna be so much fun!"

At least it seemed the horse was tame already, with a minimum of sugar cubes.  I decided to name the horse Twobit.

"Wow, that's a great name!  What does it mean?"

"Mighty warrior."


We started on our journey through the high and open lands of Horse Heaven.

As I had feared, this horse was slow, noticeably slower than Boxter had been.  I think it was faster than me.  Barely.  I hoped it was faster than a bear.

Heading uphill

We began to climb upwards, and I discovered another problem: apparently this horse couldn't jump any higher than I myself could.  I can jump one block.  Boxter could jump two blocks.  Twobit, on the other hand...

"Nono, I can jump really high!  Watch this!"

"You just jumped a single block."

"With room to spare!  Lots of room to spare!"

"Can you jump two blocks, though?"

"Ummm... not quite.  Almost."

"You can almost jump two blocks.  So you can in fact jump only one block.  Just like me."

"No, look!"  We leapt against a two-block barrier and fell back.  "I can almost do it!  I'm jumping one and a half blocks!  Almost two!  I can be a good horse!"

"There's nothing that's one and a half blocks high.  You might as well be jumping one block."

"Fences!  Those are one and a half blocks high!"

"Um, okay.  If we come across any naturally-occurring fences, we'll be sure to leap over them with ease."

"Oh, boy!  I'm gonna be a great help!"

A somewhat dizzying view.

Shortly thereafter, we fell off another mountainside.

My health was once again depleted to near-death.  I wondered how Twobit was holding up.  He looked about the same as ever, but there was no way of telling whether he was really all right, or nearly at death's portal.  If we made it to shelter tonight, I probably should distribute healing sugar cubes.

"Hooray, I have a pronoun now!"  Twobit bounced with excitement.

Oh no, the health meter's doing the nervous shaky thing again.

We spent the day slogging up and down the mountainsides, only passing two more horses - I looked wistfully after the dark brown horse we passed, a Boxter-level model.

And another minihorse.  Sort of disappointing to find out they can't be tamed... I'd still pay attention to a mini pegasus, though.

Finally I stopped to dig a cliffside shelter.  Twobit watched with interest as I dug the cave, remembering to lower the floor past the entrance barrier, since we couldn't jump over a two-block barrier on our way in.

I broke into a cave during my digging, and he danced with glee.

"Wow, look how dark it is in there!  Are we gonna go explore?"

"No, we're not."  I began bricking up the cave.  "There are scary things in dark caves."

"Wow!  Will we meet any?  I can help you fight them off!  I'm a mighty warrior!"

"Let's not try to meet any tonight."  I bricked up the last dark scary hole.


Soon, the cave was deep enough and tall enough, and I had built the entrance barrier.  I climbed on Twobit's back, and we rode inside.

"Hooray, we're camping!  What are you doing with that glass?  I can help!"

"No, that's all right, I - mffph - get out of the way"

"I'm helping, I'm helping!"

Despite Twobit's aid, I managed to get the shelter's entrance sealed with glass.

I'm helping! I'm helping!

"Oh, boy, oh, boy!  What are we going to do next?"

"I'm going to craft a new bowl of mushroom soup."

"I can help!"

"No, that's quite all right..."

With Twobit nosing over my shoulder, I did some crafting, then decided to escape underground for some horse-free mining.

"I can craft!  I can totally help craft!"

No sooner had I dug the beginnings of the mineshaft than I felt myself propelled bodily down the hole.

"I'll help!"

"Why don't you, um, guard the upstairs?  Make sure no intruders get in."

"You got it!"

With some relief I began a quiet night of mining.

Ah, just me and the creepy, lonely torches, and the sounds of zombies in the walls.

Toward morning I emerged from the mine to check on Twobit.

"It's safe to come up!  I didn't let anyone in all night!  And I swept the floor!"

"Gosh, um, that's really great, Twobit!"

I hope we find that pegasus soon.

Twobit, mighty warrior

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Part 42: Horseless Heaven

I checked for danger very carefully before I edged my way out of my cliffside shelter, looking up quickly and dizzily at the cliffside I'd climbed yesterday.  Fortunately, nothing seemed ready to jump on my head.

There are those ugly cobblestone steps I made yesterday, coming back to haunt me.

With no horse for company, I made my way down the steep and forested mountainside, and the landscape began to go from bad to worse.

As I paused for a cliffside battle with a late-morning creeper (which had blocked the only reasonable exit from the area), I reflected that it would have been a nightmare to try to run through here on horseback.  Actually, the whole horseback journey has been a nightmare.  And here I was, on the lookout for another horse to tame.  The taming process involves being thrown violently from the back of the horse - with an abundance of cliffs nearby, I could easily see how this could end badly.

This time, I remembered my bow and arrow.

Pretty cool natural floating bridge, though.

This.  This is the landscape through which I proposed to ride a horse.
At one point, I found myself on a mountaintop in close proximity to a bear.  I readied my sword.  The bear watched me.  Was it going to attack me?  Should I attack it?  Should I be declaring war on all bears, to revenge my horse Boxter?

The bear managed to corner me, but still neither of us had attacked.  For a long moment we stared at each other.  Then the bear wandered off.  I guess we had reached a temporary truce.

Toward sunset the trees finally thinned out, and the hills began to roll.  It was another horse heaven, except that here the landscape was eerily deserted of horses.

Ahhh.  Much better.  But where is everyone?

On a magnificent mountaintop I finally built Boxter's memorial, a glass portal shape with a prominent view over the deserted but horse-friendly valley.

A much better location than the tree-choked forest

In an opposing hillside I dug my burrow for the night, finished it in glass, and watched the sun set below Boxter's memorial.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Part 41: Bad news bear

Today my morning run from shelter involved a flying leap over a waterfall, a scramble down a hill, and nearly falling in a cave.  But the coast was clear - no bad guys lurking near my door, and no lions out surveying the Pridelands.

I wonder why running water has stripes.

I collected Boxter from shelter, and we started approximately northwards, along an increasingly steep and forested, shark-girt coast.

All hint of a gentle coastal slope disappeared, and the cliffs actually became overhangs.

Up above, lions lurked.

And sharks waited eagerly right by the shore, daring us to dip a single hoof into the water.

As if to mock my complaints about steepness and tree-coveredness, terrible mountains loomed suddenly out of the mist.  I rode glumly onward.

We entered the mountains.

Now pause to take a look at this next screenshot.  Perhaps by examining it, we can work out some premonition about what was about to go terribly wrong.

Here I am riding directly toward a bear.  The bear is looking directly at us.  On either side of the bear are steep non-climbable walls, and the bear stands on the only clear path between them.  A tree appears to block another of the exits.  And I am riding directly toward the bear, brandishing not my sword, nor even my bow (though that would have been better used before I even got this close), but, for some reason, a torch.  A torch.

Let us now proceed to what happened next.

The little square of water does not play into the story.

With an enthusiasm perhaps commendable under other circumstances, I ran directly at the bear.  The bear, likely not believing its good fortune at seeing meat rush into its very jaws, attacked.  In evident confusion ("Attack?"  I seemed to wonder.  "Since when do bears attack?"), I directed Boxter to try to climb one of the sheer cliff faces.  This didn't work, on account of Boxter not being a pegasus.  I finally decided that perhaps I would have to do something about this bear problem after all, and dismounted in a what's-all-this sort of manner.  I eyed the torch in my hand, and thought that perhaps I might have something in my inventory more suitable for whacking bears.  I spun through my inventory, toying with the idea of whacking the bear with 19 cubic meters of gravel (sadly, Minecraft physics don't work that way, and this would be about as effective as coshing the bear with the feather), before I finally managed to select the sword.  I brandished the sword just in time to watch Boxter explode in a puff of smoke.  The bear immediately turned away, seeming to instantly lose interest now that its quarry had suddenly disappeared.


Oh, no, bear.  Not so fast.

Vengefully I charged, very aware that I was battling a bear in extremely close quarters, and very determined that if I died, at least I would have registered my complaint with the bear.

Lord Bear, I wish to make a complaint.

I survived - just barely.  I was down to one heart by the time the bear vanished in a cloud of snowflakes or something, leaving me horseless, but with the stunning consolation prize of two fish.

Now it would have been ironic if the fish had landed in that little square of water.

I ate my emergency ration of very filling mushroom stew.  I didn't particularly feel like mushroom stew at the moment, but I had to restore my health very fast.  As it was, a paper cut would about do me in.

And, stew gone and horse sadly gone as well, I began despondently to climb the mountains.  On foot. Alone.

I thought of building a monument to Boxter on the spot, but in the forest it would be nearly invisible.  And what horse would want its monument in such a miserable forest?

And so I climbed higher and higher.  I entered the clouds.  And shuddered, then quickly descended again.  Clouds have always given me the willies, the way they loom up suddenly and then rush at you like a solid wall, suddenly reducing your visibility to a fraction of normal, wreaking havoc with your depth perception.  And up in the steep mountains where the clouds lurk, it's essential to have depth perception.

I can't even tell if I'm in the cloud or about to be in it.

Just below the clouds, I paused to look back the way I had come.  Horrible steep bear-infested mountains.  I had climbed them by building cobblestone stairs because I don't even care anymore about how colossally ugly it makes the landscape.

A terrific view, though, under other circumstances

Night fell, and I dug a little hollow in the side of the cliff, bricked up the opening with glass, and fell to a lonely night of mining.

And you can still kind of see that other bear.
As I dug a spiral down, hoping to descend the mountain a little during the night, I thought about Boxter.  I hoped his mystical horse powers extended to whisking himself out of the clutches of bears in a puff of asterisks.  Or that somewhere he was stepping out of a portal into a wide, treeless, bearless, land, thinking, "That new land is terrifying!  I'm never going back there again."

When my watch finally told me it was morning, I dug my way out of the side of the mountain.

Perhaps it would be a bad idea to run full tilt out of this particular spot... I'd probably go sailing off the cliff.