The Minecraft Experiment, day 15: A Huge Mistake

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Tom Francis at

Minecraft Diary - I've Made A Huge Mistake

When I first started playing Minecraft a few months ago, I played with a rule: if I die, I have to delete the entire world. Then, I decided to go to hell and back. This is the fifteenth entry in the diary I kept of that experiment - the first is here.

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World 10, deaths 9

I'm determined not to make any mistakes when building my portal to hell. I built dozens of these in a preview build of the Halloween Update to write about it for this site, and even once I'd figured out the exact dimensions the portal needed to be, I screwed up repeatedly. The beaches of my test world were littered with irregular obsidian ruins, aborted attempts that were going to be too short, too narrow, or had their aperture obstructed by a cackhandedly placed block.

That was in a version of the game that starts you with 64 blocks of free obsidian every time you spawn. Now I'm in a world where I have to cast every square of the stuff by hauling lava up from the center of the Earth, and flash-cooling it with sea water to form a volcanic rock so hard that nothing I have can break it. Doing that in the wrong place would be a disaster.

You see where this is going.

I'm have so little faith in my ability to get this basic 2x3 doorway correct that I actually build a 2x3 placeholder rectangle of stone, to physically prevent me ever placing a block where empty space should be. Then I build a small mould around the base of the left vertical, fill it with lava, then splash water on it. Obsidian! And it's definitely in the right place.

I build up slowly, making a little staircase to let me get to the top of the portal to cast it, and build a wide lava trough for the top piece. It's easy to get this exactly right, because I've got the stone placeholder below to guide me: the opening has to be 2 blocks wide, so the top piece has to be four blocks wide. I splash water over all four blocks and make a perfect top bar.

See it yet?

I didn't, until I stepped back to admire my work so far. Perfect vertical. Perfect top bar. Now to do the last... Ah. I see it now.

I'm making obsidian by pouring lava into a mould and pouring water over it so it solidifies. The word 'pouring' comes up twice in that sentence. To pour stuff into a place, you need the place above it to be empty. The top bar is done. There's no way to fill in the block below it to make the right side of the portal.

OK. OK. It's OK. Let's look on the positive side. A new quest! The quest to find some goddamn diamond so I can make a diamond goddamn pickaxe to fix this utter goddamn disaster.

My main caves are pretty much spelunked out now, but I keep seeing an interestingly dark hole across the bay. It's time to investigate.

The dark-looking hole is indeed dark, so that clears that up. I creep through slapping torches on the walls then running away like a tiny girl in case I find anything scary. This is what I have become.

I have to dig through a few thin barriers, but other than that this cave network is all natural - and it goes a long way down. Because torches don't light anything up until you place them, I'm forever walking to the very edge of what I can see to place one, meaning I have no idea what's directly in front of me. For example, here's what I see before I place a torch:

Scary darkness. But once I put a torch down, I can see that it's just:

OH GOD.

Luckily, I discover after three minutes of tactical standing still, this particular Creeper is too stupid to move. I back slowly away, brick him up, and take the other route down.

Immediately, there's the familiar clatter of bones, and I brace myself for a hail of arrows from some invisibly grey skeleton I will never find before he kills me. Then there's a pop, and it stops. I round the corner to see this:

An arrow, lying tellingly next to some lava, and oh yes: diamond.

Next:Everything goes better than expected.