The Minecraft Experiment, day 30: Needlepoint

Tom Francis at

Minecraft Diary - Day 30 - Boating Topdown

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. I eventually managed to get to hell and back on one life, and now I'm trying to find my way back home. The diary starts here, and this is the latest entry.

I've just found the largest and thickest forest I've ever seen, and I'm desperately resisting the urge to set fire to it.

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World 10, deaths 9

I don't, in the end. Burn the forest down. I wander through it appreciatively until I reach the coast, then remember I need wood and hack down sixteen trees. From these I fashion a boat, and then I'm back where I most like to be: on the open ocean.

For eight days I've been following my compass, a device made from redstone and steel that always points to the exact spot that you arrived into the world. I came back from hell miles and miles from home, since distances there are magnified in this world, so I've been relying on that needle to guide me to the only place I know. And as I sail merrily along, the needle suddenly changes. Dramatically.

Dramatically, to me, is about 45 degrees - when you're walking painstaking mile after painstaking mile, one degree off could be disastrous. More to the point, if it was correct before and wrong now, it's going to be virtually impossible to estimate the correct direction. I could keep my boat going roughly the same way it already was, but every time I hit an obstacle it's going to get harder to get back to that bearing again.

So I don't really have a choice - I've got to follow the needle. I steer my boat around and head towards a river delta, then stop. Whoa, what is that?

Floating islands! Among my favourite geometry errors! It's tempting to build my way up to them, but when I've done that in the past, I'm disappointed to realise that I've unwittingly turned them into non-floating islands in the process, and the thrill is gone. I am not a clever man.

I disembark anyway - I can't get much further in my new direction by water. On land, I walk until it gets dark, then keep walking until I'm actually in mortal danger. That happens pretty quickly - two skeleton archers turn up and I glimpse a Creeper, so I dash for the nearest cliff face and bury myself inside.

As soon as I block up the entrance behind me, it feels strangely familiar. Seems like only yesterday I was hiding in a 1x2 hole without the faintest idea of what was growling outside. Actually it doesn't - it seems like freaking ages ago. I've been to hell and back since then. I've walked miles - and not just the eventful miles I've written about. Long, lonely miles between those, with nothing to report.

So I'm not going to let the dark stop me. But after last night's near death experience, I'm also not going to brave the outside world. For the first time since coming back from hell, I do what I should have been doing every night: tunneling.

When I hit caves, I brick them up. When I hit metal, I don't dig it out. And when I get bored, I dig up and check for daylight. Eventually I find it, and clamber out.

During the next day's walk, I spend a lot of time thinking about cake. This is one of the days I'm writing about, so imagine the ones I skipped.

I think cake needs wheat, for the flour, but I have everything else: buckets to milk cows with, sugar cane for taste. I ask Graham how you get wheat, and he teaches me: basically, hit the ground with a hoe. From then on, I bound across the world smacking my hoe against the ground faster than a pimp on a pogo stick, hoovering up the wheat seeds that pop out.

On one of the rare occasions that I look up from my drive-by farming, I see fire. More mystery fire? Or is this the one I started before I left for hell - am I finally home?

As I get closer, still half-heartedly hoeing, I see the real cause: there's a small lava lake here. It probably just set fire to some livestock who then wandered into a tree. I'm actually a little relieved that I'm not the only thing burning this world to the ground.

So I get back to farming for about twenty seconds. That's when I look up and see something else - water, glowing, in the sky. That's my beacon. That's the bay I arrived in. That's my portal to hell. I am home.

I'm home! The only way the sight of this place could be more magical is if I'd arrived at night. I'm bounding deliriously towards it when I realise the sun is actually setting. I stop. I'm not in any hurry, I could just...

I turn around and walk in the opposite direction for two and a half minutes, just until it gets dark, then go back.

It's my beacon! Glowing in the night sky! There is no way this could be any more magical - particularly since it's in no way contrived! Yaaay!

The first thing I do is hop my inadequate barricade and dig through my storage chest, finally offloading the spoils of the weird lands I've seen, and snatching back a few much-missed tools (my gold watch!).

Which is when I hear the hiss.

Next: The Final Entry - Cake or Death