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. Now I'm trying to get to hell and back. The diary starts here , and over Christmas new entries will go up weekly on Wednesdays.
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Minecraft is loading the Nether, which is its version of hell. I'm usually impatient with loading screens, but this is one I wouldn't mind lasting indefinitely. If it'd just crash and dump me back in the real world, that'd be fine too.
But no, it's cruelly quick, and now I'm in hell. I step out of the portal in a vast cavern, thin lavafalls pouring out of the impossibly high ceiling in the distance, and a handful of zombie pigmen shuffling around in the dark in front of me. They're harmless, so long as you don't attack them, and actually a rather good source of grilled pork if give them a friendly nudge into a bonfire.
It is, in other words, the last thing I expected it to be: quiet. No immediate danger, nothing scary in the distance, lots of open space to get my bearings. Exactly what I need, because now I've got to pummel the bejesus out of this portal with a diamond pickaxe, so I can take all the blocks with me on my journey across hell. Without them, I'll have no way back home - only obsidian can be used to make a portal between worlds, and it doesn't occur naturally anywhere in hell.
It takes a long time. Every block has to be hit dozens and dozens of times before it breaks off and can be picked up, and there are 14 of them. I've just chipped off my eighth when there's an ungodly screech.
They sound like a kitten with chalkboard teeth trying to eat a hyena made of razorblades. They're giant jellyfish that float, unreachably high, and spit fireballs down at everything on the ground.
Most of the time, they're not a huge problem - they fly high enough that you can avoid their projectiles in time so long as you keep moving.
And most of the time, mining obsidian is not a problem - it takes a while, but you'll get it eventually so long as you don't move at all.
This presents a dilemma, and it's the kind of dilemma you have to solve with a fireball on its way to your face. I chose move.
This is when I discover the rock beneath me is not in fact rock, but a sea of screaming faces that stick to my feet in such a way that I can barely move. Shit like this is going in my TripAdvisor review, Nether. Two stars MAX.
I wade through the face-mud with fireballs slamming into it behind me, then finally drop off a ledge onto normal, non-screaming land. I scramble underneath it and consider my lack of options.
There are many - all kinds of lacks, really. I can't go back to the portal - there's no hope of chipping any more obsidian off with the Ghast there. I can't wait it out - more Ghasts are as likely to come as this one is to leave. I can't go on without the obsidian - you can cut corners to make a portal with 10 blocks instead of 14, but it leaves you exactly as boned if you only have 8.
The only way to get back to the portal without getting torched is under ground. I can dig through the screaming face-mud until I tunnel underneath the last few chunks of the portal, and chip it out from below.
It's a good idea, but one which very quickly leads to me bursting up through the mud in the worst possible place: directly beneath the Ghast, and nowhere near my portal.
I bolt back down as the fireball hits above. OK, I saw it. It's about three blocks this way, then five that way, then a couple up and whunk! I've struck obsidian. Congratulations, Tom, you've discovered the thing you just came out of.
Once I've mined it all out - I get all 14 blocks just in case I screw something up later - I'm ready to set off. My quest is to just walk in one direction, as far as my tools will take me, then portal back to the real world. Distances travelled in the Nether take you 8 times further in the real world, so when I get back I should be absolutely miles away from home. I'll then trek all the way back, with a compass to guide me.
The only thing I have to decide now is which direction to head. I don't want to have any risk of getting confused and doubling back on myself, so I orient myself with the only constant in this world: screaming facemud. If I look directly down at a block of it, and move so the faces are the right way up, the direction my portal was facing when I came through is left. That's where I'll head.
Next: Crossing the lava sea.