Category Archives: Games

Be Like Spark

ead and shoulders of a cardboard cutout of Spark (Pokemon Go) with a pennant covering his mouth and nose like a bandana.

I walked by the kid’s room during this morning’s online school session and found that he’d set up the Spark standup (the Team Instinct leader) that he and Katie made for Pokémon Go Fest to block the doorway as if standing guard.

Fortunately, Spark is considerate enough to wear a face mask per pandemic recommendations.

Be like Spark. Not like Jessie and James. ‘Cause you know they’re only going to wear masks for disguise purposes.

Ghost Pokéstops

I need to start collecting screenshots of ghost Pokéstops in Pokémon Go. Not ghost-type nests, but the stops that highlight something that isn’t there anymore. In my area there are several murals that have been painted over, fountains that have been converted to planters, a park pond that’s become a splash pad, a sculpture in a store that’s been bulldozed…

It’s like a digital afterlife for landmarks.

Though I’m kind of reluctant to say anything about them in case Niantic decides to remove them!

15 Minutes with Minecraft Earth

Took Minecraft Earth for a spin around the block. Most of the demos I’d seen showed either the build-on-a-plate mode or the AR adventure mode, so I wasn’t sure how the map mode was going to work.

You see a Minecraft-ified version of your local area. Real-world buildings appear as raised ground instead of buildings, so that you can see where they are, but there’s no risk of mismatches between real doors and virtual ones. Clusters of resources appear on the map: trees, boulders, mounds of dirt and such, along with sheep, cows and other mobs wandering around. You can tap on them repeatedly like you’re mining in the original game, and after a few seconds you get the mob, or the logs, stone blocks, dirt, flowers, etc.

You can use these resources to craft items with familiar recipes, but each item takes time (like smelting) instead of a shape. It might take 30 seconds to turn a log into planks, or three minutes to make a sword. There are three slots for the crafting table and three for the furnace, with one each unlocked at the beginning of gameplay. I’m guessing you unlock the others as you level up.

Resources seem to regenerate quickly – I saw them pop into existence a couple of times on my walk around the block, and there was already a new tree when I got back where I started.

You can also see a circle (I know, a circle! In Minecraft!) on the map showing what’s close enough to interact with, and whenever something crosses that circle, the phone will vibrate briefly to let you know.

A nice touch: If you’re moving faster than walking speed (or if it thinks you are due to GPS drift), it shows your avatar rolling in a mine cart!

Speaking of avatars, if you’ve used the new character creator in recent releases of Bedrock edition, that skin automatically transfers to this game.

Actually playing “adventures” is a bit weird. This is the gameplay they showed during Minecon. At certain spots, you can jump into an augmented-reality instance (the one I tried was roughly a 5 block by 5 block column) with items you’ve crafted or collected. You can fight zombies, find treasure chests, etc. It’s cool, but because you can’t physically move up or down, just around, it’s sort of like walking around a hole in the ground and trying to interact with stuff that’s way below you.

Anyway, I’ve spent longer writing about it than playing so far. I’ll have to take some time to really explore it and get a better sense of the gameplay. And try out the build plates.

But even at first glance, it’s a distinct experience compared to Pokemon Go, and not just a rehash with a different theme!

Update: A key difference I’ve noticed between Pokemon Go and a couple of short sessions in Minecraft Earth is that the world of Minecraft Earth is a lot denser than Pokemon Go.

With Pokemon Go, you have fixed locations for supplies and combat. It’s all about getting you out to walk that distance and find Pokemon along the way. There are even multiple rewards solely for distance walked (candy, hatching eggs, evolving certain Pokemon).

With Minecraft Earth, everything is randomly placed, closer together, and visible from farther away: resources, mobs, adventures. (And you can use a build plate anywhere.) It looks more like a Minecraft world than a map, and it feels like you could play it in a smaller space if you wanted to.

A Minecraft farmer-type villager standing inside the composter, with his crops nearby.

That time I had to rebuild a Minecraft Village’s economy

The latest Minecraft update, “Village and Pillage,” has completely revamped villager professions and trading, and made major changes to the village structures as well. Each profession now has a work site defined by a block like a stone cutter, or a loom, or a composter, etc. and unemployed villagers will try to fill jobs based on what’s available.

Now, Minecraft has always been (in my experience, anyway) pretty good about upgrading existing worlds as the game engine changes.

  • Unexplored areas will generate using new rules.
  • Previously explored areas will remain the same, except…
  • Specific blocks will convert as needed (ex: if you built a generic wooden fence before they introduced fences for each type of wood, it will convert to an oak fence.)
  • All areas will start operating on new rules.

Normally this works great! But can you see the problem with villages?

Yeah. The villagers operate on the new rules, which means they need work sites to do their jobs, but the existing villages were built without any workstations.

So the village near my current base suffered an economic collapse, or perhaps an attack of existential mass ennui, leaving every villager unemployed.

Fortunately, all the new workstations are craftable. Even the ones that the player can’t use yet. So I spent some time on the wiki, writing down the ingredients I needed, went back to my base, crafted all of the ones I could, and started placing them around the village.

And it worked! Pretty soon I was able to trade with a farmer, librarian, fisherman, butcher, cartographer, etc. I’m still waiting for some of the unemployed villagers to pick up jobs. Maybe they need to actually walk close enough to the job sites or something?

Anyway, here’s the list of ingredients I put together based on the wiki article on villagers. You can get the crafting recipes from the wiki or in the game from the recipe book:

Minecraft Villager Job sites

Job Site Block Profession Ingredients
Blast furnace Armorer 5 iron ingots, 1 furnace, 3 smooth stone
Smoker Butcher 4 logs, 1 furnace
Cartography Table Cartographer 2 paper, 4 planks
Brewing Stand Cleric 1 blaze rod, 3 cobblestone
Composter Farmer 4 fences, 3 planks (Java) or 7 planks (Bedrock)
Barrel Fisherman 2 wooden slabs, 6 planks (Java) or 2 wooden slabs, 6 sticks (Bedrock)
Fletching Table Fletcher 2 Flint, 4 planks
Cauldron Leatherworker 7 iron ingots
Lectern Librarian 4 wooden slabs, 1 bookshelf
Stonecutter Mason 1 iron ingot, 3 stone
Loom Shepherd 2 string, 2 planks
Smithing Table Toolsmith 2 iron ingots, 4 planks
Grindstone Weaponsmith 1 stick, 1 stone slab, 2 planks

(Yes, a few of these are actually different in Bedrock Edition and Java Edition! I don’t know why Mojang would deliberately introduce differences in something as basic as crafting recipes, but apparently they have.)

Depending on how you play the game, you may never need to do this. If you generate new worlds all the time, or if you’re happy to just pull up stakes and move to a new area in the same world, you’ll encounter the updated villages to start with. But if you play like I do – explore the same world slowly, digging in, building up and establishing bases as I go – you’ll be glad to know that this works to manually upgrade your villages.