Minecraft Pocket Edition – Overview

It seems everybody’s playing Minecraft these days. So I’m afraid I felt compelled to play a contemporary game for once. Well, it’s got a nice retro feel to it anyway. It’s too familiar to be worth a full review, but I’m going to be having a quick look at the Pocket Edition on my Android phone. (I make it a matter of principle not to own a PC capable of running the full edition.)

So what’re the main differences between Minecraft Pocket and PC? The first is the playing area: just 256×256 blocks, with space for 64 up and 64 down. It sounds too tiny to be of any interest, but although it seems so small underground that you’re mining to the edge of the world all the time, above ground it’s weirdly big enough to get lost in, at least for a short time. Above is my first serious world, and you can see about 75% of it; there’s a bit more behind the camera and in the far distance.

The second main difference is the lack of caves and lava underground. This is a shame; it makes mining harder but more repetitive. Then there’s the lack of the Nether; in its place is the Nether Reactor, a sort of mini-version you can build in your backyard. And finally there’s a whole host of minor creatures and features lacking, such as Endermen and alchemy. On the whole, after the December 2013 update it looks very like the PC version, though I don’t see any real excuse for features being missing seeing as new phones are now more powerful than the typical ageing PC you find in people’s homes.

That quick overview done with, I thought I’d show you how I’ve been getting on with the game. Only a few stills for now as I haven’t got moving video figured out yet. I’ve had the game nearly six months, and I start a new world every few weeks (always Survival, max difficulty). My current one is based on a particular well-known seed: to try it enter “detailed” (no quotes) when prompted for a seed for a new game. It spawns you on a tiny island with just a couple of trees. There’s a similar island nearby, but nothing else that I can see. There are a handful of animals around.

Here is my cottage. It’s a functional design I’ve perfected over a few worlds. The interior is 4×11 blocks, on two main floors with two rooms per floor, divided where you see the chimney. Within the floorplan there’s also a cellar with smelting equipment, a sub-cellar strongroom, and a spiral staircase leading deep down to the mine. My bed is actually within the wall space, up to the right where you see the bay window. This dates from when I didn’t know how to place a bed on half-blocks. I’ve kept with it because I quite like it and it saves some fannying around; the downside is that the whole world can see me changing into my pyjamas. The roof by the way is built out of sandstone steps; wooden ones make more sense but I’m fed up with them catching fire. In the background you can see the night-lighting for my extensive wheat farm, and also the second island in the far distance (I don’t go there much if at all).

Now here is my tower, a small version of another design I’ve perfected over time. Useless really, but I think it looks cool. The interior floorplan is 5×5 blocks. The staircase turret is 3×3 blocks inside, but this design allows them to overlap by just one block effectively without taking up any useful space. I begin this spiral staircase on the first floor, partly because it demands a fancier overhanging design, partly because in larger towers I like to have a “grand staircase” leading up from the ground floor.

This is my barn, the first I’ve built. Filling the hayloft upstairs was the reason I had to have such a large wheat farm. Downstairs live a small section of my population of sheep. I didn’t have any sheep to start with, but one turned up from I don’t-know-where, soon followed by another. So why not breed them? I’m afraid I got a bit carried away and only stopped when I realised they were eating my lawn faster that it could replace itself. Barns aren’t any use of course, except for the obvious fire hazard. I expect it will produce a dramatic conflagration if I get bored one day. (Don’t worry, I’ll let the sheep out first; necessity has made me a total pacifist when it comes to Minecraft, and it pains me when I watch other people hacking animals to death as soon as look at them.)

Finally my pair of townhouses (with Nether Spire in background which I’m currently demolishing). They’re mirror images but otherwise built to identical plans. Each has a front parlour, back living room, and ground floor kitchen extension. Upstairs there are two bedrooms plus bathroom. Plus an attic, and of course the obligatory cellar with smelting equipment (I do a lot of smelting, but tell the wife it’s a Laundromat). The block resolution is so crude there’s very little room for moving about in once you build interior walls, but that restriction is part of the charm of the game.

So that’s my little world. And I do mean little – most of the time has been spent filling in the sea with rubble from the mine to get space to build on. Now if you’ll excuse me I must get back to demolishing that hideous eyesore of a Nether Spire.

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