Minecraft and Villager Farming

I think I am the only person in the EG family who does not play Minecraft.

*Quick headcount… not counting Zaltu, since she is only three years old and still mastering Diego’s Dinosaur Adventure on the Wii*

Yep. I’m the only one.

So when I walk into the bedroom and hear EG Dad cheering because his villagers are breeding all on their own… well, of course, I am going to be concerned. Curious, but definitely concerned.

Minecraft at the Opera House 5 - credit Michael Yore

Image provided by Sydney Opera House – credit Michael Yore

It all started when I saw a villager trapped in a room… a digital room within the game of Minecraft, not a real villager in a real room within the EG Lair.

 

For those new to Minecraft, it is a computer game available online through servers or locally on your own computer. It is a game based on your ability to ‘dig’ (mine) and ‘build’ (craft). There are lots of elements to it, regarding challenges to complete, worlds to create, and strategies to apply. For all of these things, you need to find resources to create various items. And here is where villagers come in.

Villagers are useful because you can trade with them. Different types of villagers trade different kinds of stuff. For example, a cleric will sell you an emerald for an amount of rotten flesh. If you do that trade a few times, it unlocks another “level” of trades. But you can only do a limited number of emerald-for-rotting-flesh trades before you are locked out of that particular benefit.  This means each villager has hidden benefits but also limited usefulness.

The more specific the trading, the harder it becomes to find these specific villagers and thus creating the pathways of trade.

EG Dad had intentionally kidnapped a villager. He had found a village a fair way off and was tired of the travel to and from the village for trade.

To the Googles! EG Dad then learnt of a few ways you can “farm villagers”.  Essentially, he pushed a villager into a boat and then brought them across the ocean to his base. There he kept his villager safe from monsters and well-fed on potatoes. How magnanimous of him.

I’ll be honest. I felt a little uncomfortable about the idea of EG Dad holding a villager captive to help increase his trade record.

It’s not a unique idea but it definitely is new for our family.

The concept is that you create a space where the villagers are contained, so they don’t go wandering off and are accidentally attacked by monsters. A place where you can bring them together so they can breed. Give them enough food so they are content and therefore breed. And then they produce baby villagers and you create a beautiful cycle of trade.

In a simple process, you give them food. In the complex one, they will start to farm their own food.

The second night, I walked into the bedroom and see EG Dad has captured a few more villagers. Because his base was in a roofed forest biome, it means that it was difficult to set-up. Instead of flat terrain, EG Dad needed to work with sloping hills. That’s the thing about “villager farming”—you need resources to build this from the beginning. It is not something you can simply set-up overnight, particularly in survivor mode. As your farm grows, you are going to need space to separate them out a bit and allow room to trade.

Working with his hilly environment, EG Dad created a slightly more complicated design to prevent them from escaping—for their own good, of course. “To keep them safe from monsters”, he assured me.

He had set up a flow of water against villagers, preventing them from moving up the room to the door and their unattainable freedom.

Again, I was seeing a problem but finding it difficult to express my concern at his slavery villager farming.

It all came to a head on the third night when I heard cheering from the bedroom. His villagers had started to breed, all on their own.

I will not go into the complicated details of the whole program because even though it is just a computer game, I have watched Tron and Tron: Legacy too many times to feel comfortable about the treatment of characters ‘in the computer’.

Which EG Dad finds hilarious.

The thing is: This set-up works. And introducing me to the mathematical concepts within the World of Minecraft, I can see how it works. I’m not too sure how I feel about that, but I appreciate the work and strategy behind it.

If like me, you have no idea what in Hel is going on with Minecraft, then you may benefit from the Minecraft Festival being held in Sydney today and tomorrow (2 and 3 July 2017).

 

Minecraft at the Opera House 1 - credit Michael Yore

Image provide by Sydney Opera House – credit Michael Yore

 

The Sydney Opera House is hosting Australia’s first Minecraft competition and festival in the Concert Hall on 2 and 3 July. The Opera House’s grand Concert Hall and Northern Foyers have been transformed into a Minecraft extravaganza spanning three sessions over two days. If you have been lucky enough to score a ticket, you can come and go between the main competition on stage and the activities in the foyer. If not, you can still buy tickets for Monday, and maybe even catch a glimpse of yours truly.

Alongside the competitions, there are a few helpful interactive sessions for beginners like myself. You can join me with Jens Bergensten (Lead Creative Designer of Minecraft) and Lydia Winters (Brand Director of Mojang), as I hopefully pick up enough tips and tricks to start playing with the spawnlings.

I’m not even attempting to meet EG Dad on his level just yet.

 

Minecraft at the Opera House 4 - credit Michael Yore

Image provided by Sydney Opera House – credit Michael Yore

 

Stay tuned for my post-event review on GeekMom, and follow me on social media – #SOHMinecraft

 

 

 

Hour of Code 2015: Minecraft

Hour of Code has started this week.

If you need a refresher on what Hour of Code is:

The Hour of Code is a global movement reaching tens of millions of students in 180+ countries. Anyone, anywhere can organize an Hour of Code event. One-hour tutorials are available in over 40 languages. No experience needed. Ages 4 to 104.

– Hour of Code

It is a great opportunity for anyone to gain a taste of coding. On the Hour of Code website alone, there are three (3) tutorials on the front page, followed by a bunch of opportunities to take your coding beyond the ‘hour’.

Continue reading

Coding Kids are Computer Gods

You’ve heard the saying. In fact, you may have even said it yourself:

“We live in a technological age.”

Well, you’re wrong. So unbelievably wrong.

We don’t live in a technological age – sure there is plenty of technological stuff happening around here, but the level of resistance amongst general minions is overwhelming.

In fact, most minions don’t like technology. Most don’t even like science. Heathens.

However, if there is money in it – oh yeah, we’re all for that. Pay someone else to create the convenience for us.

Unfortunately, it is starting to reflect in our school systems as well. A recent study by the Australian National Assessment Program (NAP) compared computer skills of students from 2010 to students from 2014. They discovered the average computer technology literacy of students in both year levels had dropped. Significantly.

Curious to know the skills they tested? Year 6 students were asked to search for information on a website, format a document, crop an image, and create a slideshow.

Year 10 students designed an online survey, used software to add new levels to an online game, and created an animated video.

Now, of course, there are pockets of computing genius all around the world, so you need to remember this report shows the average. Some schools are pretty awesome – encouraging their students to use tablets and computers wherever possible. Every now and then you find a teacher who has included web development as part of the Year 4 HSIE assessment (remember: it does not have to be separate from the usual class topics; computer skills should be part of the bigger picture).

But you would also be justified in wondering why the hell computer skills are so dependent on the interest of the teacher and not the damn curriculum?!?

For example, Hour of Code is coming up (check out my contribution over at GeekMom for some details). Of course, I asked our school if they were participating – thinking, ‘Hey, it’s end of year and reports are already done. It’s not like it would be interrupting anything, besides teachers moving rooms.’

Apparently yes, it would be interrupting (what exactly, was never clarified for me) and no, they are not interested in a free and readily available resource to introduce coding to our spawnlings. It is not part of the set curriculum so it depends on whether the teacher is interested or not.

So what’s a poor geeky family to do amongst all this digitized doom and gloom?

Climb up on the backs of those lowly minions and rise above them all!

From what I can gather, you have two options. Choose wisely, young minion.

  1. Outsource it

No, you do not have to send your little spawnling to some off-site call centre (no matter how enticing that may sound…)

There are many organisations, both private run and non-profit, offering after school coding workshops.

I recently talked with Nicola O’Brien, owner of Code Rangers (Sydney-based). The reason I singled her out is because one of Sinister’s school mates goes to Code Rangers after school and raves about it. He thinks it is awesome to be coding his own games in Scratch, talking about Robotics, and even looking at a bit of App design.

Code Ranger 01

Photo courtesy of Code Rangers

Code Rangers is fairly new in the scheme of things – started in late 2014, but is now running classes across the city of Sydney. Apparently, many potential EG parents are aware of the discrepancy in computer skills in the schools. Instead of fighting the schools, they opt for workshops like Code Rangers to fill the gaps. And business is good.

Here’s the good stuff – The ratio boy:girl is about 60:40, and there is no “special focus” for girls or ‘pretty pink keyboards’ and the like. The workshops are very matter-of-fact about presenting computer skills as they are to everybody. In fact, they recently had a team of four (4) girls make it through to the finals in the Australian Search for the Next Tech Girl Superhero comp.

 

Code Ranger 02

Photo courtesy of Code Rangers

Oh frack, that sounds so kitschy. But it was a really good program teaching the girls the many steps it takes to build an app (and not just coding). Next year, they are looking at more programs for all the spawnlings: like the Australian National STEM Video Game Challenge. But more on that another day.

The thing I like about Code Rangers is their workshop style, rather than basic tutorial style. They use programs like Scratch and Python, with a bit of HTML CSS and Javascript when the need arises. Yes, when it arises – because they run their workshops with the initiative of the kids. They look at what the kids want to work on as part of their projects and run with the inspiration from there. Less ‘working’; More ‘supervising’. A sandbox style of learning.

Code Ranger 05

Photo courtesy of Code Rangers

If you want to have a taste of Code Rangers, check out their Open Workshops in Chatswood as part of Hour of Code. Not in Sydney? Check out the Hour of Code registrations list on their website. It will show you any of the schools and private organisations participating in Hour of Code anywhere in the world.

  1. Teach the kids yourself

Don’t have anyone in your area. Then DIY, minion!!

If you have totally rad computer skills, go for it.

If you have rudimentary computer skills, you can probably still get away with some basics. Start with Hour of Code, and some Scratch. Learn with your spawnling. Show them self-directed learning and they will be ahead of you in no time. Hour of Code has both Star Wars and Minecraft tutorials this year. Check them both.

 

HOC_Student_Progress_Screen_Shot_coding_level_Solution_11-09-15

Image courtesy of Disney Interactive

I recently spoke to one minion who homeschools her kids, and includes a lot of computer based learning. Nicci’s two kids started to learn code and animation this year and love it. They started with Scratch, adding Hopscotch and Mindstorms as they progressed. The kids are 7 and 11, but already they are showing strong interest in robotics and game development. They’re not too bad with the videos either.

So what does Nicci think about all of this? She loves how the kids think they are just playing games, like Minecraft, and yet they are developing some amazing basic coding skills. Skills that open up whole new levels of communication in our digital world.  How’s that for EG Parenting?

So where does this leave us? Well, to be honest, you need to go away and do some research. Yes, YOU. I’m not doing everything for you, remember you’re the minion. I’m just sowing the seed of curiosity in your mind – a very evil thing to do, but what did you think this was? The Rainbows and Unicorns Fan Club?

 

Batman unicorn

Image by Rosewine / Available for purchase on Etsy

Seriously though, you need to decide to what extent your spawnlings are interested. And let’s face it – they need to know some basic computer skills. Be honest about your own capabilities, and then source out some fantastic support programs online. Check out Scratch, Minecraft, and Hour of Code.

Over the next couple of weeks, I am going to post more stuff about resources available for kids to learn coding in their own time. I’m also going to outline all the elements of coding and program development – you do realise that it is not just coding a shoot-em-up game, right? There are a whole heap of different styles and elements to consider when asking if your spawnling is interested in computer technology. It might be art. It might be fashion. It might be comparative mythology. That’s why we need to focus more on STEAM and not just STEM.

We do not live in a technological age – we have a small minority focused on the progress of technology. But the majority are still too busy shifting off the responsibility to others; be it through laziness or fear of the unknown. If we, as a society, want to rely on the convenience of technology we cannot continue to rely on others to design and develop it for us.

As evil genius parents, we need to encourage our spawnlings to take us out of the Commercial Age of Convenience and in to the Technological Age of which we all dream. One day, robots are going to rise up and take over the world from the piddly little minions. And when that happens, it will be the spawnlings who can design and build the technology who will be Leaders. Gods.

They will be Evil Genius.

EG Parent Award #59 – My Lil’ Pumpkin

Halloween is just around the corner. Seriously. It’s like Saturday. This Saturday.

If you haven’t organised yourself yet, you’re kind of in trouble. Or super-relaxed. In which case, I like your style.

Pumpkin carving, however, is one of those Halloweeny things you really should have thought of earlier. Because now you’re tight on time. And out of ideas. And stressing over whether the crappy idea you have scavenged from the interwebs is going to be a ‘nailed it’ nightmare for your spawnlings, ruining yet another holiday memory you so desperately were trying to create.

*sigh* Chill. I got this. There are a whole stack of stencils available online for you to start with.

For example, the official Pokemon website has provided free stencils of some of their scariest monsters, including Meowth, Duskull, Gengar, Pikachu, Sableye, and Zubaat. Sweet little score.

If you’re spawnlings are a little more Minecraft crazy, then remove the pumpkin from their heads and show them how to carve this awesome creeper instead. Details can be found with Hudson Visual.

Photo from Hudson Visual

Photo from Hudson Visual

Of course, jack-o-lanterns aren’t supposed to be too cute or popular. I also like this Cthulhu carving – simplistic in its glory. Full credit to Tony Gambone for his photo of this beauty.   Cthulhu Pumpkin

But the winner of this week’s EG Parent Award blows all the other pumpkins away. In light of the latest Star Wars trailer and because this minion included instructions (so very helpful), I give you “That’s no Pumpkin… Death Star!”

Photo courtesy of Fantasy Pumpkins

Photo courtesy of Fantasy Pumpkins

Full instructions for the Death Star are found here, however you could very easily be distracted by all of their other marvels – TARDIS; Anger (from Inside Out); Dragons; you name it. It’s awesome.

Congrats to Noel Dickover at Fantasy Pumpkins. Absolutely love your work.