It had been a long time since I had even thought about the game, and even longer since I had actually played it. Minecraft was a game that had me captivated for quite some time. I used to borrow my good friend James's account so I could play. The game would kick him off if I ever tried to play online, so I only ever played survival mode, offline, alone. Even alone, I had loads of fun. Occasionally James and I would mail each other copies of our world files so we could see what the other was up to in the game. I was basically left alone with my own creativity in the world of Minecraft. Eventually though, like all games, it became dull.
Years passed. I didn't really talk to James anymore, but we still caught up over the phone every once in a while. I, myself, was actually in the process of moving into my girlfriend's house downstate and was visiting with my parents one last time so I could gather up the last of my things.
After spending most of the day with my family, it had already gotten pretty late. My parents weren't really night owls, and they both had jobs to be at in the morning. They said goodnight, went up to bed, and that was my cue to head downstairs into the basement and get ready for bed myself.
My room was in the basement. When I was growing up, I thought it was cool to have my room down there, but was pretty ashamed of it once I hit twenty. Still... it was pretty cozy down there just the same. I made my way down the dimly-lit carpeted stairs into the basement and over to the refrigerator. I could tell that my parents had already stopped buying the things I liked judging by the selection of beverages available. Three different types of diet soda.... or water. Water it is. I grabbed my drink and head past both my bedroom and the bathroom on my way over to the TV room. It still felt just like home.
I plopped down on the couch, uncapped my water, turned on the television with the remote, and was about to start browsing through Netflix when I noticed my old Xbox 360 sitting there. Seeing the console got the gears turning inside my head. "Why not?" I thought. I powered up the now-obsolete console.
After messing around for quite a bit, seeing how none of my old xbox live friends still played, and playing around with my avatar, I found myself looking through the games available for purchase and download.
I had only just begun browsing through the list when I saw it - Minecraft Xbox 360 Edition.
"No way!" I thought to myself. All of the long-forgotten memories of Minecraft began flooding back into my mind. My mind continued to race, "Wow. There's going to be quite a bit of new content to play around with." ...and at that moment I realized...
If I purchased the game, I would be able to play with other people on Xbox Live.
I didn't think about it twice. I immediately updated my billing information, purchased the game, and began downloading it to my console. As the game was downloading, I went over to my room and grabbed a never-before-used xbox headset out of my top dresser drawer. I had been holding onto that damn headset for so long without ever intending to use it, and I saw it there in its package every time I opened that drawer. In my excitement, I didn't even realize I still had the wireless xbox controller in my hand. I slipped the headset out of its plastic sleeve, plugged it into the controller, and I could hear the faint static interference of the plug entering the jack over the earpiece.
I grabbed four AA rechargeable batteries from the battery charger, and put the headset onto my head.
I was totally ready to play Minecraft online.
I went back into the TV room and noticed that the wireless controller had disconnected from the console. I popped the battery pack off of the controller and replaced the batteries inside with two of the fully charged batteries I had just grabbed from my room. I held down the xbox button in the middle of the controller as I once again got comfortable on the couch, and the controller reconnected.
I had forgotten all about my water, which had already begun to get warm, and I quickly downed it without even pausing to take a breath.
By this time, the game had already finished downloading, and I started tearing through the menus to renew my xbox live membership. In no time at all, everything was in place. I started up minecraft, gripping my controller excitedly. Periodically I adjusted my headset to get it in the perfect position to talk.
"Here we go!" I thought, my heart already beating with anticipation. The upbeat title screen music began to pour out of the television speakers, and I cranked up the volume to the point where I could hear the television from anywhere in the basement. I browsed through the game menus briefly, resisting the urge to plunge right into playing the game.
I saw that you could customize your character's appearance with skin packs, so I bought myself an Isaac Clark (from DeadSpace) skin. "He is a miner after all!" I thought to myself. I just didn't want to look plain Jane to the other players. I wanted everything to be perfect.
After applying the skin to my account, I started up the tutorial. I knew that it was going to take me a little while to get used to playing the game on the xbox. Since I had only ever played on the PC up until that point, and was a little rusty to the game in general, it seemed like a pretty good idea.
The tutorial was very informative, not just on the controls and how-to's, but also with showcasing some of the new content that had been added to the game. There were shops, merchants, beacons, spell books, all different sorts of things I had never seen before. After a short time, however, the tutorial seemed very restrictive, and I soon became tired of the training wheels and just wanted them off.
I backed out to the main menu, and decided it was finally time to play the actual game. The upbeat music of the title screen once again filled the basement. I navigated to the server selection screen. From there, I had the option of creating my own world, or joining someone else's. I waited about a minute or so for the server list to populate. Nothing showed up, so I just created my own. My mind raced... I wondered if Xbox One and Xbox 360 servers were separated, or if the game had just lost all popularity, or maybe I just didn't wait long enough for the servers to load. I made double and triple sure to have the option checked to allow anyone to join my game. I paused at the section where I was able to name the world for quite a bit before finally giving it the name "MINE HERE!" and immediately after, I created the world.
As the loading screen was displayed on the television, I wondered what sort of players I was going to meet, if we were going to create things together or become rivals.
The loading screen disappeared and I was finally standing foot in the world of Minecraft.
I spawned in a winter biome, surrounded by a hilly landscape covered in plenty of trees and a sandy shore bordering a frozen body of water. I double tapped the control stick to start running, and I flew across the ice over to the far shore of what I soon realized to be a small lake. I slid to a stop before reaching land, and surveyed my surroundings. The hillside here had areas of gravel, and I decided I would use this hillside as my first base/mine. I immediately began punching down the nearest tree, a spruce, not that it really made any difference, and I collected the logs in my inventory. This awarded an achievement "Getting Wood," and a small smile spread across my face. I proceeded to knock down several more trees before deciding it was time to start crafting.
Even though the crafting interface on the xbox version was quite a bit different than what I was used to (you had to find the recipes in the menu instead of dragging the components into the crafting grid) it took me no time at all to craft my first workbench and my first set of wood tools. I used my new shovel to begin tearing an opening into the gravel that covered the hillside. After unveiling a wall of stone behind the gravel, I swapped to my wooden pickaxe and quickly began gathering cobblestone. I gathered up a nice amount of stone and headed back to my workbench to upgrade my tools.
I crafted a stone sword, a stone axe, a stone shovel, and several stone pickaxes. I also crafted a furnace and placed it beside my workbench. I figured that I was doing good on time. I already had plenty of tools, found coal, and was about to begin my first mining operation. If I wanted to start mining deep, I was going to need some torches though.
I pulled out my stone axe and started going to town on every tree in the vicinity of my crafting area. As I continued chopping trees, I started to wonder when someone was going to join my game. I didn't want to get caught off guard, just in case they were hostile, and I wanted to get a decent headstart on them hostile or not. I had been rushing through everything so far, and I was not about to slow down now. ...but just the same, I made sure to take the time and get the top block of wood from the trees so that I didn't leave things looking silly with floating trees, and I didn't give away my location to other players either. (floating trees is a sign that someone has been there, logging) I felled every tree I could until my simple axe finally gave out on me, and returned to my workbench loaded with wood.
I tossed a bunch of the logs I had just collected into the furnace with some leftover sticks so I could make some charcoal for torches, and while that was cooking I made another stone axe to replace the one I had just broken moments earlier. I also created two storage chests, and a ton of sticks for my torches.
Once the charcoal was ready, I made as many torches as I could and grabbed my workbench and furnace to relocate them in the hillside. It had already started getting pretty dark. I didn't really worry too much about appearances, since I was still rushing to get things done really quickly, and managed to squeeze the workbench, furnace and the two chests into the area I had previously excavated. I placed a torch or two above the chests, and began blocking off the open area of the hillside until I was completely and safely sealed inside of the hill.
I dumped everything I didn't need into one of the chests. So the saplings I got from the trees, the flint from the gravel, the snow I had accidentally grabbed with my shovel, and a couple other random things got left behind. It was time to start mining.
Laboriously, I started chopping away stone and dirt with my tools, digging an opening two blocks wide and three blocks tall in a staircase fashion. Deeper and deeper I mined toward the center of the earth, placing torches every so often on both sides of the tunnel I was excavating. I had gone pretty deep without hitting anything interesting, but eventually happened upon a coal deposit. I was in the middle of mining the useful substance when my controller disconnected.
Please Reconnect Controller.
I immediately turned the controller back on and instinctively checked the battery levels, which were still at full. After turning the controller back on, I could hear my headset transmitting silence for a moment or two until a faint click signaled that it had turned itself off again.
I continued hacking away at the coal, and patched up the areas of the floor that were to remain part of the staircase with cobblestone. After patching up the area where the coal was, I took a glance up the crude stone steps I had just chiseled out, and got a sense of just how deep I had already carved my way underground.
It was going to be a pain in the ass to jump up every single one of those stone blocks to get out of the mine, and the problem was only going to get worse the deeper I went, so I decided to head back up and make some cobblestone steps. "God this room looks terrible" I thought as I entered the extremely makeshift entrance area into the mine. The walls were of no one type of block. There was dirt, stone, cobblestone, gravel... everything just all over the place in no semblance of order. Definitely not the way I had been accustomed to making my mines, which were usually very neat and tidy. My makeshift base needed a window, so that I could see if it was daytime or if it was still dark. I made quick work of one of the cobblestone blocks I had placed earlier with my stone pickaxe. On the other side of the hole I just made there was nothing but darkness. It looked like I was not going to be able to safely remodel my base just yet.
While I was waiting for the sun to come up in the game, I figured it would be the perfect opportunity to go relieve myself. I didn't realize it until just then, but I had to pee pretty badly. Your brain tends to put things like hunger and bathroom urges on the back burner when you are playing video games. I unplugged my headset from the controller, and left the controller behind as I made my way to the bathroom. I didn't want to have to reconnect the wireless controller to the console for going out of range once again. Headset still on, cord dangling at my side, I quickly handled my personal business and once I was finished, eagerly head back to dive back into my minecraft adventure.
When I returned to the TV room after using the bathroom, the first thing I did was plug my headset back into the controller. Again, the familiar static rustled my right ear as the plug and jack became one. For a moment or two I was able to hear that the headset was on, the same as before... playing nothing but silence until I heard the familiar faint click sound letting me know it was off again. It was still dark outside, and the short bathroom break really was not enough time to allow the night to pass. I flipped the light switch off in the TV room, and planned out my next course of action. I'll mine for just a bit longer; At least until the sun comes up. Seeing the workbench as I turned to re-enter the mineshaft reminded me that I had come back up to craft stairs. "Two stacks of cobblestone steps should be more than enough" I thought as I tinkered on the workbench.
With the steps in my hand, I started to head back down the mineshaft. After dropping down the first stone block that made up the first of the crude stairs into the mine, I turned around and started placing the steps.
After placing the steps, I dropped down to the next stone block, backwards, and placed the next row.
One by one, the rows of steps came into existence, and I had gotten a nice smooth flow going. Turn a little to the left, place some steps. Turn a little to the right, place some steps, drop down to the next block. repeat.
I made sure to place them cautiously and accurately, to eliminate the necessity of having to mine and re-place any blocks. With my back to the tunnel, I diligently worked, crafting the magnificent stairway into the center of the earth. After a little while, I couldn't see the entrance anymore when I tried to look up and out of the tunnel.
The tunnel was a bit darker down here. On my first trip down, I realized I had been a bit too liberal with placing the torches at first, and I had started to space them out a little further from that point on.
Some of the light from the torches didn't even reach all the way to the next torch. I don't remember the torch light being that weak when I used to play the game... and I assume there had been some sort of update to make the game darker.
I continued crafting the stairway, heading further and further down. ...and as I was passing through a particularly dark area of the tunnel, I started getting a little confused.
I was imagining someone in real life heading down a foreign hole into the center of the earth... backwards... without turning around to see where he was going or what was waiting for him.
I know the dangers that await players in Minecraft, but I imagined something more than a zombie or a skeleton lurking in my mine. It was watching me from the depths of the earth.
Every hair on my neck and arms were standing on end. I continued building the staircase, not daring to turn around.
I started to speed up placing the blocks and starting getting sloppy, making mistakes here and there. I would almost hold my breath as I passed the dark areas that the torchlight didn't reach.
A few more steps down, and things started getting really dark. I should have definitely passed a torch like ten steps ago. I frantically swapped to my torches and placed like three of them in my immediate area.
I started losing my grip on reality. I was getting pretty tense. I wanted desperately to turn around, but I was too scared to do so. I sensed something behind me in the tunnel.... It felt like there was someone or something right behind me, breathing down my neck. At that exact moment a loud rumbling noise, so deep I could actually feel the vibrations, flooded the tv room where I was playing, completely startling me.
I stopped dead in my tracks.
My palms had gotten sweaty, and the loud noise startled me enough to make me lose my grip on the controller for a second.
Just one of those damned ambient cave noises, I assured myself.
I grabbed hold of the controller tightly, and tried to press on. ...until I realized that I had still been holding the thumbstick down the entire time. My character had backed into something. Chills raced up my spine. It was finally time to turn around.
Static had begun to build up in my headset again. It started off like a soft whisper, and as I slowly applied more pressure to the analog stick to continue turning, the static grew louder. I swung the right analog stick quickly to the left, and it made a loud clacking sound as the stick smacked into the plastic of the controller surrounding it. At this point the static in my ear had built up to a scratchy buzzing sound when all of a sudden, right as I had completed turning around to look behind me.
*Click* The headset turned off and everything went silent. Please Reconnect Controller.
The screen was next to black and all I could see was almost complete darkness.
I scrambled to turn the controller back on. The tv room had gone so dark, I couldn't even see the controller in my hand... but I knew exactly what I had to do. I smashed my thumb hard into the xbox button in the middle of the controller, and I could see the little green lights surrounding it trying to light up, but failing.
I was no longer afraid of the darkness in the game, but also of the darkness surrounding me on the couch in my parents' basement.
Finally, the controller connected back to the xbox.
There was no time to come to grips with the events that had just taken place until after I shed some light on the situation. The darkness had started to eat away my sanity, and in the moment I regained control, I took action.
I had one final torch remaining, and I placed it on the nearest block to me, which happened to be on the floor directly in front of me. The darkness began to melt away into a familiar warm glow, and I felt safer immediately.
In front of me was a shallow passage, to which the recently added torchlight barely reached the end.
I cautiously approached the dead end, taking care to remain well within the well-lit section of the passage, but something just didn't seem right. The tunnel felt.... wrong, specifically the floor. Even though I could barely see the end of the passage, I could tell that the floor at the end of the tunnel was dirt instead of stone, but it looked almost red in the faint torchlight. I did not remember digging that far away from the staircase, and certainly didn't remember hitting a dirt patch on the way down.
"This was not here the first time I came down," I thought to myself... of that I was almost certain. My mind raced, before ultimately screeching to a halt at a particular notion. "Was there someone else in the game with me?"
That whole time, I had completely forgotten that I was playing online. I figured the game must have some sort of notification when new players join a server, and there would have been no way that I could have missed it if there was someone else playing with me. ...but then I remembered...
"You fool," I thought to myself. "You just got up to use the bathroom."
The questions still remained. Did someone actually join my game while I was gone, and were they fucking with me? ...or was I losing my mind?
I wasn't ready to accept the latter just yet.
Still, I did not see how it was possible that another player could have found my mine if I had buried the entrance in the hillside. Inquisitively I sat, pondering, staring blankly off toward the dimly-lit patch of reddish-brown blocks on the floor at the far end of the passage, attempting to come to grips with the events that had just occurred.
I still wasn't entirely convinced the blocks were dirt, but what else could they be? Being unsure of the type of blocks on the floor definitely did not help to shake the strange feeling. The feeling that they had been placed there to serve as a crude doorway, separating my mine from whatever lie further in, a doorway that I did not create.
As my mind wandered, a light bulb clicked on, and I remembered the crude window I used to check to see what time of day it was in the game. If another player did join my game, and he joined while it was night time, he might have seen the light poking out through the window of my shelter. My shelter was close enough to the spawn that it would have probably called to the player like a beacon.
It was entirely possible, but I had no way to be sure.
I turned to climb up the stairs to leave the mine, and just the act of turning my back to the passage behind me was enough to cause my hairs to once again stand on end. Without hesitation, I flew up the seemingly endless flight of stairs, and as I raced further and further upward and out of the mine, I could feel the goosebumps melting away.
When I reached the top, I could see that it was finally daytime.
to be continued........