The Unending Appeal Of Minecraft

The first half of 2017 was crammed with exceptional games. That high tide ebbed in May, and I've spent the last couple of weeks going back and catching up on what I missed. I've also spent a lot of time playing Minecraft, a game that came out almost six years ago.

I've played a lot of different versions of Minecraft over the years. I spent dozens of hours playing the game on PC when it first came out, back when I needed to keep a crafting guide open on my phone to have any hope of making anything useful. I played for a week on PS4 a year or so ago, and again in virtual reality a bit after that. These past couple of weeks I've been back at it, this time on Nintendo Switch. What began as a test run to see how the game worked on a new portable console has become a bonafide new Minecraft save file. I'm invested.

So far I have a pretty good house going, with a nice front yard.

I cleared out a room for a basement/wine cellar down below. I'm still not sure what I'm gonna do with it.

I dug into the naturally-occurring chambers below my house and cleared out the monsters, so I have a working mine.

I built a window into the corner of the house so I can see the sun set on a nearby mountain.

I'm a boring Minecraft player. I don't play online, I don't play on PC with mods, and I don't spend any time on servers. I don't know how to make complicated mechanisms or what to do with rare materials or monsters. I play in straight-up survival mode, and my creations are rarely all that ambitious. It works for me. Other games demand so much more; more skill, more focus, more attention. I find comfort in Minecraft's predictability.

I rent an apartment in real life, but I imagine Minecraft to be like a low-stress, low-consequence version of home ownership. There are always a few things I keep meaning to take care of, just like there would be if I owned a house. The crucial difference is that nothing costs me any money, and if I commit to a renovation I don't like, I can easily undo it. My to-do list isn't stressful; it's relaxing. I'm clearing out the back yard, but have been meaning to finish up the roof on the wine cellar. And what would happen if I built a second lookout podium along the north side of the house? That might be nice.

Minecraft holds a spot alongside a tiny group of modern games — Spelunky and The Binding of Isaac among them — that seem like they will be around forever. Whenever someone makes a new gadget with a screen and some sort of input method, it's only a matter of time before Microsoft puts Minecraft on it.

Each time I download Minecraft to a new system, I start out the same way. I build three walls and a roof. I chop some wood and make a crafting table. Soon I have a house, a bed and the makings of a plan. There's just one question left, and the possible answers are infinite: What will I do next?


    Just the neverending, peaceful nature of a singleplayer Minecraft experience.

    I can dig that.

    Last edited 28/05/17 5:58 pm

    Your farm is lacking. Water in an adjacent block allows the wheat, carrots etc to grow much faster. Ideally it should look like this:


    X represents the line of crops that you want to farm, O is the water and P is a path you can walk down to harvest the crop or just to move through without accident destroying your crop.

      Crop growth isn't affected by water proximity, the only condition in that respect is the farmland has to be hydrated, which needs water within 4 blocks. The things that affect growth rate are number of surrounding farmland blocks, whether they're hydrated or not, and the type of neighbouring crops.

      The equation is 1/(floor(25/x)+1) where X is calculated with:
      - Hydrated farmland adds 4, dry farmland adds 2
      - For each block surrounding this farmland block, hydrated farmland adds 0.75 and dry farmland adds 0.25 (so being fully surrounded by 8 hydrated farmland blocks gives the most value). This means crops on edges bordering non-farmland blocks (or water) suffer a growth reduction.
      - If any of the surrounding blocks have one of the same crop, X is halved unless the cardinal opposite block also has the same crop and no other surrounding blocks do. This means planting in alternating rows - either north/south or east/west. If any diagonal has the same crop, or there are more than two neighbouring plants of the same crop, the rate is halved.

      Based on that, the best growth rate you can get for any given crop is to be on hydrated farmland, completely surrounded by hydrated farmland, and either planted in alternating rows or completely on its own (surrounded by eight empty hydrated farmland blocks). So the optimal pattern is a repeating 9x9 area with a single water supply in the middle, and with alternating rows of crops (eg. carrots, potatoes, carrots, etc.) either vertically or horizontally along the farmland blocks.

      I play on a large vanilla server that has benefits for large-scale farming, so I've done a lot of research into how the growth rates are calculated.

        Lol, from the other comment I was thinking they must have changed the code from when I played years ago...from yours I just see the other guy is incorrect.

        That was one thing I don't miss about the minecraft community...People claiming they know how something is done when they couldn't be further from the truth.

          Yeah, you're right. I think it would have been better to word it as advice to add water sources. Now I have seem Zombies method, I've got some updating to do.

          Last edited 29/05/17 3:29 pm

            "Zombies method" has been the most efficient way since farming was first introduced in Minecraft....there hasn't been any changes.

        Hey Zombie,

        I'm trying to understand the 'so being fully surrounded by 8 hydrated farmland blocks gives the most value' bit. I take it you mean all the blocks around the sides of the block, what about the undersides? would they be factored into the calculations?? potentially adding another five blocks (or 9 if corners are included)?

        My strategy was (have not played for a long time) to have a 'pool' of water underneath and on top of the pool to have a layer of dirt in which I plant Crops in alternate rows. Would this meet the efficiency formula??

        i.e. Top down

        C1 C2 C1 C2
        C1 C2 C1 C2
        C1 C2 C1 C2
        C1 C2 C1 C2

        Side View
        C1 C2 C1 C2
        W W W W

        If I read your post right, should I have put a layer of dirt between the water layer and crop layer (i.e. in the side view)??
        C1 C2 C1 C2
        D D D D
        W W W W

          The 8 surrounding blocks are on the same Y level as the block being planted on, above and beneath aren't included. I don't think farmland is hydrated by water below it, are you sure that's been working for you? Which version of Minecraft are you on?

            PS4, no idea of the version, sorry. It seemed to work - well my crops did not fail anyways and I was ale to grow [I think] a 20*15 area of crops. If that is a measure of it 'working', I'm not sure, can crops fail? To be honest, I did not play for long and it is quite some time ago since I lost the disc, on purpose. ;)

              I don't know if there's something odd in the PS4 version but putting water beneath I'm fairly sure won't work in the PC version. The water needs to be on the same Y level as the farmland. What I'd expect to happen there is the farmland wouldn't hydrate, and eventually any crops growing on them would pop off.

              On the other hand, if that does work on the PS4 version then do that. The only flaw in the optimal design is the crops surrounding the water block in the middle have slightly reduced growth rate, if the water could be hidden beneath the farmland then you wouldn't get that problem.



          X is the water, F is hydrated farmland. It's been that way since farming was first introduced. Check the wiki or any other of hundreds of minecraft resources out there.

          Dig a 1 block hole, place water in it. Till the soil 4 blocks out in a straight line in each direction from the water source and then till the gaps between the straight lines. Every block will be hydrated.

          As for walking on them and destroying crops - don't sprint/jump on them and they will be fine

    I have Minecraft across multiple consoles, but lately I've been spending days playing Subnautica on Xbox One. Absolutely amazing game that I can't pull away from. Yet, since reading this article, I'm feeling the urge to jump back into Minecraft.

    Maybe I'll do the same as Kirk and snatch this up on the SWITCH for some portable gaming fun.

    And like Kirk I'm quite the boring gamer. I build a house, get a garden going and start up a farm with animals. Make sure I've got some good caves nearby and I'm all good.

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