Unreal Engine 4

Unreal Engine 4 is similar to Unity, but concentrates more on graphics, optimization, lighting, etc.

It is fairly new (about two years old), and as of now there has only been one actual game created, called Ark: Survival Evolved. However, it has a ton of potential, and unlike other games with really nice graphics, this engine is optimized enough so that there is little or no lag! One of the biggest features over Unity, however, is the landscape designer. This is a feature sorely lacking in Unity. You can easily design landscapes and "paint" them for different areas, like mountains, paths, fields, etc. Not only that, but you can also "paint" on foliage! You can choose what kind of foliage will go into a paintbrush (models/materials are produced by the developer) and just paint where you want it to go. This makes grass, trees, bushes, etc a lot easier to place, without having to worry about placing hundreds of models.

Beside the engine itself, however, Unreal Engine heavily supports game development and student learning. It is completely free (no "Pro" version, though you can buy assets in the store made by other people), and you don't even have to pay Unreal Engine to use your game commercially! You just have to give them 5% royalty of your game, and you get the 95% rest.

And if you have a game you are working on, and you have a first working beta version ready, you can get a grant (Unreal has 5,000,000 USD to give away in grants) that will help you with developing your game, and eventually releasing it the public. Most would assume that there is some catch; why would someone give you money for free? To quote them:

Why Would We Give Away Free Money?

Simply put, we succeed when you succeed. Unreal Dev Grants can give you the boost you need to take your project beyond working prototype. Epic wants to help you focus more on creation and worry less about keeping the lights on.
— https://www.unrealengine.com/unrealdevgrants

Unreal is focused on helping developers make better games, and not on making money.

Not enough for you to download it right now? Check out some of these videos of the engine in use:

Unity 5

Recently, I found out about a 3D (and 2D) game creator called Unity.

When using Unity, you will actually be concentrating as much (if not more) on the 3D modeling and level creating as you would on the programming (known as scripting to Unity). When you first open it, it seems a lot like a 3D modeler, minus the modeling. You can import tons of different kinds of 3D files, even .blend (Blender) files! Nearly any device works with it too, without having to change much. So if you developed a game for PC, then you would just have to add touchscreen controls and change the screen size if you wanted it for tablets/smartphones. Normally, you would have to program the whole game over again in a different language that is supported on smartphones!

There are also a ton of different options for models and even animation. For example, you could just check a tick box and you would have collision prevention implemented for that model. And for animation, you could animate in Blender, then in Unity segment off certain parts of the animation that would run when you wanted it to in a script. It is really easy to make custom animations for a player like running and jumping, too! Many games use Unity now, especially on the auto-optimization that comes with it.

Flappy Brain

Winkleink created a Flappy Bird clone called Flappy Brain, and it's pretty cool.

When you first hear that, you think, "Oh, it's another one of those Flappy Bird clones." But it is far from that. Controlled by the Raspberry Pi, Winkleink (pen name) used PyGame and his brainwave reader create   a brain controlled Flappy Bird game. The brainwave reader is a device you strap around your head, and it feels your pulse. When you think hard, it detects. While it cannot tell what you are thinking, it is useful for making games.

In this game, the bird goes up when you aren't thinking very hard, and down when you start thinking. You have to avoid obstacles, and it really quite hard. For example, when you have to go up, you have to try not to think of anything, and the closer it gets to an obstacle you have to make sure you don't get too excited. When going down, you have to think hard. Winkleink's method is to do simple arithmetic, and when he wants to go up he blinks a few times to stop his thoughts.

Space Engineers Game

I recently came across a new (relatively new, came out 6 months ago) game on Steam called Space Engineers. It had some pretty good reviews (4.9 out of 5), and I watched a few trailers. A few people described it as "Minecraft For the advanced". I would describe it more as "Minecraft with advanced physics in space". While it is not very blocky, you do build a lot. 

The game is in early access, which means that you can buy it for less ($25), but it will probably be unstable. The reason a developer would release a game before it is fully done is to get feedback so that a full release will appeal to the general public, and to get bugs fixed before (again) releasing to the general public. I have played it, and have not really come across any big (or even small) bugs.

The game has two modes, survival (not quite finished developing, but playable) and creative. In both modes, you can choose what kind of world you want. You can start on a plain platform, with a bit of fuel powering the oxygen and gravity generators. Or you can start on a platform with a large ship at your disposal, and a few small fighters and maintenance vehicles. The game, like Minecraft, has no end goal. In fact, you cannot even win the game, as you could in Minecraft (killing the Enderdragon). You build giant ships, small ships, station, and expand your space world with awesome creations. It has tons of features, like rotating pistons, hangar doors, motors, buttons, and more. You can build a space station, and have it send out mining drones that would find an asteroid, mine a bit, then come back and deposit the ores. You can also mass produce small ships, which can be sent out to explore the (optionally) infinite world. 

Of course, all games will get boring if everything is left to you. However, not everything that happens depends on what you do. Random ships will spawn in the world and be sent in a random direction. Each ship has guns that will shoot you down if you get too near, but some have less guns then others. Sometimes, it will be a few ships, like a mining transport and a military escort. There isn't really a story behind the game, though some people like to roleplay. Each ship has some loot or other, and a few even have traps that will blow up the whole ship if you aren't careful. In survival, these ships are very useful as that can be broken down for their materials. In creative, it really fun to build a small ship and try blowing up as much as possible, while dodging the shots. The game is also multiplayer, which means you can do battles between you and your friends! 

And if the game is to easy for you, or even if you want more of a challenge to your buildings, then you can turn on meteor showers. Depending on the setting, every few minutes randomly sized meteors will rain down causing considerable  damage to you and your buildings. Unfortunately, they always come from the same direction, meaning that you can just build your space station on the other side of an asteroid and be safe. 

And if it still isn't challenging or doesn't have enough features, it has a whole modding API! Some mods can add things like planets, or blocks, or just aesthetic features. Probably two of my favorite mods is one that makes the random ships that appear head towards you and attack you, and the other will spawn small ships at a random distance from you that have a small AI, which will try to do as much damage as possible to you. This means that adding guns to your base, even in creative mode, will actually become something you have to do to protect your buildings.

Overall, it is a really fun game, and I suggest you get it!

Windows 10

Microsoft will be releasing a new version of Windows, called Windows 10. Now, if you are currently running the latest Windows version, you should be running Windows 8. The question is, why skip Windows 9? There isn't really any official reason, but I'm guessing that 7 ate 9 (get it?).

One of the big things Microsoft is concentrating on are easier touchscreen controls. This means that the Windows menu will be looking a lot different, and a lot easier when you have a touchscreen computer. They are also upgrading the Windows 10 store, and announced that they are releasing a new version of Minecraft for Windows 10, called Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition Beta. What they basically did is port Minecraft: Pocket Edition (for iOS/Android/etc) to Windows 10, complete with long awaited touchscreen controls for touchscreen computers! It's not exactly the same, however. For one, they added normal keyboard/mouse controls, and it is supposed to be smoother. Not only that, but it is written in C++, which means a lot faster running. Currently, the Minecraft PC version is written in Java, which is easier to write in but harder on the performance. And since Windows 10 Edition Beta and Pocket Edition are so similar, they can finally join each other on worlds. Not only that, but you can join Xbox 360 worlds too!

For a while, there was some Windows to Xbox integration, but in Windows 10 not only can you play all Xbox (downloadable games only I assume) games, but you can stream them from your Xbox to your PC screen too! And when you play on the computer, you can record gameplay without any extra software. 

They are also taking a hint from Apple and Google, and will be adding a voice control AI called "Cortana". Cortana pretty much does everything that Siri does on iOS. They are also adding easier window switching when using Alt+Tab, making it easier to switch windows when you are a programmer and have a clutter of programs you need open.

Cortana isn't the only thing that they are copying from Apple. Windows 10 will feature it's own browser, called Spartan. It has pretty much everything that Safari has, including reader mode and a PDF viewer. 

Windows 10 is also coming to phones (there has been Windows 8 phones, and only those will get the upgrade), and the Windows 10 PC version will have better integration with the phones. Most (if not all) Windows 10 apps will share data across phones via Microsoft accounts.

Windows 10 will also feature a Tablet mode, which provides easier mobility when using a tablet/computer hybrid. This can be activated manually in settings, or used when a keyboard is disconnected from the tablet computer. Finally, they are merging the Control Panel into the PC Setting introduced in Windows 8, which means that you no longer need two windows for simple tasks.

I think that this will be a nice update, but my biggest hopes isn't for the features. I am hoping that it will be less RAM intensive, meaning that the whole system will use less RAM and become faster. This has been a big problem with Windows, because computer with 4GB of RAM or less cannot load Windows 8 Start Screen very fast, and sometimes only has 2GB of RAM free after the system has claimed it. 

Overall, I like what Microsoft is doing, and is finally heading in the right direction.

Teaching Programming To an 8 Year Old

My Dad has a website where he teaches parents how to develop talents in their children, and one of the people who bought his curriculum were some people who lived about a mile from our house.

Their 8-year-old son had an interest in general computer technology, and had the hardware and software to become good at programming. His parents asked me to come over to their house and teach him about computers and some general programming, and I showed them my 3D printer and Raspberry Pi projects (especially the wearable Raspberry Pi I'm calling WristPi), and basics on how they work. The son had a Minecraft account on the PC, and had just started installing mods.

I helped him out with installing a few mods, and how to switch versions of Minecraft depending on the mod version. I played a little with him on my server, and taught him how to use some of the more advanced mods. I listed a few sites where you could get mods, and where to buy the Raspberry Pi. I will be coming back in about a week to teach him some programming, and bringing a Raspberry Pi, too.

Wear The Raspberry Pi With Screen On Your Arm!

About a month ago, I got an idea to make a touchscreen computer that attaches to the upper arm/wrist. I ordered a PiTFT touchscreen , a battery, and the PowerBoost 500 Charger (battery and charger for making it portable). Then, even before it came in, I wrote a GUI in Python/PyGame. Currently, it has a camera, MP3 Player, picture gallery viewer, and video player (broken). I had first planned to make the MP3 player the only feature, then I decided adding a camera would be a good idea. After coding the MP3 player (311 lines of code) in a file, I then made a separate file for the main/home screen. I added the camera (73 lines of code) and image viewer (149 lines of code). They were all separate programs, which turned out to be a VERY bad idea. 

Basically, how it would work, is the main screen was a simple PyGame program with barely 100 lines of code, and when you clicked/tapped on one of the icons it would run a console command which ran the right Python program. This is one of the few times it sounds bad in theory but went fairly well in practice. Until, that is, I actually put it onto a Raspberry Pi. Everything on the Pi is about 4 times slower, and had about 8 times less memory then the computer I was working with when making the program. While opening a new window on top of the main screen had very little delay on the computer I was using, on the Pi it had about a 5 second delay. Not only that, it didn't work in fullscreen, and used up a lot of RAM with two programs running at once.

Finally, I admitted to myself the mistake of what I did, and combined all four programs into a single program, meaning only one display window. This got a much better response, and it has worked out fine. I did try adding a video/movie player to the Pi, but while the sound played fine, it just couldn't update the screen fast enough, and it was just too slow. I ordered a Pi 2 (more about that later), which has twice the RAM, and I may fix the video player later. 

I was actually able to run the GUI in fullscreen without starting booting to the desktop, which means that a lot less RAM is used up.

Some really cool features; to update the program, I use Dropbox. I update the program on the computer, then I upload it to a special folder on Dropbox. Then, on the main screen of the Pi, there is a button which checks for a newer version of the program on Dropbox. It one is found, it uses it and restarts the program. Another great feature is the one for putting music onto the Pi. All you have to do it plug a USB stick into the Pi, then tap a button on the MP3 player screen, and it will copy all music from the USB stick to the music list. I also added a feature which would upload pictures from the gallery to Dropbox. 

I will be 3D printing a case for it soon, but I need a heat bed first. After it looks good enough to boast about, I'll probably do a video about it.

Maker Faire Bay Area 2015 Event

I finally got to go to the  10th annual Maker Faire in the Bay Area, and it was great. The Maker Faire is a where tons of "makers" (people who make really cool tech futuristic things) come and set up exhibits where they show off all of their cool tech. It is a giant event, and about 30,000 came. I got to see a ton of famous developers, including some of the head Microsoft directors, Eben Upton, the creator of the Raspberry Pi, Autodesk directors, and even the developers of the 3D printer I have now (Printrbot). In some areas, I got access to online tools and beta apps that you could only get if you go to the Maker Faire. I saw drones battling each other, life size R2D2 units from StarWars, and at least 50 different 3D printers. 

The first thing I saw was a "hovering" seat, which acted similar to how air hockey works. The small platform-seat had a black air bag on the bottom, with small holes. The air back is constantly being filled with air, which is exiting through the small holes at the bottom, giving it a slight hovering effect. Then inside a building (the whole Faire was held both inside and outside) I saw ton of different printers. I saw a Dremel printer, which did pretty much the opposite of a 3D printer. If you put a block of wood on the printer bed, it would carve things if given a 3D file. I passed a lot of different 3D printers and their developers, and even a 2D printer. This printer acted similar to a 3D printer, but you gave it a pencil instead of filament and only "printed" on one layer. 

Then, probably my favorite part, I saw a newish app called Imaginary Spaces. It lets you build a house in 3D, then simulate it in first person view (and at the same time building it). Then, you can actually export it into both Minecraft and as an STL file for 3D printing. I got a "business card" in the form of a 3D printed castle (made in the app) with the words ImgSpc at the bottom. I also got access to an early beta version of the app for iPad/iPhone. Then, in the next building, I saw an example of using servo motors and an iPad to move things. There was a lot of iPads in the booth, which, when you moved the little cursor, it would move a balloon tied to one of the motors. Next to that booth, I saw a fighting robot, which would be able to deflect and know when the best time to attack was. In this case, though, it had a balloon instead of a stick. I also saw an example of sensors, combined with the Raspberry Pi and the Arduino, including color sensors, motion sensors, pressure sensors, and depth sensors. Then, I saw some 3D scanners, by Apple, which was basically a pad which you placed an object on and it would get scanned. After that, I saw a Kinect 3D scanning station for scanning people. It was a rotating platform and a robot that moved the Kinect up and down slowly. You just stand on the platform, and it would scan you and export to a 3D model.

I also saw tutorials on how to solder, which I probably should have taken (seeing as I had short circuited two Raspberry Pi's as a result of a failed soldering). Then I saw a popular game called Roblox, which had been out for a while. Roblox was very similar to Minecraft (but existed way longer) which basically was a game engine built for making your own worlds, then sharing them for multiplayer battles. In this booth, you could use a special game engine which allows you to code your own logic into worlds that you built. Only people who went to the Maker Faire could use this engine. Then, I saw a freaky humanoid robot (only the upper half). The fingers were especially creepy, as well as the (probably prosthetic) teeth. It had a very monsterish deep voice, too. I saw a thermal camera, which could detect heat. If you rubbed your hands a lot, then it would see the heat resulting from the friction. Then I saw a thing called Game of Drones, where people used custom built (and even bulletproof) cases for their drones, then battled them. It was a large area, with a net around it. If a drone got too near the net, it would get tangled. It was very crowded around there. 

Raspberry Pi SmartPhone

While browsing Instructables, I found a tutorial on how to build your own smartphone using Raspberry Pi and some other fairly cheap components on Adafruit. It looked fairly simple. The author had made his own operating system called Tyfone, and it could receive and send texts, call, and do most things a normal phone could do. It was a modification of the Raspbian operating system, and didn't look too hard to make. You can't download apps, you make your own, which I thought sounds pretty awesome. Plus, you can make both apps and OS using Python, which is my favorite programming language! 

I actually already have a lot of the requirements for building a smartphone. Over the years (or months), I have bought small things for the Raspberry Pi like a camera, USB hub, adapters, things like that. The two big things I need now, is a portable power supply and a small touchscreen. Thankfully, you can get both of these things for about $40 each. 

PrintrBot Simple Metal 3D Printer

I would have written a blog post about it sooner, but my younger brother and I got a 3D printer that came in yesterday. This is the PrintrBot Simple Metal, which is a really nice printer for a cheaper price (about $600 for the assembled, $529 for the un-assembled). I immediately tried it out a bit, mostly moving the nozzle around, then tried for some printing. I ordered 24 feet of filament for $20 on Amazon (white), and I tried it now. After a few hours, I FINALLY got it to print a bit, but it was extremely messy and didn't come out right. I had to do a lot of calibrating around on the Z axis (up and down), and finally got the right distance above the bed. Even now, it has to "warm up", I need to start it printing, wait for the filament to actually start coming out, then quickly cancel the print, move the nozzle away, take away the filament mess that it left, and try over again. Then, when it still didn't work, I searched online and found that hairspray actually helps to make the filament stick when it first comes out. Sure enough, it did the trick. The first successful print was of a friend who had visited that day. My older brother quickly scanned him, sent me the model, about an inch big, and I printed it. It took only about half an hour! I don't have any images of the print, though. My older brother did take a timelapse, which I will upload once/if he sends it to me. 

The next successful print was a fan shroud. The printer has a fan next to the extruder which dries the plastic when it is put on the print model. The shroud is something that PrintrBot left off, so that you could print it. It mostly just directs the air onto the plastic that is being laid down. I actually had problems with warping, where one corner would lift up a bit, then another. Then, it would come off the bed and get picked up by the extruder, ending in a mess which would have to be cleaned off of the extruder. However, in Cura (the 3D printing program) I found an option that prevents warping. It makes a "raft" underneath the model, in plastic, and you can easily take it off of the main model. It really helps, though it used up a bit more plastic and took about 10 minutes longer for larger prints.

Then, I decided to see how I could print a few Lego pieces. My older brother found a 3D model of a 4x2 Lego brick which he sent to me and I printed it. It had some small problems, but it actually fit onto normal Legos. Then, we printed a clone helmet. This one was very difficult, as we had to get the right size. We did three prints, the first too small, the second too big, and the last was about the right size for Lego minifigures. After cleaning it out a bit, we were able to fit it onto a Lego clone. After we added a bit of black using a permanent marker, it looked very similar to the normal Lego clone trooper helmets.

After that, I printed what I really wanted to print. The SD Card Filing Cabinet. The drawer wasn't very good, it didn't have a bottom and parts that were supposed to be filled weren't. Later, I figured out the problem and fixed it. However, an SD Card did fit into it. I then printed the rest of the filing cabinet, which took a while. It didn't have any problems, but when I tried fitting the drawer into it, it was really tight. In fact, the back part on the drawer snapped off. Right now, I am printing the cabinet, a bit smaller. I am pretty certain that the SD cards will still fit in, though. 

One of the features on the Printer, is that you can put a micro SD card into it. Then, from Cura, you can tell it to print from the SD card. After that, I can just unplug the computer from the printer. If I need to stop it, I can plug the computer in again, and enter in the command to stop it. 

SD Card Miniature Filing Cabinet

I was thinking of things I could model and 3D print, and for some reason, a miniature filing cabinet for SD cards popped into my head. It would act as a normal filing cabinet (miniature, of course. About 8 inches high at the most), with drawers, but each drawer would have five slots to insert SD cards. The advantage to having this over a little case, is that each drawer could hold different things. For example, one drawer would be marked with Family Photos, another Business Files, and another Raspberry Pi (totally!). The downside, is that people use USB flash drives for files more then SD cards. I would create this for USB drives, but they can come in all kinds of sizes with their cases. Now that I think about it, there isn't any downside to using SD cards over USB flash drives. 

I drew up some plans for this (I never knew a ruler could come in so much use), with the exact inch sizes. Then, I gave this to my brother who uses SolidWorks, a program for modeling but especially for things such as 3D printing and working with physics. You can see his blog post about SolidWorks on his blog here. Here is just a single paper that I worked on:

This paper shows different sizes of the SD card, and the drawer. Here is a GIF I made in Blender of the drawer (haven't yet created the full cabinet):

Culture/Economy in Minecraft

I love reading about how economy works, and different cultures, and I had the idea of simulating a culture in Minecraft. Basically, if I could ever get a large amount of players on (about 10 or 15), I could make a government that would be built up by players. There would be a senate, made of 5 players, and they could vote for different things. They would also form the government, and sell plots out to people. Everything would start out with one building on and island with a lot of plots, and it would built up from there. In fact, that is why I used WorldPainter to make the island shown here. There would be some trees, some mountains for mining and hills for landscape. How getting ores would work, is a player would build a mine into a mountain, and I would come and place special ores like iron in the mine, which once chopped would come back an hour later. I may even give the government power to do that. The server would only be online once a week, where everyone would come on at once. I was even thinking of having a separate set of players on at a different day of every week, in the same map but on a different island. It could get quite interesting if they came in contact sometime. 

Every four weeks, 5 new senators would be chosen. Meanwhile, however, senators can vote out another senator to be replaced. If the senators were abusing their power by things like extorting resources from the citizens, then they would be banned or never be allowed to be a senator again.

Minecraft WorldPainter

You may sometimes see giant, beautiful Minecraft worlds that other people have created. Maybe you have seen or even played the world map that somebody made, and wondered how somebody could build all that. Block by block?? That would take years. Using WorldEdit, a plugin/mod that helps for building areas? Even with that would take a long time, and wouldn't look nearly as good. There is another program for shaping land called WorldPainter. If you haven't ever seen one of those giant worlds, this is what it might look like:

That does look amazing. And even better, it is actually not too hard to make. Maybe only half an hour of work, sometimes an hour. In fact, that giant world map probably only took about a week of work! WorldPainter is a really easy to use program. It is a separate program from Minecraft, so it is not a mod or plugin. In fact, you don't even need a Minecraft account or Minecraft at all to make that. Here is what the main screen of WorldPainter looks like, when you first open it:

It can be both simple and advanced, depending on what you are using it for. There are a ton of great features, but one of my favorites is being able to create custom trees that you built in Minecraft, and spreading them where you like in the world. Lentebriesj created an awesome zip file full of custom, awesome trees that you can use in WorldPainter. Some of these trees were used by the creator the Earth Minecraft map. 

Here is what I am making with WorldPainter:

HID Macros

I recently saw a tutorial on how to make an easy programmable keypad. In this tutorial, the author was using it as an easy way to access PhotoShop shortcuts easily. Using a program called HID Macros, you can just make a key on the keyboard input different keys. You can just buy an external USB number pad, and change the keys to do different shortcuts, like pressing 6 on the pad will do Ctrl + Z. Another great feature of HID Macros is that it doesn't just check when you press a number, it also checks what device you are pressing it on. So pressing 't' on your laptop keyboard and 't' on a USB keyboard will be seen as two totally different keys.

Then, you can paste icons onto an external number pad, so it is easier to see. Here is what that would look like for PhotoShop shortcuts:

Then, I had the idea to use this for Minecraft, and put the controls there. I ordered an external number pad similar to the one above (without those icons, of course), which is going to come in tomorrow. Meanwhile, I tried doing simple test on an external USB keyboard that I wasn't using, and it works pretty well. Here is what that looks like (ignore my horrible drawing skills and low quality):

Minecraft Mod: McHeli

One of my favorite mods is the Helicopters and Planes mod, called McHeli. This is a very remarkable mod, one reason being that it can use 3D models for the planes! This is a Japanese mod, which means that it will be quite crazy. It adds a whole lot of planes and helicopters, and a few other features. Most planes and helicopters have following missiles, bombs, and guns. There are even anti-aircraft guns in the mod! While this is mostly battle-orientated, it does add some passenger planes.

A great feature is the ability to put any mobs you like, modded or otherwise, into a plane. This is why I added it into our modded Earth server, because I can transport the villagers around easily. Planes are really hard to control, and Helicopters even harder. That is why I chose the job of pilot, because I am almost the only one who can fly them. Here are some pictures of what they look like in action:

Earth Minecraft Survival

I was looking for something interesting to do in Minecraft survival, when I remembered that someone had made the Earth in Minecraft. I thought it would be very interesting to try playing Minecraft on that world, and I was glad when I found they had a version for survival mode. This version had ores (the creative one didn't), less trees, and used blocks that were more normal. For example, some places consisted of "mushroom blocks", but in the survival version they were changed to dirt or sand. I invited my siblings to play, and we got up a nice way of playing. I added Archimedes' Ships mod, Minecraft Comes Alive, and the Helicopters and Planes mod.. Then we went and claimed countries for ourselves, and this is what that looks like:

I then decided that different countries would get different bonuses depending on what it produced, and how much. For example, in California and South America , you could build a gold mine, and every real life day you would get six gold ore without having to do anything. Most countries would get a wood bonus, where if you make a house not very near the rest of your village, every real life day you would get 16 wood logs. I then claimed South Africa, because that place has diamonds. Then, we decided on what jobs we would have. I am the pilot, as crossing places, even in a ship, would take a while. I am almost the only one who can really fly a plane well. I expect to get quite a lot of money from that, as people will be trading and I will have to fly produce around. My sister Noelle will most likely be a farmer in food and animals, and my younger brother Simeon was lucky, and one of the countries he claimed, Afghanistan, was the only place that produced very much marble, or in this case quartz. He has a monopoly on that, as he is the only person who has that. After all that, we set up deals with each other. For example, my brother Simeon owns Canada and gets a wood bonus. I live in Egypt, and my brother Gideon lives in Australia. We didn't notice very much, but there isn't any wood in those countries. So I have a deal with my brother Simeon, where I will clear out an area in Canada for his builds, and I split the wood I collect. My brother Gideon made a deal with my youngest brother Ezra (yeah, we all have accounts :D), where he can make as many logging houses as he likes and Ezra gets a quarter of the wood that is produced.

We have an interactive map of our server here, and the full map of the world (that we used when claiming countries) here.

Maker Faire And Pi Day

Two events are coming up, one is Pi(e!) day, and the other is the 2015 Maker Faire. Pi day is on March 14th, because March is the 3rd month and the first three numbers of Pi are 3.14. It is the day that everybody celebrates (why, I have no idea) the entirely infinite number Pi. Instructables is hosting a contest, where you have to make a tutorial on either how to bake a Pie, or on how to do something Raspberry Pi related. There are two grand prizes, one for the winner that entered tech stuff, and the other for the winner who entered stuff related to baking. I will probably enter with a tutorial for my passcode program that I made a while ago, but in text. 

Also, the Maker Faire 2015 is coming soon, in May. It is held only a few hours drive from where I am. This is the 17th annual Maker Faire for the Bay Area. I hope to meet some new people, there, too!

Minecraft 1.8 Features

Minecrat 1.8 was finally released a month ago after a full year of being developed, and is currently the biggest and longest waited for update for Minecraft. It has a ton of new features, and a few rewrites of some parts of Minecraft, especially the inventory. Most new features are, however, are used by map makers. Map makers are usually people who make things like adventure worlds, or maps, or they make role-playing worlds. They distribute these for other players to use. Mods can usually do more, but the nice thing about these features being implemented into Minecraft is that it is now completely vanilla, so you don't even have to explain to a person how to install mods! Most of these features are used in command blocks, blocks which can run some new commands automatically when powered by redstone. It is very similar to programming. One such map that is quite impressive and uses a huge amount of the new 1.8 map making features is Planetary Confinement (I may do a blog post about it later, once I get around to playing it) by Samasaurus6. It is very similar to the Crash Landing modpack, except completely vanilla! 

Some things you can do, and what this is mostly used for, are minigames. My favorite that I will probably try making it a lava rising game. You are in an undergound Dwarven City, and lava has started to rise from the void below. The object is to get as high as possible before the lava kills you. This will probably be multiplayer, if I ever finish/release it. How I make the lava rise is actually pretty simple. One popular 1.8 feature is the new /fill command. You can use that in command blocks to fill a large area. I have used it before for a lava rising parkour, but I had a problem with it then. The fill command can fill a pretty large area with lava (for example), and replace certain blocks only, but I did not want the lava to suddenly appear and fill the whole parkour room immediately. I wanted it to rise, and if the player wasn't fast enough he would get caught up in the lava. The problem was, for every block that went up, I needed another command block. A parkour room that went up 64 blocks would need 64 command blocks, which was a lot of copy and pasting. Only recently, I found a way that only needed a few command blocks. 

Another popular 1.8 feature were armor stands. This may not seem like they could solve my problem in any way, but armor stands are used more in map making then they are used as a stand for armor. They have some unique tags you can put on them, to help with map making. You can make them so they have no gravity (they are entities, so they can fall normally). I can make a clock that keeps going around, and activating a command block that teleports the armor stand one block higher then whatever it is currently. Another great command that was added in 1.8 was the /execute command. You can use that on entities, to make them run commands as though the command block was there doing the command. This helps for setting blocks relative to an entities position. For example, if you wanted to make a cow spread ice wherever he walks, you now can. But what I use it for, is on an armor stand. Every time he goes up, I set a 100x100 block area in front of him into lava, replacing just air. This way, he keeps going up, and every time he goes up he sets an area to lava. 

I noticed that when I was working with command blocks and armor stands, it seemed very similar to when I was programming turtles. This is just one of the many, many 1.8 features. I talk about a few in this episode of my podcast. It was done a while ago, however, but most of the features I talked of are added in the complete 1.8 version.

Minecraft Modding

I have tried modding a few times before (blog posts here and here), but I tried again today. I am much better at it. I have noticed that that and plugin making are very similar, even in code. Here is what I would do to register a simple item, and mod:

First, I need to setup the programming file, called a "Java Class". In this file, I will need to type in the mod name, mod ID, and mod version. Then, I put in three events. When something happens, code inside an event is run. These three events are before the mod is loaded, when the mod is loaded, and after the mod is loaded. The last and first events aren't used very much, but the middle event is used for everything. Then, I need to create an item. I make a variable of the Item type, and call it what I like. Then, inside the "main event" (what I call the event where the mod is loaded), I give it a name and, if I want, a texture. To do that, though, I need to create a class for that item. In that class is where I can give it attributes. Items don't have very many, but blocks do. Back in the main event, I just have to register the item. Then I can launch Minecraft from the code editor, and get the item using some commands. It is pretty easy to program.

I am following tutorials by MrCrayfish. He is the creator of the famous furniture mod for Minecraft. Click here for the tutorials.