With lockdown entering its fifth week, Minecraft is proving a useful venue for friends and families to meet up, play together and work on collaborative projects. The game is widely used in schools throughout the world to teach everything from sustainable farming to the history of art, and Microsoft recently made the many lessons and exercises in its Minecraft Education programme available to everyone with an Office 365 account.
If you have the game at home and are looking for new projects to attempt – maybe as part of your home schooling timetable – here are eight ideas that will test and expand your modelling skills.
And we’d love to see how you get on! Have a go at any of these ideas and send us a screenshot or photo of your model to [email protected] by 27 April. We’ll run a gallery of our favourite examples.
Build your own home
When building something real, it is alway best to look about, take notes and sketch it out on paper first. This will help you figure out dimensions and which blocks you might want to use. In Minecraft, one block is about one metre in real life. This ratio mostly works, except for doors, so don’t worry too much. Think about the colours and textures you want. Don’t be afraid to use melons to make a floor – Minecraft has so many blocks to choose from and you can be inventive! Half-slabs are your friends. They can lift or lower a room to give a sense of space or height and can add edging and depth to exteriors. Think about furniture and fittings, too – using steps and signs can make fun seats, or what about black wool on an anvil to make a TV? Don’t forget to decorate your house; have fun and experiment. For an extra project, involve the whole family by finding out what your parents’ or grandparents’ childhood homes were like – and then build them.
Pixel art portraits
To create a pixel art portrait, start by printing out a picture of yourself or a family member and then print out some squared paper. (There’s lots of free graph paper online.) Stick the picture to a window, then trace around the image using the graph paper. Estimate the squares of different colours and think about shades of colour, too. Coloured pens or pencils are great for this. Once you have a pixelated copy of your picture, use that as a template and match the colours to blocks in Minecraft.
Museum buildings come in lots of shapes and sizes, from neoclassical to conceptual. Start by researching different museums. You can base your build on a real or imaginary museum. Begin with some of the simple shapes that you can see. We call this a grey build – it creates the overall dimensions and shapes to give a sense of scale and room size. Next, take a first pass at decoration – don’t get stuck in details. Instead, look at making angles more defined, add in stairs and green areas, and perhaps seating and desks. Finish with the fine details – doors, windows, plants, lighting … and your museum’s collections.
The perfect school
It’s time to go back to school. For this build, recreate your place of learning. If you’ve always home-schooled, you can create one from a favourite book. Minecraft has loads of new blocks that are great for school-themed builds. Think about the different classrooms and spaces you might find and the different activities you can do, from making potions in the science lab to parkour in the gym.
Like music? Why not make an armour-stand band – pop, rock, punk or glam. You can dress your armour stands in different styles, from diamond tiara to dyed leather. On Bedrock edition, you can even create different poses by crouching, looking at the armour stand and clicking. You have several Minecraft heads to choose from, too – Steve, zombie and skeleton, and even a dragon. See what musical styles you can create, and why not make them a stage, too?
Build a ship
Whether wooden, metal, old, new, shipwrecked or fantasy, ships are fun to build in Minecraft. Although they are essentially static structures, they are cool and pretty hard to build. Here are some tips to get you started. To create a basic ship hull, start by building a line, draw the ship’s hull from the side then, from above, draw the outline of the ship. Once you have these two elements blocked out, just join them together – you can add stairs and half-slabs to smooth out the curves. Once the hull is completed, think about the decks and how your ship is powered – sails, oars or steam; seafaring or airship? Once you have the hull and the deck, you can add whatever you want on top – it’s a bit like a cake that needs decorating.
Perfect parkour or mini-games
Minecraft is great for creating mini-games – from parkour challenges to Hunger Games survival contests. These games can be as simple or as complex as you want – the choice is yours. Parkour is simply jumping from one block to another. However, some jumps require perfect timing and landings, and you can have a lot of fun with obstacles – so why not up the risk a bit and add a pit of lava? To make an easy and fun parkour map, think about the style and themes. Write down as many ideas as you can and combine unusual things. The next step is building it. I went for floating coloured balloons in a giant human brain. Get your friends together online to test and refine your homemade games.
Build a themed rollercoaster
Rollercoasters are lots of fun and making a Minecraft one is fairly straightforward, using mine carts and powered rails. Spice it up a bit by adding a theme: dinosaurs, ancient Rome, deep space – whatever you fancy. It does take a bit of practice to wind a rollercoaster up and around a landscape using well-placed redstone blocks for power, but that’s half the fun.
• Adam Clarke is a Minecraft builder, mapmaker and author. His book, Unofficial Minecraft Life Hacks Lab for Kids, is available now.
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