Friday, May 10, 2019

How Not to Get Lost in Caves and Structures in Minecraft

Caving is an essential activity in Minecraft but it can be quite a challenge at times. Hostile mobs spawn in the darkness, mob spawners can pose a problem, and the twisty nature of caves and structures can be quite disorientating. In complex caves or structures that have multiple paths and levels, it is quite easy to lose your way.

One long-held technique is to create a torch path on the left or right side of the cave wall so that you can follow the torches back out of the cave. This works fine for relatively simple caves, but if the cave has multiple loops and levels, the torches begin to run together and cease to define a simple path out of the structure. I found the torch path to be inadequate so I developed my own method that is both simple and robust.

The only items you need to implement my pathing technique is a supply of cobblestone and a good supply of torches. I use cobblestone because it is cheap and does not naturally occur in caves or structures aside from dungeons, so stands out nicely from the native stone.

Figure 1: Basic Technique

As you can see from Figure 1, the basic technique is to place a cobble block at an intersection, with the torch facing the path that leads out of the cave or structure. As you place the blocks and torch at each intersection, all the torches will be facing the direction you need to go to get out of the cave. Of course, you would light up the cave as you explore like you would normally, the path blocks would only be needed at cave or structure intersections.

Figure 2: An Instance of Pathing in a Maze-like Structure

Figure 2 illustrates an instance where wall torches can become a problem if special care isn't taken to ensure a clear path. This part of the stronghold has numerous rooms that all connect to each other in a grid pattern. It would be quite easy to get lost in this maze, but by simply using path blocks when you enter a room, you have an unambiguous path out of the maze. 

The other problem you encounter in caves and structures is changes in levels where a junction could lead left or right and up or down. It is quite difficult to torch this correctly, but by using two cobble blocks on top of each other and then placing the torch on the top or bottom block, you have a clear indication of which direction and which level to travel.

Figure 3: Path Blocks Indicating Downward Path

As you can see from Figure 3, the torch is placed on the bottom block. This indicates that the proper path is down. What is not shown in the picture is a stair leading up and a stair leading down. I came into this room from the stair leading down, so I place the blocks at the entrance of the room, and the torch on the bottom to show that the correct path is down.

Figure 4: Path Blocks Indicating Upward Path

Figure 4 shows the proper technique for a path that goes in an upward direction. The torch is placed on the top block to indicate you need to go up. 

That is all there is to the technique. It is quite simple and very cheap to implement, but I have found it to be extremely effective in creating a path through both simple and complex caves. Not only is this pathing technique useful for exiting a cave, but it also useful if you wish to travel back to the last position you had in the cave if you want to continue exploring. Next time you enter a cave, give this technique a try and see if it works for you.

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