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A Pattern Language for Minecraft


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#1

Crosbie
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Posted 02 October 2010 - 08:56 AM

There's this guy called Christopher Alexander with a rather famous book on architecture called A Pattern Language.

It describes how non-architects can go about building really nice places to be in, by following a set of 'patterns' - guidelines for what bits to build next.

I thought it might just be applicable to Minecraft building.

A list of some of the relevant chapter titles should give a flavour of the text, and maybe inspire some building ideas:

Quote

Fix the position of individual buildings on the site, within the complex, one by one, according to the nature of the site, the trees, the sun: this is one of the most important moments in the language:
 
105.  SOUTH FACING OUTDOORS
106.  POSITIVE OUTDOOR SPACE
107.  WINGS OF LIGHT
108.  CONNECTED BUILDINGS
109.  LONG THIN HOUSE

Within the buildings' wings, lay out the entrances, the gardens, courtyards, roofs, and terraces: shape both the volume of the buildings and the volume of the space between the buildings at the same time-remembering that indoor space and outdoor space, Yin and Yang, must always get their share together:
 
110.  MAIN ENTRANCE
111.  HALF-HIDDEN GARDEN
112.  ENTRANCE TRANSITION
113.  CAR CONNECTION
114.  HIERARCHY OF OPEN SPACE
115.  COURTYARDS WHICH LIVE
116.  CASCADE OF ROOFS
117.  SHELTERING ROOF
118.  ROOF GARDEN

When the major parts of buildings and the outdoor areas have been given their rough shape, it is the right time to give more detailed attention to the paths and squares between the buildings:
 
119.  ARCADES
120.  PATHS AND GOALS
121.  PATH SHAPE
122.  BUILDING FRONTS
123.  PEDESTRIAN DENSITY
124.  ACTIVITY POCKETS
125.  STAIR SEATS
126.  SOMETHING ROUGHLY IN THE  MIDDLE

Now, with the paths fixed, we come back to the buildings: within the various wings of any one building, work out the fundamental gradients of space, and decide how the movement will connect the spaces in the gradients:
 
127.  INTIMACY GRADIENT
128.  INDOOR SUNLIGHT
129.  COMMON AREAS AT THE HEART
130.  ENTRANCE ROOM
131.  THE FLOW THROUGH ROOMS
132.  SHORT PASSAGES
133.  STAIRCASE AS A STAGE
134.  ZEN VIEW
135.  TAPESTRY OF LIGHT AND DARK

Within the framework of the wings and their internal gradients of space and movement, define the most important areas and rooms.  First, for a house:
 
136.  COUPLE'S REALM
137.  CHILDREN'S REALM
138.  SLEEPING TO THE EAST
139.  FARMHOUSE KITCHEN

Prepare to knit the inside of the building to the outside, by treating the edge between the two as a place in its own right, and making human details there:
 
140.  PRIVATE TERRACE ON THE STREET
141.  A ROOM OF ONE'S OWN
142.  SEQUENCE OF SITTING SPACES
143.  BED CLUSTER
144.  BATHING ROOM
145.  BULK STORAGE

Then the same for offices, workshops, and public buildings:
 
146.  FLEXIBLE OFFICE SPACE
147.   COMMUNAL EATING
148.  SMALL WORK GROUPS
149.  RECEPTION WELCOMES YOU
150.  A PLACE TO WAIT

Decide on the arrangement of the gardens, and the places in the gardens [...]
Add those small outbuildings which must be slightly in dependent from the main structure, and put in the access  from the upper stories to the street and gardens:
 
I 53.  ROOMS TO RENT
154.  TEENAGER'S COTTAGE
155.  OLD AGE COTTAGE
156.  SETTLED WORK
157.  HOME WORKSHOP
158.  OPEN STAIRS
159.  LIGHT ON TWO SIDES OF EVERY ROOM
160.  BUILDING EDGE
161.  SUNNY PLACE
162.  NORTH FACE
163.  OUTDOOR ROOM
164.  STREET WINDOWS
165.  OPENING TO THE STREET
166.  GALLERY SURROUND
167.  SIX-FOOT BALCONY
168.  CONNECTION TO THE EARTH
169.  TERRACED SLOPE
170.  FRUIT TREES
171.  TREE PLACES
172.  GARDEN GROWING WILD
173.  GARDEN WALL
174.  TRELLISED WALK
175.  GREENHOUSE
176.  GARDEN SEAT
177.  VEGETABLE GARDEN
178.  COMPOST

Go back to the inside of the building and attach the necessary minor rooms and alcoves to complete the main rooms:
 
179.  ALCOVES
180.  WINDOW PLACE
181.  THE FIRE
182.  EATING ATMOSPHERE
183.  WORKSPACE ENCLOSURE
184.  COOKING LAYOUT
185.  SITTING CIRCLE
186.  COMMUNAL SLEEPING
187.  MARRIAGE BED
188.  BED ALCOVE
189.  DRESSING ROOM

Fine tune the shape and size of rooms and alcoves to make them precise and buildable:
 
190.  CEILING HEIGHT VARIETY
191.  THE SHAPE OF INDOOR SPACE
192.  WINDOWS OVERLOOKING LIFE
193.  HALF-OPEN WALL
194.  INTERIOR WINDOWS
195.  STAIRCASE VOLUME
196.  CORNER DOORS

Give all the walls some depth, wherever there are to be alcoves, windows, shelves, closets, or seats:
 
197.  THICK WALLS
198.  CLOSETS BETWEEN ROOMS
199.  SUNNY COUNTER
200.  OPEN SHELVES
201.  WAIST-HIGH SHELF
202.  BUILT-IN SEATS
203.  CHILD CAVES
204.  SECRET PLACE

Not everything here is relevant in Minecraft, but there are some nice ideas.  Which ones have you used already?

Posted Image

My main base includes: Sunny Counter; Built-in Seats; Arcades; Indoor Sunlight; Staircase as a Stage; Sequence of Sitting Spaces; Light on two Sides; Terraced Slope; The Fire; Alcoves; Ceiling Height Variety; Half-Open Wall; Interior Windows; and of course, Thick Walls. :)

TL;DR:

Skim the list to get some nice ideas for what to build next in your Minecraft world.

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#2

Glimmar
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Posted 02 October 2010 - 09:57 AM

Some nice ideas here, thanks. I think I will add some of them to my growing list/tomb of things to build in Minecraft...you know, for those days when (not happened yet) you can't think of what to build next. Or when the kids say, "Dad, what should I build now?" :Skeleton:
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#3

Anokorok
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Posted 02 October 2010 - 10:17 AM

Quote

SOUTH FACING OUTDOORS
We know what hemisphere this book was written for...

It would be nice if Minecraft had directional lighting so window placement would matter. One would be able to create much more interesting buildings.
And now you know.

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#4

TheFiendish
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Posted 02 October 2010 - 10:34 AM

I agree. That would be a huge factor in the design of buildings!

#5

Crosbie
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Posted 02 October 2010 - 11:06 AM

Anokorok said:

Quote

SOUTH FACING OUTDOORS
We know what hemisphere this book was written for...

It would be nice if Minecraft had directional lighting so window placement would matter. One would be able to create much more interesting buildings.

Heh, yes indeed re the hemispheres.

Window placement does matter in MC, just in a different way.  Finding and framing a sunset/sunrise view is certainly a pleasing thing to do.

Perhaps we should add/adapt this list to incorporate specific Minecraft patterns and tropes:

SUNSET FACING VIEW

TRAIL OF TORCHES

PORCH ON A CLIFF

etc...

#6

Crosbie
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Posted 02 October 2010 - 02:12 PM

Adding the reverse shot of my base:

Posted Image

Showing Staircase Volume, Window Overlooking Life, Ceiling Height Variety, Alcoves, Window Place, Indoor Sunlight and more.

#7

michaelrose
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Posted 07 October 2010 - 05:44 PM

Hey Crosbie. Great idea for a thread. Just what I was looking for in fact. And, I've just seen your blog and see you are a fellow Brightonian, how cool.

I'm thinking of setting up a Brighton server if you're interested... would be good to see some UK action.
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#8

SittenSpynne
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Posted 07 October 2010 - 06:18 PM

Here's some Minecraft patterns in my world:
    [*:3rn5i0i2]TEMPORARY DIRT HUT
    [*:3rn5i0i2]INVERTED PYRAMID - (Usually due to #1 needing expansion)
    [*:3rn5i0i2]WALL THICKNESS OVERKILL
    [*:3rn5i0i2]HASTILY-CONSTRUCTED DIRT BRIDGE
    [*:3rn5i0i2]ABANDONED HALF-HUT HALF-CREEPER-CRATER
They're probably some patterns you should work to *not* incorporate :P
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#9

michaelrose
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Posted 07 October 2010 - 08:20 PM

hehe How about....

6. FLOODED FRONT ROOM FULL OF CHICKENS

:iapprove:

Christopher Alexander's book looks really interesting. It's $5 per month to access via his official website. I might try and find a copy in a library (there were none online I could 'borrow').

Crosbie can you expand on 'POSITIVE OUTDOOR SPACE"? What's the 'positive' part?
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#10

Avus
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Posted 10 October 2010 - 10:24 PM

michaelrose said:

Crosbie can you expand on 'POSITIVE OUTDOOR SPACE"? What's the 'positive' part?


I don't know much about architecture, but in theatre positive space is space that is taken up by something, or has tension between two objects.  Negative space is leftover space.

Like say you had two people sitting in chairs facing each other.  The positive space would be the space they take up and the space between them, since there is tension between the two figures.
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#11

Crosbie
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Posted 11 October 2010 - 06:31 AM

michaelrose said:

hehe How about....

6. FLOODED FRONT ROOM FULL OF CHICKENS

:)

Christopher Alexander's book looks really interesting. It's $5 per month to access via his official website. I might try and find a copy in a library (there were none online I could 'borrow').

Crosbie can you expand on 'POSITIVE OUTDOOR SPACE"? What's the 'positive' part?

Similarly to what Avus describes, Positive Outdoor Space just means thinking of that space as deliberate, rather than just the space remaining between the objects you've placed.

FTB: "Give each one some degree of enclosure; surround each space with wings of buildings, trees, hedges, fences, arcades and trellised walks, until it becomes an entity with a positive quality and does not spill out indefinitely around corners."

Your suggestion re chickens would go well in this thread. :)

#12

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Posted 11 October 2010 - 01:36 PM

Awesome. That makes total sense to me now, thanks for explaining, both of you, I've got a good sense of it now.

Inspired by this thread I started playing with positive space last night after I found a lovely cavern open at both ends, East/West facing. Rather than make something square (my usual approach) I simple 'squared off' the ends using  :iapprove: glass :Glass:  leaving the natural shapes in place:

Sunset:
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Moonrise:
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I find the result so much more appealing than the rather blocky crenelated castles I was creating before.
Posted Image

#13

Crosbie
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Posted 11 October 2010 - 02:58 PM

michaelrose said:

Awesome. That makes total sense to me now, thanks for explaining, both of you, I've got a good sense of it now.

Inspired by this thread I started playing with positive space last night after I found a lovely cavern open at both ends, East/West facing. Rather than make something square (my usual approach) I simple 'squared off' the ends using  :D glass ;)  leaving the natural shapes in place:

Sunset:
Posted Image

Moonrise:
Posted Image

I find the result so much more appealing than the rather blocky crenelated castles I was creating before.

Wow.  This looks great. Is that a sunset/rise right through the glass in the second image?

Yep, too many plain boxes in MC - it's so tempting to do that, and feel that's what you're supposed to.

My first base grew organically and looks a lot more interesting than my second and third (which were 'planned').

Any other success stories?

#14

HPMinecraft
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Posted 11 October 2010 - 04:37 PM

Crosbie said:

michaelrose said:

Awesome. That makes total sense to me now, thanks for explaining, both of you, I've got a good sense of it now.

Inspired by this thread I started playing with positive space last night after I found a lovely cavern open at both ends, East/West facing. Rather than make something square (my usual approach) I simple 'squared off' the ends using  :Glass: glass :Glass:  leaving the natural shapes in place:

I find the result so much more appealing than the rather blocky crenelated castles I was creating before.

Wow.  This looks great. Is that a sunset/rise right through the glass in the second image?

Yep, too many plain boxes in MC - it's so tempting to do that, and feel that's what you're supposed to.

My first base grew organically and looks a lot more interesting than my second and third (which were 'planned').

Any other success stories?


It's surprising how much of an improvement those windows make. For the larger sections of glass, why not add in chunks of an opaque block? Something like this..

[]  []  []  :Glass:  :Glass:  :Glass:  []
:Glass:  :Glass:  :Glass:  :Glass:  :soil:  :Glass:  :Glass:
:Glass:  :Glass:  :soil:  :soil:  :soil:  :soil:  :Glass:
:Glass:   :Glass:  :Glass: :soil:  :Glass:  :Glass:  :Glass:
[]  []  :Glass:  :Glass:  :Glass:  :Glass:  []

The spaces are there to denote where the edges of a cave entrance may be. There can be more or less glass or soil/obsidian/whatever, per taste. Anyway, the basic idea is to break up the boring, flat wall of glass with something more interesting. Bonus: do this with a large window facing east, and get a simulated shadow effect from the solid object in the glass as the sun rises.
:iapprove:
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#15

Crosbie
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Posted 11 October 2010 - 05:08 PM

Must steal those ideas. :D I guess it's about finding a suitable space in the first place, and then building in sympathy with it.

I'd contend that Minecraft is basically an architecture game, like The Sims was when it was in Will Wright's head.

Or maybe that's just one playstyle...

#16

vlademir1

Posted 12 October 2010 - 02:35 PM

Crosbie said:

Must steal those ideas. :iapprove: I guess it's about finding a suitable space in the first place, and then building in sympathy with it.

I'd contend that Minecraft is basically an architecture game, like The Sims was when it was in Will Wright's head.

Or maybe that's just one playstyle...

Just one playstyle, I'd say.  One I personally enjoy though... I had a very visceral thrill completing my first domed building as an example.

#17

Crosbie
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Posted 12 October 2010 - 04:10 PM

At present, building, rebuilding, expanding and redecorating are the main rewards in the game.

You mine for resources - why? Well partly to craft tools, but that's a waystage to building stuff.

As some have pointed out, to 'survive' in this game, you could just dig a 2x1 hole in the ground and stay there. But no - the idea is to survive in style and luxury, and to do that, you build.

I've started a game where I'm just playing nomad - and seeing the level generation, and seeing how far I'll get before I die is pretty cool; but I can see it becoming samey without the sense of growth and pride that comes from building.

#18

michaelrose
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Posted 12 October 2010 - 07:23 PM

Yeah... I think you've nailed it there... "surviving in luxury" with great lighting.

And something to impress others who come to visit. There is a little ego in there I'm sure, if we're all honest, but it's not like a narcism thing generally I think, I think it's a lot closer to being proud of house and home, garden and sitting room. I really felt I'd done a good job when someone came to see what I'd made and commented on it.

And I felt real grief when I'd heard the server had been taken offline because someone went on a rampage with TNT.

I like the idea of playing nomad... I might use one of my 5 slots for that, put it on difficult and see how far I can get. But yes, the main thing for me is building something homey, that's close to a good mine and a great view at sunrise and sunset.
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#19

Crosbie
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Posted 13 October 2010 - 07:16 AM

Trufax.

So, back OT:

- Pillarvators: hey, you can jump and place a block underneath you to get up somewhere, then dig back down.

- Skelliefenders: place a couple of blocks and take cover behind them - then pop and drop those skellies!

#20

ERhyne
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Posted 15 October 2010 - 07:34 AM

I'm bumping this topic so I remember to read this in the morning.