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Adventures in Minecraft Paperback – 2 Jan 2018
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The book teaches the Python programming language building knowledge of the program in stages. You have to download and buy Minecraft first of all (Cost me £17.99 at time of writing) and download and install Python as well; I didn't find the process easy. It is also difficult to get the program to running with Microsoft Edge. ( I had to reinstall Java on my laptop as that is a requirement of running the program).
The book introduces the Python programming language in a sereis of self contained 'adventures'. Every chapter of the book is a different adventure and the authors advise to go through them in order to build up programming knowledge.
The first adventure shows you how to download everything you need and starts by writing your first program called "Hello Minecraft World". Then it tells you that its time to test it and says that "Hello Minecraft World" is now displayed in chat! But the authors don't realise that a total beginner has no idea where 'chat' is. I have looked all over and still can't find it so I don't know if the program is running correctly or not. (makes me feel like a real dummy!)
The first three adventures are supposed to be written for complete beginners (I still had a problem with them) There is a companion website to find a starter kits that you need to start programming and the book says that video tutorials can be found there but I searched and couldn't find any.
I am disapointed that the authors are so knowledgeable in the Python and Minecraft programming that they have forgotten that absolute beginners need to have everything explained to them in clear and consise language (With pictures if possible especially for grumpy OAP's like me). My 13 year old grandson is going to take the book and try to create his own Minecraft world (without my input. He will probably be better at it than me).
I write (boring grown-up) software as part of my job so I already get the concepts behind what’s going on, but I wouldn’t want to use this as a “first programming book”- there are much better books for kids out there that will introduce them to the ideas behind things like variables, loops, and so on, in a simpler and more accessible way. There’s only a little of that introduction-to-concept stuff, and by necessity some of it is complex- for example skipping any of the usual 2D ‘x’ and ‘y’ concepts since Minecraft is of course 3D and it’s necessary to bring ‘z’ into it straight away. Thankfully there’s a very high proportion of screenshots and diagrams, which is much more understandable than text blocks- but there’s no getting away from the necessity of code blocks, of course.
But what it has in its favour instead, of course, is that it’s about Minecraft. Children who already understand the world of Minecraft and how it operates, and who might relish the idea of being able to control their Minecraft worlds in a very powerful way, will have the enthusiasm about it to really want to get stuck in and understand it properly. Potentially it might appeal much much more to them than some dry stuffy “hello world” program, or the usual 2D character-on-a-flat-screen stuff you get with Scratch which never quite lives up to the 3D game environments they’re already used to playing in.
There are instructions for getting started using your Raspberry Pi, which can be extended to any Linux users pretty much, and instructions for Windows and Mac which revolve around installing the Python IDLE. Out of necessity this is probably the most complex section of the book, and it’s unfortunately necessary to go through a bit of brain-scratching to get this set up in the first place, before you can really properly engage with coding within Minecraft. Even though the instructions are clear and well illustrated, for younger kids, I’d recommend that the grown-ups do chapter 1 first and only bring their kids into being involved from chapter 2 on.
Don’t do what I did and underestimate the age range that this book would be suitable for, but if you’ve got a teen who’s already comfortable with a bunch of programming concepts and is really into Minecraft, this could be the winning combination you’re after, and it will definitely provide valuable skills if it helps them get a really strong coding skill in their head.
To be honest, this was beyond me and my daughter was also quite wary of attempting it. However, with the addition of my thirteen year old son, we tackled the book together. The book itself is very well laid out, with lots of advice on what you need for the projects, details of the companion website and other sources of help. There are things to download, so you need space on your PC, plenty of time when you won’t be interrupted and calm. It helps to have some experience in computer coding, however basic, or someone that can advice you. We muddled through the first two adventures and are keen to do more, but need a break before tackling more.
Overall, this is a very interesting book. It is fairly easy to follow, but some experience is useful, as the steps are quite complicated at times and can be frustrating. Still, this is certainly educational and different, but I am not sure I would buy it for under 10’s, unless they are very confident with computers.
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