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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Day Fifty-Eight (And Onwards)

[This is the final post in the Towards Dawn story. If you are new to this blog, perhaps you want to avoid reading this post and instead start from the beginning.]



I have a confession to make.

For more than a week now, I've started to grow weary. After fifty-seven days of walking and sailing, I don't so much feel like I have seen all there is to see, but I have seen all that I need to see. As a commenter noted several days ago now, the terrain has grown tamer since I crossed the Week Long Ocean. It still looks beautiful, but it is the same beautiful over and over. I have lost the will to keep walking.

Yet, I've continued on for days because how does one end a journey without a destination? I started this as a permadeath experiment, of sorts. It was going to go until I died. Until I slipped up and tripped into lava or died of hunger in the middle of an ocean or was ambushed by zombies, but that never happened. At least, it never happened to an extent to be fatal. So on I walked, as though I didn't have a choice.

But I do have a choice; I've always had the choice. I could end this at any time. Death doesn't have to be accidental. But is suicide really how I want to end such a grand adventure? I didn't know. But as the sun rose for the fifty-eighth time since I pushed off east in my boat, I did know one thing: this was the last time it would rise over my pilgrimage.

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I had these thoughts, but that didn't mean I was going to end it right there and then. There was still a horizon. "Just a bit more," I thought. "I'll see just a bit more." These thoughts put me in a boat, and got me quite a bit further.

New land.
Sheep to the north.
I climbed the steep beach onto the island. A giant bay flowed in from the ocean to the north, but to the east was a forest of low trees on what remained a narrow slither of island. It felt like it had been days since I had seen a substantial landmass not closed in by ocean.

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After walking through the trees for a time, I spied a giant lake separated from the ocean on the southern side.

Looking back south-west.
Beyond the lake, the land finally seemed to spread out and I lost the ocean under a dense forest. It was pocketed with caverns and sudden drops, keeping my eyes just ahead of my toes as I continued on. Just because I wanted to stop walking did not mean I would be less careful.

One of the many caves scattered in the forest.
Onwards through the forest.
More caves beneath.
The forest let up with a small, grassy plain on a hill. The ocean had come back down from the north, but the land continued on east towards the horizon. Ahead, downhill, was another thin forest and an, open field beyond.

Looking east across a small forest.
Beyond the small forest, looking back west.
I liked the field. It sloped upwards from the south where it touched the ocean to a small, flat plateau on the north before a steep drop down to the southern ocean. Further east, a knob of land protruded out of the water, but beyond it looked like nothing but ocean.

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I realised, then, that this was somewhere I would be happy to... stop. Just because this was a permadeath experiment, did I have to die for it to end? Why could I not decide to just stop, and not die? To end my journey on my own terms, not on the terms of some zombie or half-concealed pit of lava.

So, I decided to stop.

It wasn't as easy as it sounds. That voice was in my ear saying "But what's beyond the horizon? How about just a few more steps to see what is next? Just a few more...". But no. This was it. This had to be it.

I climbed to the plateau on the northern side of the field and started to clear a space.

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Now I must make another confession. For weeks now, I have been collecting clay whenever I see it, and smelting it overnight in my furnace. This should in no way imply what I was doing was premeditated. I think it was a subconscious act, one I haven't shaken from my alpha worlds when clay was as rare as diamonds. If I saw it, I would mine it.

So on me I had a vast supply of bricks that I have never talked about before. On that hill, I found a purpose for them.

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Sun beginning to set.
As the sun began to set on my final day of travelling, I realised I had not planned this too well. I did not have the time nor the materials to finish my house before nightfall. So, for one final night, I built my pillar and camped atop it.

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Over the night, two endermen wandered around and inside my house, picking up blocks of earth and popping in and out of existence. I tried my hardest not to look directly at them.

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Sunrise.

Day Fifty-Nine


As the sun finally began to rise, the endermen refused to burn up. Though, eventually they both teleported one last time, and did not reappear. I went on with my morning work cautiously.

Both endermen popped out of existence just as I tried to take a photo (you can just see the purple sparks still drifting in the air).
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My first task for the day was to head back to the forest and gather some wood for my roof. It wasn't far, but walking west was a surreal and off-putting experience. As I went back from whence I had come, it really hit me: this was it; I was not going any further.

While in the woods, I came across some sheep. I needed wool for something I had refused to craft before now: a bed.

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And some sand for glass.
By the time I returned 'home' (a weird word that I was still getting used to) from my resource gathering, the sun was setting again.

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Instead of building my pillar, I blocked off the doorway with some blocks of dirt and crafted my bed. This was a defining moment. Until I slept in that bed, I could change my mind and go on. After I slept in, that would be it. There would be no going back. Death would take me back to the start of my adventure; it would merely bring me back here. I took a deep breath, clicked my mouse, and slept until morning.


Day Sixty


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In the morning, I took all the wood I had gathered and crafted a bunch of stairs. I then climbed atop my house and started work on the roof.

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Unfortunately, over the past sixty days I had clearly lost my building skills. I crafted way more stairs than I needed, and did not leave enough wood for the flat sections, so it was back to the forest for yet more wood.

More than enough stairs but not enough wood.
Back in the forest, I found a food source I had never before seen:

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I took the apple and replanted the saplings. It still felt weird to take so much resources from the world after merely passing through it for so long. I was determined to put back whatever I took. While in the forest, I trekked to a small lake tucked under a cliff and mined out enough stone for my house's flooring. Turning around to walk back towards the plateau with my new supply of wood, i could see my half-finished house peaking over the hill. Now it was actually beginning to feel like home.

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I finished the roof and dug out the ground in preparation for the flooring before the sun set.

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Day Sixty-One


When I awoke, I finished laying the floor.

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From the outside, my home was practically complete.

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But it was not yet liveable. I would need food to sustain myself if I would not be passing through swamps to restock on mushrooms every other day. I took two buckets down the steep hill to the northern ocean and gathered some water.

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Then, taking my spade, I spent the rest of the day carving out and planting a modest-sized field to keep me from starving.

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As the sun set, I constructed a wooden path from my front door to the field.

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Day Sixty-Two


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There was not much left to do before I could rest. I placed some flowers in a garden around the front of the house, not for any real reason, and went for a small hike to stock up on coal for my furnace.

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Found coal. And an underground lake.
Coming back home with my coal, looking at my field and my house that I had built and the small pathway that joined them, it felt like I had finally found my own place in the world. No, I didn't find it; I made it. Fifty-seven days I walked without anything tying me down, and that was a beautiful experience. But there is also something to be said about having a place that is yours.

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Inside, I built some bits of furniture and placed a light so that the inside of my home would fill the way looking at it from the outside already did.

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After that, there was really only one last thing to do:

I finally made it.
I just kind of stood around for a bit after that, watching the sun crawl west across the sky. I looked to the eastern horizon again, wondering what was over that water that I would never cross. I looked back west and thought about all the crazy experiences I had had. I'm not just saying this, mind you. I am not talking about some fictional nomad. I had these thoughts while I was sitting behind my computer, moving my mouse to follow the path of the sun. It was one of the strangest, gut-wrenching, bittersweet moments I have ever experienced in a videogame, to know this adventure was coming to an end.

So thank you for coming along for the ride. Thank you to the many readers who gave me advice and well wishes in the comments, and who kept coming back even if I didn't update for months on end. It's been an honour to have you along on this journey. So long. Farewell. Thank you.

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Fin.




[Some Housekeeping: As promised, you can download the complete Towards Dawn world here (the zip file is around 700MB). However, for fun, it will spawn you at the very beginning of my journey. If someone were to try to use these posts in an attempt to follow in the nomad's footsteps, I would love to hear about it. Also, be aware that the direction of sunrise and sunset has changed in a later update to Minecraft, so if you were to follow me, you will not actually be walking towards dawn for the first many days.


Also, while Towards Dawn is finished, don't go deleting it from your RSS feeds just yet. In the coming months, I hope to compile all the posts into some kind of pdf book of the adventure. I'm not sure precisely when I will have a chance to do it, but when I do I will certainly announce it here. Thanks again for reading!]

29 comments:

  1. Oh a PDF book how original! =P

    Well done though, seriously. Congratulations.

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  2. Congratulations! You found the perfect ending. I was afraid it would end much more violently or.. burning-ly. This ending is much more fitting and deserving.

    Excellent work.

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  3. great project. i have to say I was slightly feeling the same way as you were for the past 10 or so days. The first time i saw a lava waterfall or some of the amazing mountains were genuinely amazing. However the last few days i found I was not as impressed. I think I was secretly hoping you would die! great ending

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  4. This has been, by far, my favourite Minecraft blog. It's sad to see it end, but better it ends like this than some ignominious death out there in the wild. Thank you.

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  5. I haven't commented before but I wanted to say thank you for doing this project. It has been really wonderful to read!

    As far as what to do with your world, I think it'd be fun to have a race between multiple people trying to follow the Nomad's footsteps. They could have to follow your rules, or maybe have no rules at all (so they could mine, kill animals, or even attack each other!).

    In any case, I'm interested to see what you do with Towards Dawn in the future. Thanks again.

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  6. "I liked the field." The house called Dawn. That was a wonderful way to wrap up the adventure. I'm glad you let your nomad settle down and find a home in the end.

    This blog was one of the main things that got me to finally get Minecraft myself last year. So thanks for that reason too.

    I share the feeling that the worlds in the recent versions aren't quite as magical and interesting as earlier. I think it's partly just experience, but I do think the terrain generation itself has become less interesting. The new biomes are all cool, but the problem I think is that the topography is the same for all instances of a certain biome. You never seem to get mountainous forests and deserts or high grassy plateaus like you used to. It got to the point that I went and found a mod to go back to the old world generation.

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  7. Beautiful way to wrap it up. Thanks for the ride; you're awesome!

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  8. I got tears in my eyes when I saw the "Dawn" sign at the door. Contratulations on your journey. It´s been a wonderful couple of years with the nomad!

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  9. Thank you for the ride.

    It was amazing to follow your journey across the world and I am glad you found your "Dawn".

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  10. Thank you for all your posts of your journey. I'll be downloading your world and having a fun time tracking down the lone explorer in his Dawn hideaway.

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  11. Magical, Brendan! This blog was a rather inspiring experience. Thank your for doing this and thank you for all the hours of nice reading you prepared for us. Maybe I will one day try to retrace your steps and find that house of yours. But now that you've ended this I might have to start my own Minecraft adventure on my own blog soon. Just to make up for the loss of this blog.

    But all good stories must end, or they aren't really stories at all. A great ending for a great series.

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  12. Bravo, I knew there was a reason I left Towards Dawn in my feed. Beautiful ending to a strangely philosophical adventure!

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  13. Your story was a main reason that I bought the game, also. I greatly enjoyed reading it and felt emotionally involved many times. Thank you!

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  14. Well done! I was hoping for one of two ways for this to end, neither one of them involve death, and you gave me one of them. So I wish you the best in whatever you do next or if thats nothing I wish you a good life.

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  15. It's a fitting end. Thank you for all the hard work you put into this.

    I loved the timelapse videos you put up that showed the travel over time. Any chance we'll see a timelapse of the whole journey now that you've finished?

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  16. Beautiful and somewhat moving ending.

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  17. Wow... I get distracted for a few months moving to another country and lo, you've wrapped up the story. It's been a pleasure.

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  18. Such a great story, and I felt honoured to come along for the ride :) And I love that you named your house Dawn. Great stuff.

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  19. I would actually pay for that pdf. No joke. I would pay good money for it. You could even make a pretty awesome coffee table book out of it.

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  20. Hey thanks for this cool story, too bad about your wolf. I'm glad the story didn't end with a firey death.

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  21. I am sure if you still check the stats periodically, you can probably tell we are still enjoying this. I just found this sometime yesterday and spent every waking moment reading the whole thing.

    I laughed, learned, and applied some lessons to my own journey. In the end I cried; perhaps it was the touching conclusion or maybe it was the awareness that there would be no more to read. Possibly it was a bitter-sweet combination of the two.

    Thanks for sharing and congratulations on finding what you were in search of most of us do not make it that far. (No pun intended, but I do not regret it!)

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  22. A further thanks for all the lovely comments since my last comment! I really appreciate all the kind words, and I'm stoked so many people got something out of this.

    The PDF book is slowly on its way, but it will still be some time off. PhDs and journalism deadlines and life all keep getting in the way!

    Brendan

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  23. As Hemingway said :
    It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.

    Poignant, resonating yet funny at times, this is game as high art. A testament to both Minecraft and your own talent in making _us_ feel through your journey.

    I salute you.

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  24. A compelling read, Brendan! Thanks very much for sharing.

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  25. But now you'll miss out on jungle temples! and desert pyramids! and trading!

    But seriously, i'm glad it ended this way, instead of dying or worse, ending because of lack of updates. It shows how any place in minecraft can be home.

    It inspired me to go on my own journey myself in minecraft, for 1.3

    Question, can I put sections of this blog in books for the server i'm running? it would be cool to have it for people to discover.

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  26. I just happened to stumble upon this. My boyfriend got me into minecraft, actually, and I googled some tips and happened to come across your blog. I've followed it from your first steps, your habit of climbing through holes, the enlightening encounter with Guru Mountain Pig, to finding and losing Dusk... All the way until finding your Dawn. Needless to say, I loved it. I feel like my words and even sum up how much I enjoyed your little nomad's adventure.

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  27. I feel terrible that after reading this for months, I stopped only a few days before it ended! I've now fixed that and read the final couple of days.

    Thanks for the journey, Brendan. One of the best long-form gaming narratives I've ever read.

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  28. Just finished reading your entire story. A nice journey. A new idea would be to continue a new blog about the life of your nomad now that he has settled down. I would read it.

    -QHyperHuman

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