If Minecraft: Pi edition isn't already installed on your Pi, head over to www.raspberrypi.org/documentation/usage/minecraft and follow the instructions.
The API allows you to write programs which control, alter and interact with the minecraft world, unlocking a whole load of minecraft hacking. How about creating massive structures at the click of a button or a bridge which automatically appears under your feet allowing you to walk across massive chasms or a game of minesweeper, a huge real time clock, a programmable directional cannon, turn blocks into bombs or the game snake?
Minecraft is a world of cubes or blocks, all with a relative size of 1m x 1m x 1m, and every block has a position in the world of x, y, z; x and z being the horizontal positions and y being the vertical.
The API works by changing the ‘server’, which runs underneath the game, allowing you to interact with these blocks and the player, such as:
- Get the player’s position
- Change (or set) the player’s position
- Get the type of block
- Change a block
- Change the camera angle
- Post messages to the player
You can interact with the server directly by sending a message to it, but the nice people at Mojang also provide libraries for python and java which simplify and standardise using the API.
The libraries are installed along with the game in the /opt/minecraft-pi/api/java and api/python directories.
The following example is written in Python and uses Mojang’s python api library.
We need to create a directory to put our program into.
Open the Python 2 editor Idle (or your favourite editor) and create a program file called minecraft-magpi.py in the ~/minecraft-magpi directory
We are going to need 3 modules, the minecraft.py and block.py modules from the minecraft directory containing the library we just copied and the standard time module so we can introduce delays into our program.
import mcpi.minecraft as minecraft
import mcpi.block as block
Next, we need to use the Minecraft class in the python library to create a connection to the game’s server, this object will also be how we interact with the game and will provide access to all the functions. When your program runs this statement, Minecraft will have to be running and you will need to be in a game, otherwise you will get errors.
mc = minecraft.Minecraft.create()
Using our minecraft object, mc, we can then interact with the game and send the player a message. We will also put a delay in using the time.sleep() function otherwise the whole program will run too fast for us to see what’s going on.
mc.postToChat("Hello Minecraft World")
Using the program built so far, you can test to make sure everything is working. Load up minecraft and create a (or enter an existing) world then if you’re using Idle pick 'Run, Run Module' from the menu. If all has been setup correctly you will see the “Hello Minecraft World” message in the game.
Interacting with the player is done through the player class of the mc object allowing us to find the position and change the position of the player. The next block of code finds the players position using the getPos() command, which returns an object of x,y and z coordinates, the setPos() command is then used to move the player 50 blocks up, by adding 50 to the player’s y coordinate. We then add a delay, so there is enough time for your player to fall down to the ground!
playerPos = mc.player.getPos()
mc.player.setPos(playerPos.x, playerPos.y + 50, playerPos.z)
mc.postToChat("Dont look down")
You can use the position of the player as a starting point for interacting blocks, this way you can find out what block the player is standing on or place blocks around the player, there is however a challenge, the x, y and z coordinates returned by the getPos() function are decimals (aka floats), as your player can be in the middle of a block, but to interact with blocks we need to use whole numbers (aka integers), so we need to use the function getTilePos(), which returns the block (or tile) he’s standing on.
The code below gets the players tile position, it then calls the minecraft API’s getBlock() function to find out the type of block the player is standing on (by minusing 1 from the y co-ordinate) before using setBlock() to create blocks of the same type the player is standing on around him. So if your player is standing on DIRT, he will end up with DIRT surrounding him, however if he is standing on STONE, STONE will appear.
playerTilePos = mc.player.getTilePos()
blockBelowPlayerType = mc.getBlock(playerTilePos.x, playerTilePos.y - 1, playerTilePos.z)
mc.setBlock(playerTilePos.x + 1, playerTilePos.y + 1, playerTilePos.z, blockBelowPlayerType)
mc.setBlock(playerTilePos.x, playerTilePos.y + 1, playerTilePos.z + 1, blockBelowPlayerType)
mc.setBlock(playerTilePos.x - 1, playerTilePos.y + 1, playerTilePos.z, blockBelowPlayerType)
mc.setBlock(playerTilePos.x, playerTilePos.y + 1, playerTilePos.z - 1, blockBelowPlayerType)
We have now trapped our player within 4 blocks (providing he doesn’t break out!), in order to set him free we need to remove a block. Removing blocks is done using setBlock(), but rather than making the block solid like WOOD or STONE we set it to AIR.
mc.setBlock(playerTilePos.x + 1, playerTilePos.y + 1, playerTilePos.z, block.AIR)
A full list of all the available blocks can be found in either the minecraft api specification or in the block.py module in the python api library ~/mcpi/api/python/mcpi/block.py.
The API also allows you to set many blocks at a time, allowing you to create cuboids very quickly using the setBlocks() command. It works by specifying 2 sets of x,y,z coordinates which it then fills the gap between the 2 coordinates with a certain block you pass as the final parameter. The code below will create a diamond floor underneath our player 50 blocks (across) x 1 block (up) x 50 blocks (along), with our player in the middle (i.e. 25 behind and to the left, 25 in front and to the right).
mc.setBlocks(playerTilePos.x - 25, playerTilePos.y - 1, playerTilePos.z - 25, playerTilePos.x + 25, playerTilePos.y -1, playerTilePos.z + 25, block.DIAMOND_BLOCK)
mc.postToChat("Now thats a big diamond floor!")
To recap on the functions covered in this article:
- postToChat(message) - communicate with the player(s) in the game
- getBlock(x, y, z) - get a block type for a specific position
- setBlock(x, y, z, blockType, blockData) - set (change) a block to a specific blockType
- setBlocks(x1, y1, z1, x2, y2, z2, blockType, blockData) - set lots of blocks all at the same time by providing 2 sets of co-ordinates (x, y, z) and fill the gap between with a blockType
- player.getPos() - get the precise position of a player
- player.setPos(x, y, z) - set (change) the players position
- player.getTilePos() - get the position of the block where the player current is
There are a few other functions available in the api which should be explored but using only the small number discussed in this article, its possible, with some imagination and a small amount of programming knowledge to create some quite fantastic constructions, tools and utilities.
I love minecraft, its a tremendously creative game and with the Pi edition’s API it opens up new level of creativity and will hopefully encourage more people to try their hand at programming.
If you want to see more examples of what I have done with Minecraft: Pi edition (e.g. a massive analogue clock, the game of snake, an auto bridge which appears under your feet or the whole of Manhattan) head over to my Minecraft page.