My country, your country – Week 7

During this week’s Minecraft activities we had the honor of receiving a very special visitor into our classroom. Mrs. Susana Felício, Innovative Educator Expert and Teacher Engagement Manager Support for Microsoft Portugal, joined our group for a couple of hours and got to meet the students behind this fantastic project. Mrs. Susana was kind enough to spend some time with the children while they got to show some of the projects they were working on at the time inside our world, as well as their own personal projects that they develop during their free time. Needless to say, the students were thrilled to have someone from outside the school visiting and checking out their work, especially someone that works in Microsoft, the company that since 2014 owns the intellectual rights to Minecraft.

Work advanced as usual during the classroom activity in all major regions of the country. In the city of Porto a group of students started and completed the Clérigos Church, a Baroque monument famous for its tall bell tower.

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The Clérigos Church can be seen from various points of the city and is one of its most characteristic symbols.

In Lisbon, the Padrão dos Descobrimentos and Pena National Palace were slowly becoming a (virtual) reality, while the 25 of April Bridge could now support traffic on top of its suspended, double lane roads.

All over the world roads were being constructed to connect the various cities and regions. Highway IC19 was placed to connect Lisbon and Sintra with the North, while the A2 highway was extended all the way down to the sandy beaches of the South.

Finally, a new warp point was added to our server representing the city of Castelo Branco. There, a group of students took the initiative and began constructing the Castelo Branco Castle, the city’s most famous national monument.

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The Castelo Branco Castle, known locally as the Templars’ Castle .

Week 7 marked the last week of activities for the second term and the students were advised that work on the world would resume three weeks later, because of the Easter Holidays break. A well deserved one considering all the amazing creations that the students managed to make in just seven weeks.

My country, your country – Week 7

My country, your country – Week 6

Lag. The bane of modern online gaming.

By definition, lag is a noticeable delay between the action of players and the reaction of the server in a video game. This can be caused by high latency or insufficient processing power from the source. In our case, lag was a way the server was letting us know that the version we were running was not stable, thus making gameplay and even login impossible.

At first we thought that the server was lagging because of the water blocks placed in the south of the world to create the ocean. Since water blocks actually contain movement and physics, we kind of assumed that too many of them could eventually slow down the server to a point that it becomes unresponsive. So we asked for only a handful of students to login to the server (since all of them at the same time was totally impossible) and remove all the water blocks placed in the ocean, in the hopes of recovering some of the memory we needed to all login and resume work.

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Filling a place with water is a very easy task. Removing that water though is torture.

Unfortunately that did not solve the lag problem not even a bit, which meant that we had to urgently search for an updated stable version of a PocketMine server. After an hour of research we finally had a new version installed, better and more stable than any other version we had so far. This was immediately noticed by everyone because the world now would render in a transition effect, just like it did in the very first version of the server six weeks ago. Needless to say, this stability gave the students a massive boost of confidence and enthusiasm and everyone were back to building in no time.

The Castle of Guimarães was completed and the group responsible for it moved straight on to new projects. It was now standing proud as the first monument a player would find when visiting the North.

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The Castle of Guimarães in all its medieval glory.

In Lisbon, a group of students began building the city’s most recognizable construction, the 25 of April Bridge, that connects the capital to the municipality of Almada on the left bank of the Tejo river. Another group decided that it was important to start connecting all the cities and regions with highways, adding another layer of realism to the world.

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The 25 of April Bridge with its distinctive reddish coloring.
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The lower deck train tracks under the bridge that carry passengers over the Tagus River.
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Roads and cars give the capital city an even more urban feel.
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Eventually the whole country will be connected via (no-toll!) highways.

One of the many advantages that the latest server version brought to our world is the ability to render the world in a very long distance. This made it possible for us to take beautiful aerial pictures of the map, as well as enjoy the view from a higher area point.

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The view from the top of the Cristo Rei Sanctuary is as stunning in Minecraft PE as it is in real life.

For the first time in three weeks we were able to conclude our work and feel confident that our server could handle it without any issues. Week 7 could not come soon enough!

My country, your country – Week 6

My country, your country – Week 5

Another week, another Minecraft PE update, which meant that we had to update the server as well. Fortunately this time we were better prepared and anticipated the update, so that by the time the students had to get together and work again everything was working as normal.

This time around, the update fixed some of the some of the texture bugs created by the last one, although it did make the server rendering more slow. The world would now render in area blocks and not in its usual transition effect, a small price to pay for having the server up to date and running again.

Up in the north a group of students began constructing one of the most iconic castles of the country, the Castle of Guimarães. This castle is the principal medieval castle in the northern region, also known as the birthplace of Portugal.

Just a little outside Lisbon, another group decided to start building what is considered to be the most iconic palace of Portugal, the Pena National Palace. It stands on the top of a hill in the Sintra Mountains above the town of Sintra and can be easily recognized by its warm exterior colors.

Finally, inside the capital city the Cristo Rei Sanctuary was completed, while in the southern region of the country an entire ocean was being created next to the sandy beach.

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The Cristo Rei Sanctuary is now open for visit.
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It takes a lot of water buckets to fill an entire ocean.

Some time before the end of this week’s activity the server became very slow and almost unresponsive. Students had to logout and login again various times in order to continue their work, while others simply could not login back again. Most probably this had something to do with the server updates, and hopefully it will eventually get fixed by next week’s gathering with a new or updated server version. Fingers crossed.

My country, your country – Week 5