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Learning to Program with Minecraft

In an effort to find some materials to help my kids learn programming, I found a new book that was just recently released by Walter Higgins called “A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Minecraft Plugins in JavaScript”.

Essentially it uses a customized Canary server jar and plugin called ScriptCraft to translate the JavaScript language into something that can be used by Minecrafts Java api structure. (I apologize if I’ve misrepresented anything here, I’m far from an expert on how all this works.) This is significant because I’m told that JavaScript is much easier for beginners, especially kids, to understand than Java.

Needing to at least understand the topic well enough to provide a learning environment for the kids and help them when they inevitably run into issues, I decided to first go through the book myself. I’m glad I did, and not just because it impressed Rusli, our resident plugin/Java developer. It was very useful as a server admin/owner to have a better understanding of the mechanics behind our server plugins. As you can see, I even took a stab at producing my own plugin when I finished. Admittedly, all the scoreboard stuff had to be done by Rusli. I was completely in over my head by that point and running into many issues/limitations of the scoreboard api.

The book starts out doing a very nice job covering the setup and configuration of a local Canary server and covers finding a good free code editor to use and how to set that up. It then moves into some basic coding concepts and terms using in console demonstrations. It progresses pretty quickly to being quite complex in my opinion and by chapter 10 I was feeling a bit lost. However, I did manage to finish all but that last minigame assignment due to an error that I simply couldn’t isolate. I’ll go back and take another look at some point, but I figured I had the main ideas from the assignment in any case.

I’m not sure how successful my kids would be with this. They range in age from 8-12 and their interest ranges from casual to fanatic about coding and minecraft in general. I definitely think they could all make it to chapter 8. My “fanatic” could most likely do all but the final advanced section I’m sure. Also, chapter 12 deals with drones (programmatic building like LOGOS back in my day) which would appeal to them all. In fact it would make a lot of sense to any kids that have mastered the Minecraft in game command structure and there’s even more on the drones at the ScriptCraft website with many additional tutorials and sample lessons once they’ve covered the book section (or even without the book, it has everything they need to know right there).

Overall, I loved the book. There’s a ScriptCraft Google community where I’ve been able to get very timely assistance with the few issues I ran into. If you’ve been toying with the idea of learning to program Minecraft plugins and you don’t have any or much experience, you should check it out. They support both Canary and Bukkit.

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