User:Simons Mith/Construction Aesthetics

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Even for simple projects, looks may matter. Yes, you can make everything out of dirt blocks or cobblestone, because you've got unlimited amounts of the stuff, but using consistent building themes makes a world much more attractive.

Use Standardised Designs[edit]

Using the same designs in several places adds a unifying theme to your world. Even for the simplest things like lamps, roads and doorways, making them all in similar ways is helpful. Don't take this too far, because if everything is exactly the same the world will begin to look overly regimented. But using two or three common variants for 95% of cases works well, and the remainder can be unique.

A good method to achieve a pleasing level of constency is to follow a few self-imposed rules or limitations, such as:

  • All doorways must have a torch on the left and right sides;
  • All street lamps use netherbrick fences and purple wool blocks;
  • All boat docks have a line of stone slabs along the water front;
  • To flaunt the great wealth of the Empire, beacons shall use a gold block with four torches below it;

There are unlimited possibilities, and by choosing a small number of construction rules that you always try to follow, your buildings gain a 'signature style'. You can even use different styles for different factions; maybe one group likes using iron railings as fences wherever possible, whereas their rivals use leaf block hedges, decorated with vines, and with carefully-placed tripwires to prevent the vines from growing out of control. (Spider string is hard to see and stops vines from growing into the same block.)

It doesn't matter what materials combinations you choose, but by using something slightly unusual you add a small amount of detail to your world.

Use a Limited Block Selection[edit]

A second excellent guideline for materials is to deliberately limit yourself to just a small number of block types. You can change the block selection slightly from room to room, building to building, or project to project, but using the same motifs helps give the things you make a common theme, and makes the world much more attractive.

For a given project a good rule of thumb is to use 2–4 block types or so; even five may be too many (although embellishments and blocks only used in ones and twos shouldn't count towards the limit). Even with such a small limit, there are an extraordinary number of possibilities. For example, these houses use a 'frame' of one block type, a 'wall filler' of a second type, and one type of step block for their roofs. The frame design has been varied slightly from one building to the next, and there are minor differences in door and window placement. The combination of these small changes makes the four buildings look very different from one another.

All the in-game structures also give good examples of this; a desert village has its own unique building style, as does a jungle temple or a nether fortress. They gain their styles by deliberately limiting themselves to just a handful of block types. It's true that if you list every last block type these structures use, there are quite a few, but in every case the majority of each building is made with just 2–3 basic block types.

Don't Use Too Many Bright Blocks[edit]

A desert temple.

Brightly colored blocks such as gold, redstone, emerald and many others have a great deal of visual impact, but only when they are used sparingly. If you are building a Temple of Solitude, then making it mostly out of emerald blocks is fine, but for more ordinary structures you should generally use these blocks a few at a time, and surround them with cheaper and less dazzling blocks so that they stand out. The desert temple's use of orange wool blocks is an excellent example of this.

Simulate Changes over Time[edit]

Historically, when people added to their homes, they tended to follow the building practices of their day. Over centuries, long-lived properties can accumulate a wide variety of different styles. Sometimes the changes are obvious, such as Rochester Castle, which has three square towers and one round, because one of the square towers was destroyed during a siege and then rebuilt as a stronger round tower. Other times, the changes may blend to produce an eccentric but charming building with its own unique mix of architectural features.

Model Neglect[edit]

A good way to make a building feel more real is to deliberately add a blemish or two. For example, if you use a floor made of pistons in your brewing room, you might use one sticky piston to represent an old stain. A stone brick room may have a corner with cracked stone or cobblestone in it. A greenhouse may have the odd missing pane of glass and a couple of patches of long grass growing inside. A neat row of glowstone lamps may have one glowstone block. Try placing the occasional cobweb, or remove the odd section of fence or the occasional torch.

One might say that a 'blemish' is a minor problem that has occurred and been fixed, albeit imperfectly. But if you progress to the stage of 'decay', problems are not being fixed and are beginning to accumulate. That suggests a building is unoccupied or abandoned rather than just neglected.

Some suggestions:

  • Add cobwebs;
  • Put gaps in fences;
  • Board up windows and/or doorways;
  • Break redstone circuits;
  • Replace live saplings with dead bushes;
  • Replace some stone bricks with cracked stone, cobblestone, or mossy cobblestone;
  • Replace cobblestone with gravel or mossy cobblestone, or vice versa;
  • Remove some redstone lamps or replace them with glowstone;
  • Remove some glowstone or replace it with torches;
  • Remove some torches entirely;
  • In general, replace expensive blocks with cheaper ones, and blocks which are complex to craft with ones which are simpler;
  • Replace gravel with dirt or vice versa;
  • Replace dirt with grass or vice versa;
  • Replace floors with dirt, sand or gravel;
  • Replace growing crops with trampled dirt, grass, long grass, flowers, saplings or even trees;
  • Plant vegetables in former flower beds;
  • Choke up waterways with sugarcane and lily pads;
  • Replace blocks with steps or slabs or vice versa, to make floors uneven and walls and roofs leaky or drafty;
  • Replace windows with fences or wooden boards, or remove the glass entirely and just leave holes;
  • Replace wooden blocks of one type with another wood type, or with logs, or vice versa;
  • Remove some doors, levers, buttons, ladders, fences, signs, bookshelves, redstone torches, paintings, plant pots and other features;
  • Strip out all valuable blocks such as gold or iron;
  • Damage one part of a building, then use other parts from elsewhere to patch up the damage imperfectly;
  • Put ferns, mushrooms, flowers, vines, saplings or leaf blocks where they shouldn't be growing;
  • Place dirt and saplings or even entire trees under holes in the roof;
  • Make a hole that lets animals in, and then put in a few wolves, pigs, chickens or other creatures;
  • Put flowing water or lava where it shouldn't be, or remove it from where it should be;
  • Fill or part-fill wells with dirt, sand or gravel, or board them up with wood;
  • Place dirt, sand, snow or gravel inside buildings;
  • Pile up dirt, sand, gravel or snow against outside walls (assume this material is all coming from a particular direction, and pile it in a way that matches that assumption);
  • Make holes in floors, walls or roofs, possibly even tunneling through to the caves under a building;
  • Pour water over lava or vice versa to make stone or obsidian, then don't clean up the mess;
  • Simulate creeper, enderman or zombie damage;
  • Start a fire or two and let them burn out;
  • Collect the functional elements (crafting benches, furnaces and so on) from several rooms and gather them together in a smaller area of a building;
  • Keep one part of a large building reasonably intact, seal it off from the remainder, and then apply extra rounds of decay to the rest of the structure.

If you just apply a few of these changes, you introduce a feeling of slight neglect. Start with minor changes like adding cobwebs and growing vines, long grass, or ferns over or around buildings, or place the occasional dead bush in amongst the live saplings. Then start putting breaks in fences and removing the odd torch, then gradually work your way to bigger changes indoors. As you do so you get a delapidated structure that is still usable, but if you continue to apply more and more changes the structure will become ever more unusable until it is completely derelict.