Matthew Odle

Terraria Sky Block Challenge

Terraria has long been one of my favorite games. Last year’s Journey’s End expansion, with its inclusion of Journey Mode, saw its popularity grow even more. It came at just the right time when we were all stuck at home and looking for ways to fill our time. I managed to get a few older computers networked together to enable myself and my children to play together. We consistently played for quite a while, but then interest fell off and they refocused on Minecraft. Recently, though, we’ve picked it up again, this time finally delving into Journey mode, and it has been a blast.

WIth this revisiting, I’ve expanded how I approach the game.

In the past I had a rigid progression sequence that I played through. I refused to use items I’d gained from older characters on older worlds until I’d progressed that far with the new world and character. This was fun for me, but not very fun for new players who quickly get overwhelmed by the difficulty scale. I spent a lot of time collecting and re-collecting equipment to share with my kids, making sure they were properly outfitted to survive, and getting them to overcome their fear of dying to difficult enemies. This included teaching them how to use potions and keep their inventory managed. It was a lot of work to keep them functional. Journey mode helps with all of those problems, since I can choose my own god-mode and spawn rate settings, and they’re free to stay invincible and monster spawns low, while I can leave those settings untouched, and we can suit our settings to our playstyles while still playing together. The other benefit is that inventory management becomes a non-issue, since once you collect a certain amount of an item, you can ‘research’ it, allowing unlimited duplication in the future. This allows for simply discarding all copied items, and duplicating them from the menu when needed, which means the inventory management problems are gone.

I’ve also started looking at challenge maps and map editing. One youtuber I watched had a custom map that was only 100 or so blocks wide! I also found TEdit, which lets you create your own maps or customize existing maps.

Another challenge video I watched was a ‘sky island’ challenge, where the player starts with a minimal amount of blocks, and must farm materials from monsters to expand their platform and eventually defeat the Moon Lord.

I was intrigued by these challenge videos, so I found a sky island challenge map pre-made on curseforge, and gave it a shot. This is what I’ve discovered so far.

You start on an island in space. The island consists of 23 dirt blocks (2 shy of the 25 needed to create dirt bombs, which allows unlimited duplication of dirt blocks), one water block (for making mud blocks; don’t destroy it!), a chest containing 3 iron bars (for making a metal bucket, though this can be made from iron gotten later from slimes), a sign with directions on where 2 other islands are (which contain certain key items needed for progression), and a solidifier (which crafts gel into slime blocks, which can be used to craft furnature and platforms, or could be placed as blocks). Your inventory consists of a pickaxe, an axe, and a short sword.

The first challenge is getting monsters to spawn, since they are the only possible source of materials at that stage. Spawning won’t happen by default, because since monsters only spawn over blocks that are off-screen, and the entirety of all blocks on the starting map are grouped together on your island, decidedly on-screen, the conditions for spawning are not met. Even spreading out all existing blocks (without allowing any to fall!) is insufficient to meet spawn conditions. Instead, you have to spread them out, then remove blocks to create gaps, eventually ending up with single blocks spaced out enough to trigger the spawn conditions.

Once you finally get monsters to spawn, you then have to keep them from falling before you can kill them. This took some redesigning of the layout to include a ‘slime catcher’ structure, which was basically just a C shaped configuration at the point where slimes would fall into the void. Once a few were trapped, it was just a matter of hopping over and dispatching them. This quickly allowed for collection of enough gel to be solidified into blocks, which could then further be used to expand the spawn and capture platforms.

This stage is incredibly dull, and the best way to deal with that is to set up an auto-hotkey automation to swing the sword, protected from falling and monsters by a particular block configuration that allowed hitting monsters without being hit yourself. After allowing a few days to pass this way, I had enough materials to build a house or two.

Houses are critical to progression, because they allow NPCs to spawn into your game. The first NPC (the Guide) is completely useless at this stage, but the second NPC, the Merchant, is invaluable. Once the merchant spawns, you can buy rope, a sickle, and a bug net. These items will be key to progression.

Once I had rope, I built a long rope down toward the first set of island coordinates, which ended up being roughly at the transition point between above and below ground. Here I re-built the NPC housing, because since 1 NPC reduces the spawn rate of enemies, 2 reduces it further, and 3 eliminates it, I didn’t want NPCs at my slime spawn farming area. A little platform building to the left got me to the ‘dungeon’, which contains as-yet unopenable biome chests, an altar for crafting, and the Clothier/Skeletron spawn NPC. There was another chest here, but I forget what it contained.

At this point I was stuck. I still didn’t have enough dirt to create dirt bombs, and thus infinite dirt. I knew there was a second island. I also knew I could now build more farming arenas in various locations to farm different items. I set up in the caverns first, and obtained a few useful items, such as the depth guage and the compass, which let me see my position on the map. I also got a hook knife (from a cave bat?), which was excellent for automating farming (I built a ‘monster catcher’ funnel that monsters would fall into, with a 1 block opening above my character, then set the automation to continually shoot the hook knife through the 1-block opening. All monsters fell in, but couldn’t reach me, and all items fell onto the block above me, allowing automated collection.) Around this time I also got a slime staff, which sped up the killing drastically.

After collecting about 1000 slime blocks, I started building slime platforms to the right to find the second island.

I did not find it. I very nearly found it with my calculations, but the numbers shown on the signs didn’t seem to quite match with the numbers I was seeing from the compass/depth guage, so I didn’t know how near I was. I ended up exploring the whole of the right side of the map to try to find this second island, building a long line of platforms all the way to the edge, then falling at intervals to my death in the underworld to reveal the map. Still, I missed the island by a sliver, and it appeared to me that the whole map was uncovered.

Finally admitting defeat, I searched the internet for how to view map data. I stumbled on TEdit, which allows you to view the entire world external to Terraria, including un-revealed blocks. Sure enough, the tiny island was half a screen away from where I had originally thought it to be, because of the imprecision in the provided coordinates.

I guiltily slunk to the island and claimed my reward of… 4 jungle walls? What the hell? The island itself had ash and dirt (!) blocks, the latter allowing me to finally craft dirt bombs and acquired unlimited dirt (and thus mud) blocks.

I knew I had to make an artificial jungle biome, because moving the merchant there triggered him to start selling the furnace, which I needed to smelt the ore from the slimes into bars. Bars were needed to create the reinforced fishing pole, from which all other advancements would come, via fished-up crates. I just didn’t know how to get the jungle grass to grow. I tried putting the wall I’d found behind some mud blocks, but that didn’t work. Then I found out through a web search that the 4 jungle walls could be crafted into a jungle grass seed, which was exactly what I needed to start my jungle biome. However, I’d placed one of the walls, and didn’t have a hammer. Thankfully I had plenty of bombs (the slimes dropped more than enough bombs before I had enough dirt, and this prompted the Demolitionist to spawn, so I had unlimited bombs. This plus my massive amounts of gel meant I had unlimited sticky bombs, for precision excavating of misplaced jungle walls.)

I finally had the beginnings of my jungle biome. Unfortunately, jungle grass spreads REALLY SLOWLY, to the tune of 4-5 blocks per day growth. One way to speed this up is to make a grid of blocks to give the grass multiple directions to grow. Another way is to just block yourself into a safe space and let the game run while you go do something else for about half of a real-life day, returning occasionally to smash jungle plants to catch grubs for fishing later, and for the rare chance at additional jungle grass seeds. I never did get extra grass seeds, but eventually did get jungle monsters to spawn. It was time to move the merchant.

Of course once I assigned the merchant to the jungle home, he promptly got murdered in his attempt at reaching his new home, and I had to wait a whole in-game day for a new merchant to arrive. Finally, I had my furnace and could turn those ore into bars, and those bars into a fishing pole.

A fishing pole is useless without water, however, and I had no idea how to get more. A quick search revealed the existence of a water duplication trick, where you built a reservoir with a u-shaped configuration above it, then with a single bucket, repeatedly place and re-collect the water. The u-shape causes the water block to split into half-blocks, and a half-block is enough to fill the bucket. So, after much bucket work, a lake could be formed.

Finally, it was time to fish. There are a few target items, and they all come from crates. The primary item is the Life Crystal, which comes from a gold or platinum crate, which are rare. Meanwhile, biome and wooden crates can be collected, yeilding useful accessories, materials, and bait. Pretty quickly, I acquired a jungle crate, within which was a pair of Flower Boots! This item seems silly and pointless at first (it grows flowers on grass you walk on), but the real benefit is that the flowers you grow with them can be harvested for seeds and hay (with the sickle)! This allows for unlimited hay blocks for building, and rapidly increases the spread rate of the jungle, since grass grow rate is no longer a limiting factor.

So that’s where I’m currently at. I have unlimited dirt and mud (albeit slow to harvest, since dirt bombs need to be made and carefully detonated to ensure increase of dirt accumulation), unlimited hay (can now build anywhere quickly; a single stack of 999 can be made in about 20 seconds with the flower boots and sickle), and unlimited fishing. The next steps are to build lakes in all of the regions and try to generate additional biomes, and hope for life crystal and boss spawn items.

Update: 2021-02-20

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