Blind in Minecraft

Minecraft: The game which gives you a parallel world modelled after the real world, but where you can build whatever you want, do whatever you want, and run your life whatever way you want. You’ve got a world that works in a similar way to the real world – you still need to find food, build shelter, and even buy and sell goods in villages – but with the freedom to develop the world and live in it however you want. You can settle on the plains and build a ranch with some crops and animals and a stable for your horses, or you can hollow-out a fully-automated food and materials production plant underneath a jungle. You can tend to your animals when you feel like it, and afterwards you can stay up all night fighting monsters (if that’s your thing) or you can head into your house and put some music on while you craft new tools or you can settle into bed for the night and wake up fresh and ready to go exploring the next morning. And with a game like this, it’s natural that I’m going to pretend to be blind in the virtual world as well as the real world – after all, I can do so whenever I want!

While Minecraft isn’t accessible to blind gamers, there is a way to greatly reduce your vision in Minecraft and play as a blind character in the game (or one who is pretending to be blind). I’ve added this to my main survival world, and enjoy spending whole days or more blind in Minecraft, just like in real life! In this post, I’ll explain the mechanism behind this and how to do it yourself.

The blindness status effect and Potions of Blindness

Minecraft actually includes a blindness status effect – that is, the same kind of effect as those applied when the player drinks potions. This status effect places a thick black fog around the player, meaning that they cannot see anything more 4.5 blocks away, except the sun and the moon. While this doesn’t simulate complete blindness, it is necessary to be able to see a short distance due to the lack of any tactile feedback from the game, and the effect that this creates when playing is more similar to complete blindness than partial sight. This status effect does also have two side-effects, those being that it prevents the player from sprinting or giving critical hits, although the player’s vision is obscured enough that I wouldn’t advise the former and you probably weren’t going to be giving too many of the latter anyway.

There is, however, no way to produce the Potion of Blindness that will trigger this status effect through normal methods. Consequently, the player will need to use commands and/or command blocks to apply the effect or obtain the potion. If you’ve got cheats enabled, press the forward-slash key (“/”) to open the command window; if not, you will need to enable cheats, which is possible even if your world was created with cheats turned off but I won’t explain this here as it may spoil the game for some players.

This command will give you the blindness status effect for one minute:

/effect @p minecraft:blindness 60 1 true

The first two parameters specify to give the blindness status effect to the player executing the command. The second parameter specifies how long the status effect will last for, in seconds. The third parameter specifies how strong the status effect is, which has an effect with other status effects but doesn’t do anything with the blindness status effect, so leave it set to 1. The last parameter specifies that particles should be hidden – these are floating bubbles around the player that are intended to remind the player that the effect is applied, but you probably aren’t going to forget that you’re blind and they’re quite annoying so it’s better to hide them; feel free to remove this parameter if you’d prefer that the particles remain visible.

You can extend the duration as you see fit. For example, this command will apply the status effect practically forever (in reality it lasts about 277 real-world hours, or 833 Minecraft days):

/effect @p minecraft:blindness 1000000 1 true

You can also give yourself a Potion of Blindness, which can be stored and consumed at a later time like any other potion:

/give @p minecraft:potion 1 8193 {CustomPotionEffects:[{Id:15,Amplifier:0,Duration:20000000}]}

Note that the duration parameter is in twentieths of a second this time, so a duration of 20000000 will give a potion that lasts for 1000000 seconds (which is about 277 hours as described previously).

If you want to hide the particles, you can add “Ambient:1” to the effect, like so:

/give @p minecraft:potion 1 8193 {CustomPotionEffects:[{Id:15,Amplifier:0,Duration:20000000,Ambient:1}]}

This makes the particles far less visible, although they are still faintly visible unlike with the /effect command. This command is also just too long to fit in the command window so you will need to use a command block.

There are also ways to generate splash and lingering potions of blindness but these are beyond the scope of this tutorial.

Complete blindness

The blindness status effect and its almost-but-not-completely-obscured vision isn’t all that Minecraft has to offer though. While complete blindness makes it almost impossible to find your way around in Minecraft, it is possible to simulate complete blindness through the use of a surprising combination of two status effects: blindness and night vision. Having both of these effects applied at the same time will completely obscure the player’s vision, except that the sun and the moon still remain partially visible. It is possible to produce a Potion of Night Vision without using any commands, however you will still need to apply the blindness status effect or give yourself a Potion of Blindness using one of the above commands. Alternatively, you can give yourself a potion with both effects using this command (this command is too long to fit in the command window so you will need to use a command block):

/give @p potion 1 8193 {CustomPotionEffects:[{Id:15,Amplifier:0,Duration:20000000},{Id:16,Amplifier:0,Duration:20000000}]}

Don’t forget to update the duration in both places if you decide to change it. Also, there’s no need to worry about hiding the particles because you won’t be able to see them anyway.

You can also name your potion:

/give @p potion 1 8193 {CustomPotionEffects:[{Id:15,Amplifier:0,Duration:20000000},{Id:16,Amplifier:0,Duration:20000000}],display:{Name:"Potion of Complete Blindness"}}

How do I get rid of it?

You can use this command to remove the blindness status effect without waiting for it to run out:

/effect @p minecraft:blindness 0

If you’ve also applied the night vision status effect to simulate complete blindness, you’ll need to follow up with this command to remove it:

/effect @p minecraft:night_vision 0

Unfortunately there’s no way to produce a potion that will restore normal vision, but you can drink a bucket of milk (although this will also cancel any other status effects; note also that if you drink a bucket of milk for any other reason – say, you’re fighting a witch and you’ve been attacked with a splash potion – then the player’s vision will return to normal as well).

3D audio

This is a bit of a separate discussion really, but if you’re serious about simulating blindness in Minecraft then you’ll definitely want 3D audio (or if you don’t, then you should – it’s useful to be able to hear if the creeper’s coming from in front of you or behind you!). The easiest way to get true 3D audio in Minecraft is with a pair of stereo headphones and binaural audio output. Minecraft can’t generate binaural audio output itself, but it uses the OpenAL audio library and there’s a software implementation of OpenAL called OpenAL Soft with the little-known but incredibly cool ability to render any client’s audio in binaural 3D (don’t worry about how this works, but if you’re after 3D audio then you want binaural output; traditional stereo can only reproduce left-right sound positions, not up-down or front-back positions, meaning that you can’t hear if something is in front of you or behind you but only if it is on the left or on the right). (A lot of people say that OpenAL Soft’s binaural rendering is rather poor, but I always use it when I play Minecraft and when I’m not blind I can literally hear the sounds coming from where the objects appear to be on the screen – results tend to vary from person to person and you might have more success if you install an alternative HRTF dataset.)

If you use Linux, then you’re probably already using OpenAL Soft and all you need to do to enable 3D audio in Minecraft – and any other application that uses OpenAL for audio output – is to add the following lines to your ~/.alsoftrc file (if this file doesn’t exist then create it):

hrtf = true
dsp_enhance_stereo = 0

If you’re using Windows then you’re probably not using OpenAL Soft but whatever OpenAL implementation is supplied with your soundcard drivers (probably the Creative implementation). It is possible to install OpenAL Soft on Windows, but this is a relatively complicated procedure beyond the scope of this tutorial. Note also that if you use OpenAL Soft on Windows you won’t be able to use any hardware acceleration provided by your soundcard (although this isn’t likely to be a problem on any reasonably-powerful system).

Of course, you’ll also want to familiarise yourself with the sounds in Minecraft – there’s a lot of useful information about your surroundings to be gained from them!

How well does this work?

So how well does this work? As aforementioned, it’s almost impossible to play Minecraft while simulating complete blindness, not least because you can’t tell if you’re looking at the floor or the ceiling and trying to open doors or chests turns into a lot of random clicking (and if you’re wondering if that’s a mound of dirt or the wall of your house, you’ll have to hit it and see what sound it makes). Nevertheless, partial blindness as described in the first section of this post actually offers quite a satisfying level of blindness (even though I need to be more blind than that in real life) and the game remains relatively playable (by “relatively” I mean this: imagine running out into a forest full of monsters and caves when you’re blind and see what happens).

I added a command block to give me a Potion of Blindness to my main survival world. I enjoy pretending to be blind in Minecraft, especially when I’m doing chores around my ranch farm, and if I drink the potion before sleeping then I can spend the whole Minecraft day (or longer!) blind. I also sometimes take some potions and buckets of milk with me when I travel, and I’ll probably soon leave a few at some of my outposts.

At first I got lost on the way from my house to my mob spawner (I built the mob spawner a little distance away from my house because it’s ugly) but I later realised where I was and managed to find my way back to my house (using techniques not to dissimilar to those taught in O&M), then to the mob spawner. Along the way, I heard a creeper approaching and turned to face it. It came into view just as I turned around and I hit it straight away, and managed to kill it after a few hits using just the sound of its movement and the limited view that I had of it when it came close to me (that’s actually pretty good going, because I’m terrible when it comes to killing creepers by hitting them; normally I use a bow, which is obviously impossible when you can’t see more than a few blocks ahead of you). I also went to check for slimes in one of my mineshafts (one of my mineshafts spawns slimes occasionally and I find slimeballs very useful) and when I went down to the bottom floor of the mine and wandered around a bit I could hear a slime bouncing around on the floor above me so I went up to the next floor and quickly located the slime using just the sound of its bouncing and then hit it as soon as it came into view. (It was a medium-sized slime and it spawned four small slimes giving me six slimeballs – yay!)

I once also got confused about whether a lever operating a redstone mechanism was supposed to be pushed forward or pulled back to operate the mechanism, but I figured that one out from the sound of the pistons operating (redstone pistons make a different sound when the extend to when they contract, but I had to do a bit of experimentation with another piston to figure out which sound was which). Another time I followed one of my paths to a nearby town but couldn’t locate the town once I got to the end of the path so I had to head home again (I am now working on extending the path all the way into the town).

As evidenced by my experience pretending to be blind in Minecraft, the player’s capabilities are somewhat limited but I can still do many things and I find the experience to be quite realistic and enjoyable. Blindness in Minecraft is very enjoyable (at least to people like me :-) ) and if you’re set up with a good base then you’ll easily be able to keep living your Minecraft life as a blind person. There’s nothing I like better in Minecraft than wandering around my house and my farm tending to the animals, planting the crops, and keeping everything in order, and now I can do it as a blind person too – just like I would in real life!


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