Making a Minecraft skin

I have chosen to enter another Minecraft related competition to challenge myself to do pixel art! Like the last one, where my Pumpkin House got placed 16 out of 56, it is on Planet Minecraft, and the theme this time is robots, and I immediately got an idea, helped by a drawing I did perhaps a year ago from imagination of a flying robot. To make it specialize in something, I picture it flying among trees picking fruits and nuts.

Advantages of my strategy

Looking briefly at the other contest participants, I see that most of them make what to me looks like either  androids (robots closely resembling humanoids) or even humans with cybernetic enhancements or suits. That means my functionally designed robot should stand out and I might have an edge in originality. The last competition I entered was judged on three criteria: Originality, presentation and technical skills. Since the format is so limited, only a 64 by 32 pixels png picture, the technical gap is not as hard to overcome, and there are friendly tutorials available on the competition page.


I divide the work roughly in the head, the body, the legs, the arms and the additional second layer around the head and spread this on the days I have available before the deadline, making sure I have one extra day to spare. This turns out great, and I succeed in finishing with a skin that I even can show and explain well enough to my mother who has never played Minecraft nor seen or heard about the flying fruit-picking robot before.

I first work in the retro program GrafX2, until I have a design I am happy with. Here is how it turned out, enlarged:

Little did I know how much work was left!

But I have an unsolved problem: Transparency! The second layer on the head parts are not transparent, the white will cover the head. Slight panic, until I finally cave in and use the tool recommended on the competition page, Planet Minecraft’s own skin editor:

Loading it up, I get to see how the skin looks in 3D and notice that there are a lot of improvements I can do, apart from fixing the transparency

What’s that, a fridge on your head?

Little by little I work out how to use opacity. Many details can be improved now. For example, the robots visor gets to be transparent. I improve almost all the parts of the robot; the beam from the ion thrusters, the gripping claws, the propeller, the solar panels and the tilt sensors.

Quite satisfied, I write the description to enter with the image file to the competition:

Brief description

This robot flies around in high trees, expertly harvesting fruits and nuts


Sensors and actuators
To fly between plantations and drop-off areas it uses its main propulsion; two electrically driven directional thrusters, jetting out
blue beams underneath. For finer navigation around trees it directs the attached propeller by tilting its head.
Apart from its main visual sensors, two brown-orange compound ‘eyes’ based on those of arthropods, it also has blue proximity sensors in all horizontal directions. It also features lamps color-coded similar to common vehicles for nearby humans to recognize its side and front; orange lights on the sides, red lights on the back.
Fruits and/or nuts are picked by the two telescopic grip arms and stored in a lower compartment inside its torso.

Energy and ethics
Battery cells stacks in its upper torso provide energy for its operation.
These are rechargeable either by the solar panels on its back and shoulders, or by plugging in the cord tied around its neck.
The power cord is striped yellow-black stripe to alert any nearby birds or other critters.
Should animals be within a certain distance, the droid will immediately hang from the nearest branch with its grip claws and power down until the animal has left the hazardous proximity zone. Its programming is an attempt to extend Asimov’s three laws of robotics. The extended version could be stated as follows:

  1. It may not injure a human or animal being, or through inaction, allow a human or animal being come to harm
  2. It must obey the orders given it, except where such orders would conflict with the first law
  3. It only protects its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the first or second laws

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