Friday, April 29, 2011

Minecraft - Into the depths of hell I go

It's funny that after all of the time that I have spent playing MC I had never been to the Nether, until yesterday. It stems from a couple reasons, one I was playing online with the guys so that didn't help, and then I would play with mods and keep restarting so that kept me from making that type of progress, but last night I finally made my way into the red abyss.

The plan was simple, make a portal that would take me from the home base to the feather factory, but nothing is ever as simple as it's supposed to be, the portals are bugged. So instead of making two portals and then finding them in the nether to link them, I was sent back to the homebase portal instead. At first I thought that it might have to do with the fact that I had put them too close together so I ran for a day away from my base and established a portal, but that didn't work either. Then thanks to some "helpful" people on the forums I read that I could roughly figure out where the portals should be in the nether and make new ones there that would connect to the ones in the overworld, this actually worked.

So I went about linking up all of the little portals that I had made, one at the feather factory, another at Alpha base (mountain wood cutting base) and Beta station (the result of placing a random portal in the nether that ended up a ways off to the North, it's walkable, but it's far. Normally it would be lonely work but I had lots of zombie pigmen to keep me company, grunting away as I would walk past them and carry on with my work. Once completed I have a total of 4 overworld portals that can take me around my central base, at some point I'll make a far off one to go really nuts.

The problem that I had in the nether was that my original arrival point is in the middle of a mountain, so I've had to do a lot of digging, so much in fact that in the stats window the most mined block is now Netherrack at something like 1800. I'm going to need to make a huge flaming company logo out of all that burning material just for fun. Anyway... I needed to find the real nether, this digging inside a mountain was a bunch of crap I needed to see lava flowing from the sky and Ghasts flying around shooting fireballs at me. After much digging, I eventually found an opening (cheated a little using F3 to speed up the process a little bit) and thankfully there weren't a lot of Ghasts hanging out, having never seen one I really didn't know what to expect from them.

So I slowly made my way from the tunnel that I had dug with a pigman there to greet me as my hell tour guide, and a Ghast overhead helping to clear out the tunnel opening that I had emerged from, BOOM, BOOM BOOM!!! Thankfully the Ghast had ADD and flew away so that I could climb out of my hole and see where I was. It was a good spot, right up against a side wall so my flank was covered. I climbed up the side and found myself on a nice ring that went around the other wall with only a couple pigmen around, but there was something else that I saw that I wanted, lightstone.

Lightstone normally grows out of the ceiling and is a pain in the arse to get to, but I happened to find a growth that was along the ring on the side of the land, ran over and broke myself off some, woot!!! But just as I was thinking, "This isn't so bad" BOOM! A Ghast had found me and he was pissed. The fireballs started flying and while I had read that you can hit them back, I wasn't really about to start punching them back because I didn't want to catch on fire and thus die, so I tried something else, I pulled out my bow. The next shot came and I steadied my bow at that flaming ball of hate and let loose my arrow. The arrow struck the ball and sent it back towards the Ghast, "Ah ha! I have you now asshole." I said to the computer screen. After a short exchange of fireballs the Ghast fell over and died, "That's right bitch, die!" Another shot came whizzing by my head as another Ghast emerged from below, again arrows flew to take him out. At one point I started to worry about all of the pigmen below us, would my arrows accidentally hit them, what about a stray fireball, was I at risk of setting off a hogshitstrom? Thankfully that never happened.

With the Ghasts defeated I went to work building a scaffold to clear out more lightstone, but alas I was out of cobblestone so I made my way back to the overworld with the 40 lightstone dust that I had managed to secure. I'll be back and next time I'm making a base to fight off those guys while I do my mining. All in all it was a pretty good adventure.

I was thinking about something else, that is kind of full circle on the whole Minecraft thing, what is the point? The problem with single player is that you're on your own and no one is ever going to see what you do, so what is the point? But that got me thinking, what is the point of any game, entertainment and enjoyment. My brother told me that he and Druss have been playing Rift, and that it's pretty good. I guess I could fire that up and join them, (not that I'd really actually ever play with them the way things work out) but in the end building a character on there is the same as building a world in MC, in the end it doesn't matter. I have several high level characters on WoW that I will never touch again, but was all the time and effort put into them a waste of time? Yes and No. There is nothing redeeming about them, but they were a lot of fun during the time that I spent in Azeroth, which of course did have a lot to do with playing with other people, which of course is also the main reason why I quit playing as well.

In the end MC is a game, just like any other game and it's only real purpose is to entertain. Do I feel cheated for the amount of time that I put into analyzing Lost, yes and no. In the end it would have been nice to actually have gotten some answers to all of the mysteries that we got to play through, so in that regard I felt cheated. But by the same token I enjoyed doing write ups and analyzing each and every thing that happened on the show. It's the same as playing a video game, in the end it's worthless, but the journey is worthwhile. Now if Notch could give the adventure aspect of the game a little more teeth then I could play MC forever, but alas that's another topic.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Minecraft - My vision "The Anti-RPG"

In reading the suggestion forums, everyone has an idea of what MC should be, for me MC has the potential to be the first open-ended RPG type of game ever created. And when I say RPG, throw out all the stats, all the levels, all the experience points, money, skills etc... that RPG's have become known for, I'm talking about completely breaking the mold and redefining what an RPG is.

Over the years what an RPG is has been defined by games like Oblivion, WoW, Dragon Age, etc... All of which are heavily based on a series of numbers to drive them along, especially WoW. It's the skinner box of get item A so that you can become more powerful and go acquire item B, so that you can get item C and so on. All of which is a system to drive the game along and in the case of WoW keep you paying to play it. And while games like Oblivion, DA, and Mass Effect all have stories to go along with their gameplay, the story is a slave to the gameplay, meaning that no matter how many choices that they "give you" you're still on rails to a predetermined end point. An open ended RPG doesn't have an end point or rails, just a framework for how a story can occur.

"Isn't a sandbox an open ended RPG?" In a word no, it's not. A sandbox is a purely open setting where you can do whatever you want, but the problem with that is that there is nothing driving you to keep going forward other than your own personal goals. Games do need some sort of objective, but that doesn't mean that they have to have an ultimate goal. Take Oblivion, sure it was a sandbox and you could do whatever you wanted aside from the main quest, but the main quest was always there waiting for you, and worse it's not really a sandbox if you can't mold the sand to your liking. Nothing that you did in Oblivion actually had any impact on the world that you were playing in. Take the side quests in GTA, do they actually have any affect other than giving you more money, or just stuff to do when you don't want to do the main story? Another problem with sandboxes is that all of the quests are scripted, just like the main story. Not only will they have no lasting effect on your world, but they are pointless in comparison to the main story that you're trying to "finish".

The difference with Minecraft is that it's the first game where you actually have control over your own world. If you need to make a house, you make a house, if you want to cut or plant a tree you do it, make a giant golden pe... you get my point, you can do anything you want in it. A lot of people like playing the creation part of the game, personally I like the adventure part of it, and building with purpose.

Getting back to my point, MC as an RPG can work if one thing was added, passive objectives. Meaning objectives that the game gives to you either directly or indirectly that can be done or ignored by the player, but without an overarching storyline. Below is an example of how I see that this could work.

On the forums I suggested master dungeons that control the spawning of mobs within a region of the world. These would work aside from normal dungeons in that the heart of this dungeon allows for monsters to spawn like normal within say 200 blocks of their existence, if turned off then no mobs will spawn in the area. These could be overlapping making clearing out an area a difficult task to accomplish, but it also give adventure types a goal that they can achieve. And those that aren't interested it doesn't affect them in the slightest, the game goes on like normal.

Let's say that you've cleared out a large region of land from all mob spawns, now what? Now from the chests located by those master dungeons or the hearts of them themselves you acquire a town beckon that you can place in the world which allows for NPC's to spawn and build buildings around it. So once an area is safe, people will settle in the area and create a town, and since you place the beckon, it shouldn't interfere with your buildings. With NPC's you can achieve the next step in an RPG, story telling, by creating a database of quests that the NPC's can pull from they can give you quests, but the quests themselves don't need to be scripted, they should be generated based on factors around the world. Examples: Find another town beckon so that the town can grow. Establish another town. Destroy another town. Heck it doesn't even have to require fighting it could simply be go discover a new region, or go trade A for B with these people in a distant land (maybe generate a random town or two once the first one is created).

In the end what you have is a game that progresses as you progress, there is reason to search for dungeons and explore beyond your spawn location. The towns once established give gentle suggestions on stuff that you can do around the town and depending on how complex the quests get it could develop into a series of towns that are at war with each other and you being the main catalyst, with no predetermined winner.

And the best part of all of this, if you don't want to do it, you don't have to. This whole progression works based on your desire to make it happen or not happen. So if you want to play MC as it is today then you can. But I could envision people writing quests complex enough that as they are randomly generated they could propel the player through a procedurally generated story unique to them, just as their world is unique to everyone elses.

Monday, April 18, 2011

MC - "It's been a long time"

For some reason the GLaDOS voice is in my head these days, and I wasn't even planning on buying Portal 2, but damnit, maybe I just have to. Anyway to satisfy my Minecraft need I've joined up on a server with a bunch of random people. It's a bit of a different experience and I'm not totally sure how I feel about it. I mean I like running around with other people and building stuff and the like, but it's also a pain in the butt because you have to constantly keep an eye on your stuff so that people don't tear your place apart. I started out with my secret cave and I've done a lot of work to keep it secret, but I also built a castle on top of it, thinking that it would be nice to build my place and that people would respect my building because the server has a whitelist. Well it seems like people liked my cactus and my purple flag a little too much and decided to break in and take it. Nothing that can't be replaced, but it's just annoying to have to fix it. like the other night I got on and the dirt on the side of my door was missing because someone decided that they wanted to dig themselves in. I really hope they try that shit again, I have a couple surprises waiting for them this time =) Since I can't imagine anyone that might take my stuff is actually reading this... I dug out the block where they have been digging through so that there is a 40 block drop to their deaths if they aren't paying attention and just walk through. After that I armed up the entrance with a arrow dispenser to pepper them with arrows through a hidden wall once they step on the trigger. I'm sure that this will just piss them off and make them more committed to ruin my place, but at least I'll get a laugh knowing that they got killed in the process =) My next base is going to be much much much more remote so that I don't have to deal with crap, and it's going to be a death fortress where if anyone tries to break in it will be death that meets them. In other news I think that I am getting a little bored of MC, mostly because I miss playing with Druss and Crash, it was fun having our server. Maybe I'll make my own server again, but it's tough when the one I'm playing on has the nether and a gate to a second world as well, that's pretty cool. Getting back to my point, I wish that MC had just a little bit more to it at this point, the potential is still there for some amazing stuff, but I just wonder if that will happen. To me MC has the ability to rewrite the rules of what a RPG is in a game, if only I was able to mod or had the time to learn it, I think some amazing stuff could be done.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Minecraft - 1.4

Damn you Notch what happened to that update yes or no button from 1.3? I go to log on and BOOM! I'm sitting there with a vanilla world to play in. All of my plans for making this human survival RPG gone up in smoke, or were they??? I decided that since I was basically playing with a new set of rules, yet again, that I'd make a new world, yet again. So I set out to do my basic stuff, gather up some wood, make my tools, look for coal, etc... I did keep the gameplan of only making structures above ground, so I also set about making my dirt house, big enough that I can fit a bed in it for that first night of waiting. I've actually gotten pretty good at it, within the first day I can make a house 5x5x4 with windows all around it. I have to move my butt to get it done, but it can be done. Then on day two I found some cactus and lined the front of the house with cactus to keep me apprised of any mobs that might try to get in. By day three I was in desperate need of coal, so the exploration for coal began, lots of caves around my house, but not a lot in regards to coal and ore, so it was charcoal for me. On day four I decided that I would expand on the roof of my house and make a stone rampart on top, because I like being able to look around at night in safety, and that was when I realized something, there were mobs everywhere. I had gotten so used to playing with all of the add-ons that create all sorts of different mobs, but they take away from the natural spawns. So in this game there were creepers everywhere, the difficulty actually went up a lot due to the lack of humans and creatures, and I liked it. I'm not sure if I'll go back and add the mods back in once they are updated to 1.4 because I was liking the vanilla version of the game, it felt fresh again. I'll probably add them in once I've gotten myself established and then I can pretend that they are new settlers coming to the new world (it's all about imagination).