Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mass Effect - Initial thoughts

So my brother has been on my ass about playing Mass Effect, so I decided that I'd give it a go. Also when I saw the trailer for the third game in an ad window and thought to myself, "That looks badass" only to realize that I was looking at ME 3, that told me it was time to get onboard with the whole ME thing. That's not to say I'm done playing Minecraft, far from it, just need to play something else for a bit, but I still want to play Minecraft so we'll see if I make it through ME, think I will though.

The funniest thing about playing ME is that my brother didn't like Dragon Age in large part due to the amount of talking that you have to do early on, which I admit is a draggggggggg...... So what is the second thing that you have to do in ME? That's right spend 2 hours talking to NPCs to get various quests and look around the Citadel, oh joy. I called him out on it and he said that it probably had more to do with the fact that later on you get to shoot and blow things up, fair enough dodge.

Talking to all of the NPCs was really getting boring, eventually I wrapped it all up and got to start shooting people again, at that point I began to give a shit about all of the talking again. Seriously they should have balanced that just a little better, I mean I like talking to NPCs, it's an RPG I expect that, but the whole feast or famine thing stinks, maybe ME 2 is better. But after I started fighting again then I started to take note of the codex and actually look for stuff to read or listen to in it, before it was just trying to get through the conversations. The codex though is pretty cool, there is a rich background to the universe that I want to keep diving deeper into and really learn about the world that I'm playing in, I love that sort of thing.

Mass Effect is recognized as a classic in many circles and I can see why even in my early stages in the game. The reason, is that I care about what is going to happen, this early on I'm curious about the characters and how the story is going to play out. Anyone that just dismisses video games for their potential to tell a story is just blind to their potential. Sadly some of the main press that this game got when it was released was that it had a 5 second sex scene in it, ignoring everything else about it. I don't really know how I feel about sex in video games because you do have kids playing them, but then again sex and violence do exist outside of video games, just turn on the news and bamm there you go.

Anyway curious to see how it all plays out, looks like an interesting game and I'm happy to have started playing it. I kind of hope it's not too long so that I can finish it and move on and get back to Minecraft, but that's just me being stupid.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Minecraft - Death

So last night (about a week ago now) I decided that it was time to take on that first boss, what an utter failure I was in that endevour. I really had no idea what to expect, but I was thinking that it probably wouldn't be that tough, boy was I wrong. The fight starts when I pick the boss in what I now know is his closed eye, after that all hell breaks loose, I hit him and then get hit myself flying around the room each time that I get hit. Hearts are dropping quickly and that's when I realize that I hadn't set up my hotbar to handle food. Normally this isn't a problem, even when a creeper attacks me I have time to get clear and eat, not the case here. In the end the boss makes short work of me and all of my items explode in a grand explosion.

So after the death it was start over time. I set the game to peaceful and returned to the location of my death to get the diamond pick in order to create my new portal. I also stuck the other items in a chest there so that I could get them back after I beat the boss. I figure by then I'll be armed up anyway, so it's a neat little prize for me.

I then gathered up some materials so that I could make a new portal. Entering the Nether I took off in some random direction and eventually established a portal to come back through. Upon entering the surface world again and waiting for daylight, I tossed all of my items into the water so that they would despawn, including the diamond pick (which I might need if I die before setting up another portal, can't die now, no pressure).

Back to square one I went. 1500 meters from my original starting point. Thankfully the area that I arrived in while geographically boring, did have an awesome little island on it that was just begging to be made into my new base of operations (picture to come). From there it was back to the basics, find coal, kill cows, arm up, etc... But that's ok, I kind of like that part of the game so no big loss. The real fun is where the adventure takes me, will I find another skeleton spawner, or find my diamonds quickly? As of now I've seen gold, but most of my underground explorations have been lateral staying mostly at iron level. The cave system that I uncovered is pretty spread out, but so far not a lot of vertical drops. I figure that I'll find diamonds pretty soon, once I find a way down I think it will spread out and I'll find some.

After finding diamonds I'll need to prep for my trip back to the original starting point so that I can connect the two bases. My rule is that I have to make it on the surface first then after I find the portal I can then use the portals again. Still using the portals won't be easy, that's a lot of Nether to cover with Ghasts shooting at me. Should be interesting.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Minecraft - The Adventure continues - Aether

So in my last play session I did a little more exploration of the Aether. I found a good deal of the various blocks, but nothing amazing, it's really just like the base world, but the penalty of death is a lot greater since you can basically fall off of the world and die. Not really a concern for me since it's one death and I'm out anyway, but it does add that extra little element in there.

After looking around a little bit, I did discover all three of the types of dungeons so now the final part of my adventure can begin. Deciding that it was now or never I armed up and made my way into the bronze dungeon, which is actually quite grey. First thing that happens, a damn sentry stone pops up and then attacks me. I'm thinking no big deal since they're basically slime, turns out those little bastards blow up like Creepers, but don't leave a crater. So that slowed me down quite a bit. My thought is that they spawn when you either step on them or place blocks on them, so to counter that I have decided to build a little walkway through the dungeon. The whole place didn't go in very deep, I walked down a hall, turned a corner and saw a room that had a large block in the center of it. I can only imagine that the block is the boss, as I've read he requires a pickax to kill. And that will what I do tonight, it's time to kill that bitch and finish up my quest. I read that the gold boss is a bitch, so I can see myself getting killed right there at the very end, and the world being sent back into darkness as the hero is killed, no happy ending this time.

And you know what, from an RPG standpoint, I love the fact that I can fail. Oh sure I'll respawn and do my little thing and do it all again, but the idea that I have been working towards the final boss and in my own little story, setting the world free from this beast, it's pretty neat. Imagine if Link didn't defeat Gannon (or whomever) at the end of the game, instead he died. Then the world has to wait for another hero to come save them from the monsters. How many years go by, how long do they live under oppression? I always see epic adventure movies with a jaded view, I mean in the end you know the good guys win, but they aren't supposed to know that. Like Frodo, destroying the ring, we knew he'd make it, but he didn't, and what happens if he didn't? So I know that eventually I'll beat my game, but will it be this time around? It's kind of hard to describe, but it works for me, I feel like the hero, because failure at this point would set me back so far, villages will be left empty, all my loot is abandoned, all the progress wiped out in a single misstep. If you're going to play an RPG it's nice to become invested, play the roll, that's what I'm doing. I really hope Notch makes 1.8 something amazing.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Minecraft - The adventure

A lot of people like to dismiss 1.8 because of it's adventure additions somehow taking away from the creative aspect of the game, personally I'm excited. In the meantime waiting for 1.8 I'm working on my own little adventure, I have three mods loaded up, Millenaire, Anther, and Surviorism. My goal is to defeat the Gold dungeon on Anther without dying once in the game, my own little RPG.

And I have to say there is a great feel playing the game like this, each decision I make is part of a series of choices that will get me to my end goal, while still working in the framework of the original MC concept. My first house was built on a small sand island, safe from mobs. The first real cave system that I found had a very exposed opening that I sealed up with my second house. The next thing I found was a double dungeon one of which had a skeleton spawner (I could have only dreamed of a double skeleton dungeon). In order to set up my mob grinder, I went looking for cactus (naturally I ended up just making a drowning trap) but in the process of looking for cactus, I discovered a village. I set up a little house there near the village so that I could have a home in which to trade with the Normans.

The next thing that I did was do some exploring to check out some of the amazing land formations that my seed generated, lots of high vertical mountains with large overhangs. In the process of checking those formations out, I came across a small Indian village. I set up a house near the Indian village, but then headed back to my main area. Tired of making the long run from the cave opening to the skeleton spawner I decided to dig up and make a new entrance so that I could access it more quickly and in safety. So I set up yet another little hut on the surface that leads down to the skeletons. After securing the skeletons it was then time to get back to work on my main quest, and for that, I needed diamonds.

Into the depths I returned looking for the passageway that was going to take me deep enough to find those diamonds. When exploring caves there are two things that I really hate finding, large vertical openings which generally mean Creepers raining death on me, and large rooms with several ways to go in them with sharp 90 degree angles that you can't see around. This time it was the large room with lots of openings. Initially it wasn't a big deal, a couple zombies, I cleared them out and then started to light the room up. Oh and I hate piles of gravel! Anyway I'm making my way dropping a torch here and there and then checking behind me to see if I was still safe. And lo and behold there is a Creeper within steps of me. Panicked I switch to my sword as I struggle with my controls trying to get clear and into a better position to take him out. I whack him once with my sword then having bought a split second I switch to the bow and start firing wildly at him. In the end I got him, but not after sending my heart into full racing mode, I had to pause the game for a second I was so worked up. Mind you I had full health and full armor, so I probably could have survived a blast, but the game just gets me worked up.

After the Creeper episode, there it was, exposed diamonds one level below me. I was able to clear out the surrounding area without too much trouble, dug up my 5 diamonds and then made my way back to the surface. Once reaching the surface I crafted myself a diamond pick axe and a diamond sword, Act 1 of the adventure was over, getting outfitted with diamonds and the ability to get to the Nether. So I went and dug up some obsidian and placed a portal near my first house.

When I stepped through the portal I was welcomed with a fantastic view of the lava ocean, which my portal was placed directly on a cliff overlooking. It was a very very very dangerous position where if I had taken one step forward I would have been high diving my way to my death. I went about placing cobblestone around the portal, but as nothing is ever easy a flying octopus decided to come welcome me to the Nether. Firing away with fireballs he put out my portal (I always keep a light on me so I was fine). Eventually I got my little house set up, safe from Ghasts and safe from high diving my self into the lava. My final activity was to secure the portal from the normal world so that I wouldn't re-enter to a Creeper. I headed over to the Norman village and dug up some rocks from the exposed rock nearby, then did a little trading with them before heading back. In the end I finished protecting my portal and now I'm ready to start a quick Act 2 of acquiring glowstone so that I can make a Anther portal.

My point to all of this rambling, with a goal, the game plays like an RPG, and I love it. It's a sandbox, but I can win it, with no one telling me how to do it. The random world presents me with opportunities and challenges that I have to figure out how to solve. There are side quests, do I want to go spend time in the villages? Do I want to explore? Do I want to craft a giant castle? But in the end I know what I want to do, and everything that I do is working towards that goal. If die, then it's back to the beginning and the adventure expands and continues, but is a different adventure at the same time.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Minecraft - I am a coward

So after watching some Legendary map videos I decided that I needed to jump back in the saddle and play some serious Minecraft. I went about my normal process of punching trees, killing sheep, yada yada yada. But I noticed something, I spawned in a forest and I was having a lot of fear wondering in under the trees. Naturally I took the only sensible course of action and burned down the forest so that I didn't have to worry about day time monster spawns.

I had another problem too, there weren't any good caves around me either. There were a couple small ones that I was able to pull a good deal of iron and coal from, but neither of those caves needed more than 5 torches to finish out. So I ventured out a little bit away from my island home, there was a small sand bar out about 20 blocks from the shore, perfect location for a house. As I was saying I went exploring a little and found what looks to be a decent cave. I jumped in and started my exploration but I really didn't get too far. It has been awhile since I really explored a cave and the whole time I was terrified that I was going to find a creeper and get blown to pieces. I'm not really sure why I was as scared as I was, it might have to do with the fact that I've been playing on peaceful so much that the loss of control over the world has me for a loop.

I never ended up seeing a Creeper, I almost wanted to so that I could kill one and feel better about myself. I did find a zombie, enough to get the sword swinging but nothing crazy hard, strange thing, the zombie seemed to be faster, I know it's all perception but for some reason in my head he was quicker. But the real problem came when that skinny white bastard came out of the shadows shooting arrows at me. As usual I lost control of my mouse and did my crazy dance. I turned and ran for it like a little girl.

That was when I realized the true gripping power of Minecraft, you never get over the mobs. Sure you can get used to them, but you'll never truly be over them. Take a break for awhile and sure you can jump back in and explore caves in near perfection, but all it takes is one surprise mob scaring the shit out of you to bring it all crashing down. I know that I'll get used to them again, and it won't be such a big deal, but the fact that a game I have been playing since November can still scare the crap out of me, that's impressive.

Until I get a bow, they're dead after I get my bow.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Minecraft - Redstone is FUN!

Ok so an odd thing happened on my way to making a LP series, I started playing MC with my son on his build world. So now instead of looking to play the hardcore adventure that I was originally going to play, I find myself working hard to make cool stuff to show off to him and my brother on the build server. A sugar farm? Sure why not, a cobblestone generator, yes, a castle that has extensive use of redstone in it, HELL YES!

Up until this past week I have never really played with redstone that much, but now I find myself actually jumping in my strip mine digging for it instead of diamonds. What's more I get really excited to find gold, so that I can make powered rails. Who is this guy?

So it's not like I'm going to go off and build myself a MC RS computer, but my castle is becoming lots of fun. Originally I was just going to make some random castle out in the middle of no where so that I could show it off to my son and my brother, but then things got weird. Instead of torches I thought that I'd use glowstone but I didn't want to make the glowstone super visible, so I tucked it away into the wall so that it gives off indirect light, I think that it looks great. What is the next thing that a castle needs, a moat. So I got to thinking about how I was going to dig the thing out and then looking at the my castle wall with the openings that I used for light, I thought that maybe I could use those openings as flood gates. I had wanted to do something with pistons, but I just couldn't figure out a good enough idea for them, this was that idea.

So tinkering with some regular pistons I set it up so that hidden in the walls were source blocks of water that were blocked by gravel. Originally I was going to put the source block on the piston itself but I was getting strange issues with that so I decided that I wouldn't move the water, just what was in front of it. Using some redstone under the ground and hiding the pistons and water under a set of stairs, a hidden flood gate was created. Now knowing that I could do the flood gate I went around to the rest of the wall and set up flood gates all around the castle wall so that at the flip of a switch my castle was surrounded by a moat, or I could turn it off as so desired. It's pretty damn cool looking, I'll get a picture, or a video up from it.

The only problem that I was having with a working moat was that I needed to get across it. I thought about placing and off switch on the outside, but I'd still need a way to get over the castle wall, hence a drawbridge was needed. The problem with a drawbridge and no sticky pistons was how to make it, but keep it hidden. Sure I could have a drawbridge that would be created with a switch, but the problem was that if you could see the pistons, what is the point, just make a bridge. It was about this time that I thought ok maybe I don't make a bridge that goes over the wall, I just make it go to the wall and I'll place a door in the wall. It wasn't a very good idea because I wanted the entrance to be hidden, but it would work. So digging out under the surface of the moat I placed some pistons with gravel on top of them, just like the flood gates and made it so that when they triggered they would rise up from the water creating a walkway. It worked like a charm, as was so cool looking, but I had a problem with the block closest to the wall, when I triggered it, it wasn't high enough to block the water so it remained under water. Thankfully the solution to that problem also solved my getting into the castle problem as well.

Where the water poured out from the walls, there was a water block a little higher than the rest of the water moat along the wall, I realized that if I placed a gravel block under it, I could use that block with a piston to block off the water when I raised the bridge, thus giving me a dry bridge. The bonus to creating a dry bridge was that the gravel that would block the water opening would be one block below the top wall block when it was raised, thus giving me a makeshift stairway over the castle wall when the bridge was raised. I now had my hidden bridge and my hidden entry into the castle, but what to do about the bridge switch...

For the bridge switch I thought that I'd make a gate house to keep the switch protected for obvious view. Not sure who was going to break in and use it, but I was using my RPG imagination so I just rolled with it. My thought was that if someone came to the castle they shouldn't know how to get into the castle, yes they could cheat and use blocks, but I was in the RPG zone. So for the gatehouse I decided that I needed a secret entrance. My problem with making a secret entrance was not knowing how I was going to do it without sticky pistons, with them it would have been cake, but having to use the basic pistons, that was going to be tricky. What I came up with was a pushing system using 4 pistons, 2 on one side and 2 on the other side with 2 blocks between them. The button triggers activate two of the pistons and move the blocks revealing the opening to the house. Then when I want to close it, the other two pistons move the blocks back into place hiding the entry way. The neat side benefit that I created was a locking mechanism on the inside so that the blocks could not be opened if the lock was set on the inside. Again, nothing a pick axe couldn't take care of, but that's not the point.

So there it is, with some redstone I made a retractable moat, a retractable bridge, and a secret entrance. I'm not sure what I'll make next but I'm thinking of making an hidden underground passageway that when triggered reveals a hidden staircase. Not sure what other fun things I might do, but it's a heck of a lot of fun to play with the redstone and pistons. Eventually I'll get back to adventuring, but for right now I'm trying to make my son's world interesting and exciting for him. Once finished I'll show off my castle to him and I hope that he'll be impressed, he'll either just build blocks to get around it all or he'll want me to build him one. Either way it's a lot of fun, there really is this cool factor in making this stuff, I'm going to need a lot more redstone, who knew?!