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This last week has seen the release of version 1.8 of Minecraft after much anticipation: the Adventure update!

Update logo

Villages, NPCs, mines, levels, proper dungeons and food playing a bigger role have been promised and so I set out to see how it actually holds up.

It begins

The first hurdle I encounter is a lack of a craftbukkit update (it's apparently tricky to code). Never mind, thinks I, I'll just run a vanilla solo map. If I can remember how one of those goes, and cope without a teleport to home function. And so after generating a new world I was thrust into the thick of it. Immediately there's UI changes to note: an XP bar and a food bar (that jiggles now and then which I find to be fairly distracting actually). I spy a cow and after punching some trees to make a sword, I get my psycho on with some leather armour in mind. First thing I notice, animals panic and run away when you start to attack. Second thing I notice, sometimes I one-shot them. Critical hits are now here.

Killing animals drops little greenish yellow bead thingers that's actually your XP, and other animals besides pigs drop raw meat too, all of which can be cooked ot increase the food value. Food means your HP regenerates. After killing everything that moves for a bit, I have absolutely no idea what level I am and I can't seem to find anything in the UI that tells me, though I understand that at the moment it's irrelevant.

Time to build a boat and cross the oceans. I also notice that clay is now more readily found in watery areas such as lakes and seas. No more cheating for that brick fireplace! I spy what look like Vines hanging off trees but I suppose I need some shears before I can do anything with them, like leaves. I noticed another little change: water now has little dots of stuff floating in it so it looks like there's actually something there.

Finally I spy what looks like it could be a cave system and head on in hoping for a mine. Another discovery is that torch light giving things a slightly yellow hue as opposed to daylight which lends a slightly bluish cast. Sadly I find nothign else new in the sprawling mass of dead ends and tunnels filled with lava tubes and running water. At this point, I've spent over an hour exploring this ocean planet biome with mountains for islands and found absolutely nothing of interest. None of these mines or villages or dungeons. Perhaps I picked a rubbish seed word so I gave it another go. Another oceanic biome with mountainous islands popped up. A large cave system was all of interest I could find here too. Bah!

If at first you don't succeed, cheat like a bastard

At this point I cheated and asked some friends for seed words for the biomes that'd given them the new fancy stuff in the hopes that the third time's the charm. Well whaddya know? It works. I spawn in an NPC village right next to a smithy. There's a well there too, a guard tower, houses with tables and chairs and windows, irrigated crops, lampposts and a workshop with what looks like a library. There's even a small cave out back to explore. This is more like it!

Some experimentation revealed brick stairs, glass panes and iron grills now existed, so after claiming a spacious pad as my own in this eerily uninhabited village and installing some chests (now with opening animations) I set off to find myself a mine. After stumbling on a second village, very similar to the first in terms of building design and contents and how many of each are present, I continue onwards and fall down a chasm into what looks like an underground building with a new kind of stone brick and iron doors. Sadly it looks like this one was malformed as the walls are more like hanging pillars, there's no flooring to separate it from the caves below and there's nothing else there. Still, it's all progress and it looks to me like it's a proper dungeon but I'm told it's called a Stronghold, and thus I can tick that off the discovery list.

With only Mines left to find for the meat of the additions, it was time to set off once more. Following a tip I find a hole in the bottom of a lake and riding the waterfall down I land squarely inside what I assume must be a mine: wooden supports lining a tunnel, cobwbs that give string, random sections of minecart track, torches here and there and so on. Something else new to play with are melon seeds found in one of the chests in said mine, but I don't appear to have much in the way of a green thumb when it comes to growing any. Ah well.


So with all the major additions checked out and a bunch of smaller tweaks noted, I'm all minecrafted out for the day and I shall now await the coming of the Craft Bukkit update so I can fire up my usual server maps and see about wedging in some of this new stuff.
achtungexplosiv: (Default)
So what am I playing?

Mostly, I've been playing lots of games for a short while each: grazing, one could say. A mixture of being busy with other things, low attention span at present and drifting from game to game.

On the PC

Aside from the various contents of the Humble Indie Bundle, my PC gaming focus has been scattered with the usual Minecraft making an appearance here and there, particularly when I'm semi-distracted and thinking about/watching other things (mostly I'm invading others' servers to poke around their creations).

For a bit of destressing and distraction, I was playing a bit of Zen Bound 2. It's an indie 'puzzler' game that's meant to be something calm and relaxing to play. I say puzzle game in the loosest sense: you have a wood carving of something that has beads of paint on nails sticking out at various points. Attached to it is a rope which you wind around it (by spinning and rotating the carving with your mouse) that splashes paint where it touches the surfaces, and also triggers the paint blobs. You complete a level by covering a carving in at least 95% paint. It's a weird little game that doesn't hold my attention for too long but for a change of pace it's very nifty. Out now on Steam.

Zen Bound 2

On the other end of the spectrum is the action-packed and fast-paced Diablo-clone dungeon crawler RPG known as Torchlight: it has a cutesy graphics scheme, game play and music almost entirely ripped off from Diablo II but overall is quite polished if somewhat easy. There's a mod to allow multiplayer but it's quite buggy, sadly. Where Diablo II is hardcore, Torchlight is much more casual gamer friendly. Where Diablo II has 7 classes, Torchlight has 3. Where Diablo II has hired mercenaries, Torchlight has pet wolves/lynxes that can nip off to sell your junk whilst you continue to bash through a dungeon. It's a nifty little game but it's nothing groundbreaking. A native multiplayer option would increase its interest and longevity enormously.

Torchlight Logo

Finally, I seemed to have acquired a copy of Breath of Death VII through Steam and after ignoring it for a while decided to fire it up on a whim, not having read anything about it. Immediately I was entertained at it's faux-8bit (with bits of up to 16bit!) graphics, the tropes and stereotypes that are at once both gleefully hammed up and spun on their heads and the incongruously modern music. The gameplay is classic RPG with convenience added, like being able to run without having to collect a magic item, being able to pick a fight whenever instead of running round in circles on the world map waiting for a random encounter, MP regain being a function of how few turns it takes to kill stuff and leveling up giving you an option to pick one of two extra sets of stat bonuses. The dialogue is brilliant and every moment (so far) has been a giant tongue-in-cheek parody of every 8 and 16bit RPG I've ever played. Absolute gold and well well worth the price on Steam.
Breath of Death VII

On the 3DS

I have to admit that in my 'ooh shiny new toy!' phase of Droid ownership, my poor 3DS has taken a back seat. Aside from regular maintenance of my Streetpass Plaza and Pokedex, I've had a bit of a play with Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation, one of the first Dragon Quest games released outside of Japan. As I got past the pompously orchestral opening theme it brought back that warm 'n' fuzzy retrogame feeling as it harked back to the 16bit RPGs of yore. None of this was a surprise, however, given it was originally released for the SNES back in 1995 and re-released for the (regular) DS in May 2011. It's a classic Japanese RPG and so far has been quite fun to play.

Dragon Quest VI

On the Android

My Snes9x EX revival continues almost unabated, hampered only by the slight awkwardness of the sensitive touch controls. I'm slowly getting the hang of it but it's taking time as I'm used to lightly resting my thumbs on the controllers as default with button pressing being the application of a bit of force. I'm avoiding twitcher games for the moment for this reason.

To the future!

I'm eying up the potential expansion of Minecraft for the 'Droid. Currently it's only for the Sony Xperia Play phones which is a huge shame as there's plenty of Android phones out there that have the power to pull it off and it's all because of this exclusivity deal that the rest of us have to wait. No word on an iOS version as yet.
achtungexplosiv: (Default)
Minecraft is a bit of an indie phenomenon in the PC Gaming world. Conceived and primarily written by Markus "Notch" Persson, it's technically still in beta and is a first-person game with a purposefully retro blocky style that revolves around doing whatever you please. The game is based around the concepts of acquiring resources in the game world (mining, punching trees, killing stuff etc) and building things (castles, piston-driven TVs, reproduction works of art etc). There's also dark-loving monsters that like the taste of your blocky pixel self such as zombies, archer skeletons, giant spiders and creepers (which are best described as suicide bomber ninjas).

How I mine 4 fish?

Minecraft Launcher screen

The game can be played in several ways and there is no end goal as such. There is no story or setting, no protagonist (though your character is a regular bloke called Steve) and no evil villain (Creepers don't count). It's a sandbox world where you are given potential and it's up to you what you want to do with it. If you like, you can turn off monsters, spawn all the materials you want out of thin air, break the game's own laws of physics (which are like the real world's laws of physics, except when they aren't) - in other words you can God Mode if you like and the game becomes a creative building simulator; like Lego without so many of the gravity worries. Or you can play on a player-made custom map where resources are scarce and the goal is to survive as long as you can in a bleak world with a lot of hungry monsters. Or perhaps an adventure map with quests and objectives. Or gather some friends together and compete to see who can do the best. Or you can load up one of innumerable custom-made mods that add everything from new materials to new rules and functionality to completely new realms.

The game is written in java and as such is incredibly customisation-friendly. The modding community for Minecraft is huge and the ability to easily re-write core chunks of the game has surely contributed to its incredible success. Examples of these can be seen in the Yogscast clips that showcase the more elaborate mods with humorous commentary on YouTube.

Yes, the graphics are blocks with texture maps 16x16 pixels big. That's the idea. There's mods about which will reskin the game if your eyes start bleeding but I think it'd lose a lot of its charm that way. Sound effects are amusingly basic with rough 'n' ready sound clips pinched from the Freesound project for cows mooing, thunder etc. Music is the complete opposite with a mixture of simple ditties and very high quality ambient tracks that play at seemingly random intervals. Notch even stuck some achievements into it, whose poor grammar has spawned the low-flying meme of  "Achievement Get!"

Achivement Get

The game is often compared to Terraria because the themes are almost exactly the same: start with diddley squat, mine/harvest yourself stuff to make better stuff including shelter, weapons and armour. Watch out for zombies, slimes and other foul creatures lurking where it's dark. However Terraria is a 2d affair with more monsters including bosses and less focus on building creativity; it appeals more to those that prefer their games with some action.

I've noticed that most people who start with Minecraft then try Terraria find the lack of creative freedom in Terraria to be annoying for a minecraft clone. Folks that start with Terraria find Minecraft to be lacking the action and adventure of Terraria and contains too much pointless building.

My own experiences with Mojang's merry little Minecraft world have been mixed. Initially I didn't get what the fuss was about and the mad frenzy of seemingly everyone I knew in the world ever had passed me by. It looked eyebleeding and boring and almost a year went by with me ignoring all these stupid videos of blocky things making more blocky things that were popping up everywhere I ventured online. It wasn't until I was gifted a copy of the game and one evening ended up bored to death because my mother was visiting and hogging my room, that I finally caved in to a friend's nagging and hopped onto his minecraft map to see what all the fuss was about. Initially I was wandering about just doing random stuff, poking random things, seeing what I could make out of what. The open-ended world tugged at my inquisitive and exploratory nature, and I was full of questions about what you could and couldn't do, what did and didn't exist. A couple more outings onto my friend's map later and I decided that actually this was a right barrel of monkeys.

After picking some brains I found the best way of going about playing was to load up on CraftBukkit tools to host my own map servers and after an evening of trying to get the damn thing working, then talking to the router, then figuring out how to let others on, I had my own world to play with. A beach house, sauna, cavern of doom, netherworld holiday camp, armed and armoured airship, sekrit underwater observatory, railroad, giant tree house, floating lookout, lava tank, lots of dead zombies, custom skins for Steve and an invasion of friends later I realised that yes, this game was worth the hype I'd ignored previously.

I did give Terraria a try, incidentally. My knowledge of Minecraft served me well enough but I have to say I got bored of it fairly quickly ended up going back to Minecraft.

News in the intertubes is that there's XBox 360, Android, iPad and iPhone versions on the way - the XBox version allegedly using Kinect. This will either be freaking hilarious, or a total failure.

Anyhow I shall leave you all with this: evidence that it's like lego with zombies...

achtungexplosiv: (Default)
At the moment, I'm not hardcore into any one thing. My general game usage is based around my 3DS while I'm out and about, which keeps me sane on my commutes and when I have a quiet lunch, and my home PC. On the 3DS I'm usually playing Ghost Recon; at home I'm often bouncing about on Minecraft. It's one of those lull periods I get where I'm not intensely focused on somthing in particular, and end up casually playing a few different games depending on the people I game with and their availability. Until recently I was up to my eyeballs in MMOs and I suppose could describe myself as 'between games' at the moment.

General MMO-flavoured notes

I've become an MMO gamer over the years, after initially being highly critical of a genre of game which, as I saw it, you had to re-buy the damn thing every month. The reasons for my change of tune are twofold:

Firstly, MMOs tend to be huge games with a lot of variety in scope, long character progression, plenty to see and do, a lot of freedom to explore, experiment and generally mess around with a wide variety of ways to play such as player vs game content, player vs player, combat, crafting, social activities etc. As living worlds that in theory are updated by their creators with new content and changes, this mitigated the 'subscription fee' niggle I had had.

Secondly, MMOs have communities; the people you play with in groupings of varying size and arrangement in order to accomplish things, so it's a social affair in which friendships can develop. It goes beyond in-game activities into forum participation, websites resource creation and the development of third-party tools that give rise to smartphone apps, wikis, theorycrafting with equipment listings and so on. The entire process can be very rewarding.

Both of those aspects appeal very strongly to me and I've had many years of good times with the genre. A quick overview of my time:

I started out with Eve Online in 2004 some time before the first big expansion, Exodus, was released. That's one hell of a baptism of fire, believe me. Internet spaceships appealed to my interests because I'm a sci-fi fan and I had a few friends that were playing it at the time. After some years and many adventures both good and bad, I burned out and decided to give it a break. I have returned to Eve off and on over the years and am currently subbed (just about) despite the CCP debacles of late.

After some time experimenting with other games, I found myself really getting into Anarchy Online which I had first come accross in 2006 shortly before the release of the Lost Eden expansion. I realise that this way round of playing those two games was arse-backwards to most others, but hey. Several more years of good and bad were spent here doing it all until I suffered a similar burnout and developed an extremely jaded view of FUncom (putting the FU in fun).

Some more random games later (most recently Rift, which I am still technically subbed to but no one I played with still plays and I'm bored on my own) I find myself adrift once more.

At a later point I'll do a more detailed write up of each game, including the various other games I played and didn't stick with for one reason or another.


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May 2012

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