Lego Worlds Impressions

Lego Open World

LEGO_Worlds_DX11 2015-06-01 18-42-08-06 On an absolute whim yesterday I popped onto the steam website to check out what had been released, or was impending release this morning.  One of the titles listed was something I quite literally knew nothing about called Lego Worlds.  After some research, the consensus seemed to be Lego meets Minecraft.  It has the same pedigree of the other Lego games out there as it is also created by Traveler’s Tales.  Right now the game is on Steam Early Access for $14.99 and I figured for that price it was worth the risk.  I was seemingly one of the few people who actually through Lego Universe was a pretty cool game.  Similarly I have really enjoyed my time spent in Lego Minifigures Online, and will more than likely pick up the Lego portal based game as well.  I may or may not be a Lego Maniac to borrow the 80s commercial catch phrase.  As I sit here typing up my blog post I am sitting in an office surrounded by a mountain of Lego sets.

LEGO_Worlds_DX11 2015-06-01 19-19-38-92 If you have ever played any of the Lego franchise titles like Lego Harry Potter or Lego Star Wars, this game will feel extremely familiar to you at least as far as movement and gameplay goes.  Ultimately this is a game about destroying everything in sight, because when you destroy an object it erupts in a shower of “coins” which are represented by the 1×1 round plate pieces in various colors to denote denominations.  Essentially as you roam around the world every new object you encounter, you collect its appearance.  You can spend your coins to unlock the ability to build with these prefabs.  This means that if you are running through an area and there is a neat lamp post along the trail, you can bump into it and collect its appearance and then build with these lamps from that point on.  There is a truly overwhelming number of these prefab objects out in the world and in the three hours I spent yesterday playing I collected what seems like hundreds of them.

Custom Minifigures

LEGO_Worlds_DX11 2015-06-01 18-39-28-14  When you start the game you are given a very limited choice of appearances in the form of either a Male or a Female explorer.  As you roam around the world however you encounter lots of other minifigures.  Some of them are friendly and simply walking up to them allows you to collect their appearance, and others are more aggressive and you have to defeat them to collect theirs.  In either case these minifigures that you have met go into the same “coin store” as the prefabs you encounter, and from there you can spend your coins to unlock their appearance items.  At any point while playing you can swap around your look by changing out the various parts that make up a minifigure including head, body, arms, hands, legs, hat, cape, and assorted hair slot options.  So far while roaming around I have managed to run into twenty one different figures, ranging from Yeti to a Surfer Girl.  Each of them gave me various unique bits to add to my assortment of appearance items allowing me to assemble some fairly strange looks.

LEGO_Worlds_DX11 2015-06-01 23-00-03-30

This for example is the caveman beard and hair combination, with the wizard cape, skull head and outlaw body parts.  I got tired of this look pretty quickly but the beauty of the system is that you can swap things out on the fly and incorporate new pieces you might find as you are roaming around.  I feel like that is this games strong point is that it really rewards exploration.  While roaming around you encounter all sorts of vehicles and animals that you can ride on.  Like everything else once you encounter it, you can purchase it in the coin store to permanently unlock it’s appearance.  Once you have paid for an vehicle or mount like this, you can then summon it to your location at any point.  This means if I want to ride around on a polar bear I can on a whim, or summon a racing bike, or even an airplane.  The more you explore the easier exploration gets as you have all sorts of modes of transportations to get you where you need to go.  Also while you explore there are special large chests that have items that you can collect like weapons and other items to help you in your adventures.  Since I favor melee I am right now using a big club to bash things, but there is also a rifle and a bow that I have managed to find as well to allow you to attack things at range.

Interesting Exploration

LEGO_Worlds_DX11 2015-06-01 19-07-48-85 One of the most interesting vehicles that I encountered was this Ninjago inspired drill car vehicle.  With it comes the special ability to hold A while driving it to drill the terrain.  There are a few pitfalls with this vehicle, namely that it always seems to want to drill directly down.  That said I had quite a bit of fun tearing up the terrain and drilling under a mountain.  Now getting back OUT of that area was more of a challenge.  This vehicle from what I can tell only appears in the similarly “ninjago” themed Biome, meaning the one with the cherry blossom trees and the huge pagoda like buildings.  Other vehicles similarly spawn in unique biomes, like the Airplane appears to only be in the snowy biome, and the “Monster Fighters” style Roadster only appears in the desert/Egyptian biome with the free roaming Mummies.  Essentially each biome seems to be based on a popular family of Lego sets and generally contains creatures that you might also find in that set.  The only one that seems to make zero sense so far is that Cavemen and Cavewomen seem to spawn damned near everywhere.

LEGO_Worlds_DX11 2015-06-01 22-36-14-05 The game right now is very “early access” and I do not mean necessarily that the game feels “beta” and buggy, but more so  that the game feels like it is missing a lot of features that will be in what I hope is the final version.  Right now there does not seem to be much purpose to the exploration other than to unlock items to build with.  The problem there is that there seems to be little to no reason to really build anything.  There are certain biomes where skeletons spawn infinitely during the night cycles, but building a structure does not really seem to present you with much shelter against the endless waves of them.  For the time being the  game is strictly single player, but I know multiplayer is in the works.  Right now the list of things planned from the Steam page includes…

  • Like/Dislike system for tailoring World Generation
  • Procedurally Generated Underground Cave Networks
  • LEGO ID integration to allow for sharing and uploading of in-game builds
  • Additional Biomes
  • Painting Themes
  • Pre-Generated Towns/Villages/Settlements relevant to the Biome
  • Updated AI Behaviors to provide organic feeling to free-roaming creatures and characters
  • Red Brick Extras
  • Full liquid behaviors
  • Additional Minifigure Characters and Creatures
  • Additional Vehicles and Pre-Built Models
  • Additional Weapons
  • Cut/Copy/Paste chunks of landscape
  • Underwater Gameplay (including Vehicles, Creatures and additional sea life)
  • Character Customizer
  • Online Multiplayer”

LEGO_Worlds_DX11 2015-06-01 18-58-35-27

So as you can see they pretty much intend to flesh this game out to be competitive with the Minecraft genre.  For $14.99 it was more than enjoyable enough roaming around and interacting with things.  However if you are looking for a complete game, keep moving on.  There really is not much “game” to be had here and in that aspect you are far better off for the time being playing Trove because it offers a lot of the same fun and exploration gameplay, while also offering an actual game that creates reasons for your exploration and combat.  This is planned to stay in Early Access throughout 2015, and by the time it launches next year it is probably going to be an awesome experience.  The biggest suggestion I have if you plan on giving it a try is to hook up a controller, because the keyboard and mouse control options are pretty frustrating.  The user interface has been designed for a controller and that experience seems to be the most enjoyable.

Minecraft and Microsoft

Of Minecraft and Microsoft

minecraft-xbox-one Monday the news broke that Microsoft would be buying Mojang, the company behind Minecraft for 2.5 billion dollars.  Since then I’ve seen a lot of varied reactions on this, but I had not quite formulated my own thoughts yesterday morning so I didn’t mention it.  I admit I am a bit scared for Minecraft as a game to be in the often ham fisted hands of Microsoft.  The thing is this is my own personal biases showing through.  While I make my living supporting Microsoft products, in truth I have not been a huge fan of the company since Bill Gates ejected himself from the picture.  I’ve felt that they’ve made a significant number of missteps on a many fronts, more importantly to the topic of this conversation on the gaming front.  In a way I feel like this makes Microsoft look like they are making a desperate grab at relevance by purchasing the juggernaut that “all the kids are playing”.

From the standpoint of Notch I completely understand why he did this, and I support his decision.  Notch has always been one of those figures for which the spotlight has burned a little too much.  He blew up his own blog Notch.net when he posted this statement, so it made its way over to Paste Bin.  In the statement he explains how he feels like he had become this symbol, and not a person and for those of you who haven’t not watched the This is Phil Fish video Notch mentions you should really check it out.  It talks about the weird relationship we have to developers, especially in the indie world.  I honestly feel like Notch has always wanted to be this guy who worked on interesting projects, and just had the fortune or misfortune depending on your point of view of one of those projects going viral behind his wildest fevered imaginings.

So we have this odd marriage.  Microsoft desperately needs to claw its way to relevance, and Notch needs a company with the infrastructure to support his creation.  The Minecraft community can be extremely awesome, but they can also turn on a dime into an unruly mob as they did over supposed terms of service changes.  I highly suggest you check out Notch’s “Literally Worse than EA” post to see the point at which I think he decided he was getting out.  As an avid player of Minecraft since the early days of beta, my only hope in all of this is that Microsoft can keep from fucking it up.  They have this golden opportunity to prove to the world that they are not these clumsy and confused overlords.  Do right by this game and you might have just won yourself a lifetime of supporters.  Do wrong by this game and you likely caused the next few generations to hate you.  Ultimately this is not about me or my generation, but the children growing up with Minecraft as their generations Lego.

The Story Barrier

ffxiv 2014-09-16 21-43-56-381 Last night we had the intention to go do the next few parts of the Coil of Bahamut raid.  We did not however have the necessary well geared bodies to pull this off, so instead we opted to do the two instances that come at the end of the main story of the game.  Castrum Meridianum and The Praetorium are both 8 man dungeons that are extremely story and cut scene heavy.  They often act as the bottle neck for players who have just finished leveling to 50, since so much of the end game content cannot be completed until you have finished this step in the main story quest.  This is one of my biggest complaints about the flow of the game, is that you have this massive gulf to cross when you think you are nearing the end.  You can of course queue for these two through the Duty system, but there is a significant problem with that.

Folks have figured out tricks to run these dungeons extremely quickly, and if you do so they are worth are lot of Tomestones of Mythology for limited work.  As such folks tend to power pull these dungeons and anyone who stops to watch the story gets lost in the mix, often times missing entire boss fights because they are locked in a cut scene.  This is extremely frustrating since so much of the final act of the story gets played out in these two dungeons.  As such we try and wait until we have several 50s that need these before running them, since to run the two dungeons while watching waiting on cut scenes is around a two hour long Endeavour.  Last night we had a block of time when we had a bunch of individuals online at the same time so we knocked them out for Thalen.

It had been a long while since I had watched all of the cut scenes and I have to say I am still impressed with the events at the end of this game.  I don’t want to go into spoilers but the conclusion of the main story sequence is so satisfyingly “Final Fantasy”.  It has all of the elements that make a game like this feel epic.  Big boss fights, orchestral music with the requisite choral requirement, huge spell effects and large scale devastation.  You cannot come out of The Praetorium without feeling like the big effing hero of the day.  This is the way the ending of every video game should feel.  The awesome thing here is that the story just keeps going, and in fact I feel like we are building to just as big and exciting of a conclusion somewhere down the line.  I find myself actually waiting with baited breath on the next segment of the storyline coming with 2.4.

Recruitment and Games

I had a situation happen last night when two of my friends officially declared that Final Fantasy XIV was the worse.  In truth I think they were referring to the hassle that is the Square Enix account management process, and in that I absolute agree with them.  Square seriously needs to rethink the number of hoops you have to jump through to be able to play their game.  Someone has to be pretty damned committed to giving them money to suffer through that bullshit.  That said it did bring up a slightly different point, that I thought I would talk a bit this morning.  I get super excited about video games, and in my enthusiasm I feel like I need to share that experience with others.  As such through a series of posts on my blog I gush about various features of a game, and some of my friends have taken to calling me the “games pusher”.  At its core, I want to share the enjoyment I am having with my friends… because I want them to feel awesome about things too.

The thing is this doesn’t always work, and that is completely okay if it doesn’t.  People enjoy games differently, and as such the things that might be perfect for me are not going to be perfect for everyone.  So if you see me gushing about a game, it does not mean that I expect you to like it just as much as I do.  Hell I find it awesome that people have even tried to play whatever it is that I am playing.  Of the folks who have taken the “FFXIV challenge”, a few of them have tried and decided they loved it.  Still others have decided this game is not for them at all and walked away from it.  I still love both camps equally, and for the folks who fought through the struggle that is account management to try it…  I am especially appreciative that they push so much effort into it.  Ultimately not every game has to be just right for everyone.  We can play different games and still be awesome friends.  That said I don’t think I will ever stop trying to get folks playing the game I am playing and on the same server I am playing.  That is just too deeply ingrained in my nature.

#FFXIV #Minecraft

We Kill Routers

Running About in OKC

randompenandpaper My wife and I first got hooked on Half Priced Books during a random trip to Dallas Texas.  I had heard of the chain before, but had never been to one.  At that point we had a Garmin GPS and we punched “book” into the POI search and happened to find one nearby.  From that point onwards when we went to a new area we immediately searched to see if they had any of the stores.  During a trip to Madison Wisconsin we managed to hit three different stores up there, and on our last trip to Dallas I think we hit around fifteen of them.  Tulsa unfortunately does not have any yet, but an hour and a half from Tulsa in Oklahoma City they have three of them in the metro area.  So every now and then we make a trip down there just for the purpose of hitting all three of them.

I was trying to explain to my coworkers what makes them special, and if you have never been… and especially if you not a bibliophile it just would never make any sense.  One of the most magic things about the store is they have a rather large used role-playing games section.  On past trips I have found all sorts of wonders, but just the simple fact that a store exists in Oklahoma with this sort of stuff makes me happy.  This trip I honestly didn’t walk away with much from HBP.  I picked up a Minecraft book by scholastic, that is obviously targeting children but manages to explain Redstone wiring in a simple enough manner that I think I can “grok” it.  Additionally I picked up the second book in the Odd Thomas series, and the Silent Hill Collection for the PS3 since I have never actually played 2 or 3 in that series but loved the hell out of the first one.

Carpet Jesus

carpetjesus Another thing we did yesterday was run around to a series of pawn shops in my search for “cheap” Xbox 360 and PS3 games.  I managed to stumble onto a cache of $5 a piece PS3 games here in Tulsa at a Cash America pawn shop, and I knew that in OKC they had at least 11 of them.  We tried to hit as many of them as we could while weaving across town to hit all three of the HBP stores.  The lesson of the day seemed to be that OKC wanted more for their stuff than I was willing to pay for it.  Locally the most you will ever pay for a game in a pawn shop is $15, and while wandering across OKC I routinely saw them for as much as $30 in the same pawn shop chains we have here in town.  I even managed to hit a Game XChange which is a chain that used to be really big around here… and there they were selling PS4 games that you can buy brand new at Target for $39.95 for $54.

whatadeal When I see a price like that, maybe it is horrible of me… but the first thing that goes through my head is “that’s adorable”.  I feel like maybe Oklahoma City in general just doesn’t know how to price things.  During our travels we stumbled across a fairly nice looking thrift store and the carpet jesus picture above hails from it.  Among the various baubles is a brand new sealed box for an Intel EtherExpress LAN Adapter.  The one pictured above is an ISA card… designed to go in an IBM 286/386 machine and Novell Netware that is advertised on the back side.  This is pretty much the best technology Intel had to offer in 1992, and seems to be pulled off the shelf of someone’s closet and donated to charity.  The pricetag is not a mistake… they apparently do want $59 for this mint in box artifact of the pre-internet age.  Oklahoma City apparently lives in a bubble where they don’t have a clue what anything is actually worth.

We Kill Routers

This morning I woke to the fun surprise of having no internet in our house.  Apparently between the time that I recorded our podcast and edited it last night, and this morning our Asus router died.  The thing is we are exceptionally hard on routers it seems, because it seems that at least once a year I end up replacing one.  I have to think it is because we have so many internet connected devices.  We have 5 laptops, 3 desktops, 2 phones, 2 tablets, 3 chromecasts, and 5 gaming consoles connected to our wireless router pretty much all of the time.  That is a lot of strain on any device and they seem to just explode after awhile.  So this morning I connected the internet directly into my main desktop and got on long enough to do some research and write this blog post.

I found a device at our local Best Buy that looks like it might do the job.  It is supposedly designed to handle multiple devices at the same time, so we will see if we end up killing this one as well.  The last one only manages to survive 6 months… and honestly it might still be under warranty and I will try and dig that information up and try and replace it.  It would make a nice little router for the lake to be honest.  I did the in store pickup option on the new one, so right now I am just waiting on the email to let me know it is ready to go.  I had heard really good things about the Netgear Nighthawk, so we will see if it lives up to the marketing hype.

Exclusionary Subcultures

Last night we managed to get the entire AggroChat podcast crew together once again for another broadcast.  Tonight we talk at length about the various things we have been doing including Minecraft, VVVVVV, Adventure Time Battle Party, and a few other things.  The bulk of the show however is a discussion about various subcultures.  Gaming and geekdom in general can be a very exclusionary place.  Not that we solve any of the worlds problems, but we at least have a discussion about them.  We ran a bit longer than normal this time, but we had a lot of stuff to talk about.

Return to Minecraft

When it Rains…

The old euphemism “when it rains it pours” is fitting today because it is absolutely drenched outside… and additionally we have been dealing with all sorts of issues this week.  Over the weekend we had to deal with my wife’s vehicle and the tensioner going out in a rather dramatic way.  For those that don’t remember we were driving Sunday and the bolt essentially sheared causing pretty much every light on the dash to come on at once and us to barely make it home before the engine overheated to the point of no return.  Monday during the day we got that issue fixed and it was a rather simple mistake that lead to it.  I thought we were done with our auto troubles for the time being, but reality seemed to have other ideas.

Yesterday over lunch I ran to Target to pick up cat food and while I was out something to eat.  When I started up the jeep there was a very loud mechanical whirring noise that I didn’t recognize, but otherwise the vehicle seemed to perform fine so I tried my best not to think about it.  As I was heading back from lunch and entering the edge of downtown I noticed that the red battery light had come on.  At this point I am not really sure what to do… I’ve had a few alternators go out, and generally speaking that light combined with the whirring noise I heard earlier probably meant mine was dying.  I parked in the garage and went into the building calling the shop to see if they could work me in.  Sure enough they could, so I thought I would try and make my way there, hoping I did not get stranded along the side of the road.  I mean we have AAA so in theory there was never really the chance that I would truly get stranded…  but I crossed all my things in hope that I made it through successfully.

When I got out into the jeep I turned everything off that could possibly be drawing power.  So by the time I made it to the shop I had a rather sweaty windblown hairdo that I am sure was extremely attractive.  Thankfully the shop we use is around the corner from my house so I could drop the vehicle off and walk home.  Just about the time I walked in the front door my phone was ringing.  They had been able to assess the issues and said it was in fact the Alternator, that the bearings were bad and it would need to be replaced.  About three thirty they called back letting me know the vehicle was ready for pickup.  It is probably a bad thing that the girl behind the desk addressed me by name when I walked through the door.  That means we have been in there entirely too often lately.  Good news is that my Jeep appears to be fine now, and since both of our vehicles are paid off… I guess paying a car payment a piece worth of repairs is not too bad in the long run.

Return to Minecraft

javaw 2014-07-10 06-26-05-352 A few days ago Zeli mentioned that she would be setting up an Alliance of Awesome Minecraft server so that her child could have a safe place to play the game.  It is a whitelist based server, and since my Minecraft name is pretty easy to remember I asked her to go ahead and set me up.  Last night I finally got around to logging in and playing.  For some time House Stalwart has had a Minecraft server run by a member, and at this point we have conquered pretty much all of the land surrounding the spawn point for a few days worth of travel. While this huge sprawling city is awesome to behold, it doesn’t leave much room for you to go out and tame the wilds.  So I opted to start fresh on a brand new server, since really the “taming the wilderness” phase of a new server is the most enjoyable for me.

Zeli started us off with a stack of steaks, a steel pick and steel sword, which is a pretty good toolset to gain a foothold in the wilderness.  I however squandered this horribly.  Having been so long since I played on a server, I forgot about all of the controls like /sethome and wandered around at night for awhile and down into a cave managing to get myself killed… and as such losing all of the nifty baubles that I started with.  I really had no clue where I was in relation to the spawn point, so I pretty much set out to start fresh.  We have a village near the spawner, and I managed to find it… which means that we also have the village trackstar zombies at night spawning near us.  It took me a lot of deaths to finally get to a place where I had enough tools to defend myself.

I did not get terribly far, but right now I have the start of a mine dug into the side of a hill, with a bridge extending from it out into the water where I am slowly building a tower of sorts.  I figure the mine will feed my need for resources and the tower out in the middle of a pond will give me plenty of defense.  Just going to have to come up with a clever way to get in and out of said tower.  The area I am in for some reason has a couple of golems spawned near me, which do a fair job of keeping the baddies away at night.  I am guessing someone spawned the golems at the spawner and they just wandered off.  Additionally there are mass amounts of horses and cows where I am set up at, meaning I have eventual transportation and a ready source of meat and leather.  This time I did remember to type /sethome.  Right now I am very much in the “locking things down” phase, trying to create something that will protect me entirely during the nights.

Farscape

farscape_characters While playing Minecraft last night I opted to hang out downstairs and watch Farscape.  This is one of my favorite television shows, but I have not actually made it all the way through the series.  I was at the very tail end of season three when Netflix lost the license to the show the first time.  For awhile I was having them ship me individual DVDs but that process got rather frustrating.  I could have of course gone out and found the episodes otherwise, but I got sidetracked.  At some point in the last few years they managed to get the licensing set up again and all of the episodes are now ready for streaming in all their glory.

The thing I love the most about this show is that it actually has some pretty diverse aliens that are both a member of the crew and ones that you encounter along the way.  The claim to fame of the show that it was done by the Jim Henson creature shop, and because of this the aliens that are brought to life by master puppeteers just have a realness to them that you cannot get with CGI.  Dominaar Rigel feels like a real character and not a small puppet, and because of this the show has held its production value, whereas most science fiction feels cheesy a few years after it is made as our graphical standards keep increasing.

At this point I have just finished season three and am ready to start the fourth and final season.  If minecraft continues to hold my interests, I will probably spend a few more nights watching Farscape and building away in the Alliance of Awesome server.  In fact I think that is what I did last time I watched Farscape…  build away on the House Stalwart server.  Minecraft and watching television seem to go hand in hand for me.  If you’ve never seen Farscape I highly suggest you check it out, as it has this whole Buck Rogers meets Star Wars feel to it.  I pretty much like all of the characters except for a late addition to the crew … Jool.  It is not that I mind her character, it is that I mind the sonic assault that is having her in any sort of action situation.  When she gets freaked out she emits this high pitched scream that drives me up a wall.

The Grand Freakout

Good morning you happy denizens of the interweb tubes.  It is the beginning of yet another week, one which I have numerous meetings and projects to hopefully wrap up.  In fact I guess you would say I am stressing out over them a little bit.  Additionally this coming Wednesday is my grandmothers birthday, and since we did not make it there yesterday for cake… we are planning on taking a trip up in the evening of the 11th.  Essentially… I have a pretty busy week ahead of me.

Quest for Relief

sinex-01As I have said in the last handful of posts… my allergies are in complete and total overload right now.  It literally feels like my head is full of concrete, and breathing has been various stages of difficult throughout it all.  As a result I have been trying to find something over the counter to help with the symptoms.  The first attempt was Alka-Seltzer allergy sinus… and it most certainly worked… just a little too well.

Twelve hours after taking a doze… both myself and my wife were still experiencing the drowsy haze that it induced.  We figured that was not a medication we should ever use again… so while out running errands yesterday we picked up a couple of other options.  DayQuil is something we had taken many times in the past for colds, so as a result we picked up some of their Sinex daytime sinus relief formula.  The first dose seemed to work like a charm without any mental fog.  So when the first dose was seeming to begin wearing off I took a second one around 8 pm last night.

The Grand Freakout

Everything seemed to be going fine, and around 11 pm I decided it was time to go to bed.  Upon laying down… I started having a fairly major panic attack… or at least what I have determined is a panic attack.  I was having constant heart palpitations, and the general feeling that my pulse was just running away insanely fast.  However upon taking my pulse it was both steady and only around 76 beats per minute which seems okay for a resting, albeit freaked out heart rate.  So after tossing and turning in bed until 12:30 I decided to get up and try and take my mind off of it.

Normally I would have logged into an MMO and played a bit… but my phone was on the charger upstairs… and I was feeling entirely too lazy to do the walk up to get it.  As a result I was stuck doing something that didn’t require an authenticator.  As a result I surfed the web a bit, and caught up a bit on both my RSS feed and some forums I had neglected.  Towards the end I even played some Minecraft, which seems to be my usual go to for calming down.  I was getting extremely drowsy at this point.  So I started wrapping things up.

Itsy Bitsy Spider

As I was starting to wrap things up… I kept noticing that Allie my calico cat kept acting pecular.  She was moving around the other end of the living room in a stalking manner.  The finally settled down on curiously examining my sandals.  Every so often she would reach a paw out and bat the sandal and then return to her contemplative watch.  I knew this was generally her behavior for stalking some form of a bug… and since crickets and June bugs are both epidemic right now I was wondering if one had managed to sneak into the house.

I lifted one sandal and nothing was there that I could see.  I lifted the other sandal… and then with much shock unfurled this roughly 3 1/2 inch long grass spider.  Without thinking I used the shoe I had in my had and thwapped it.  Yes I know… spiders are good critters… but I have always had a life long mixture of fear and hatred of them.  I guess it comes from growing up in a house full of brown recluse.  The problem is… having had the shock of seeing the spider… and the action of instinctively whacking it…  my heart was back to pounding mercilessly.

Insignificant Sleep

At this point it is roughly 2:30 in the morning… so I returned to bed desperately trying to find a direction or orientation I could lay and not feel like my heart was trying to jump out of my chest.  I finally decided upon laying on my back.  I know at some point I fell asleep, because I startled away at roughly 4:30 in the morning for some reason unknown to me.  I spent the next 45 minutes trying to get back to sleep… all the while fighting the sensations I had fought all night.  At  5:15 I decided to just give up and go take a shower.

So at this point I have maybe had an hour or sleep… sitting here still in a mildly freaked out state.  Upon waking my wife had a suggestion that it was potentially some medication I had taken.  So upon reading the Sinex warning label I see the following phrase “Upset stomach, nausea, dizziness, trouble sleeping, or nervousness may occur. If any of these effects persist or worsen, tell your doctor or pharmacist promptly.”  So here is hoping as the drug fades from my system that all the negative effects will go with it.  I definitely think my night seems like a textbook case of that warning line.

Struggling Through

So now at this point… I am hoping I can make it through the day on only a tiny bit of sleep.  Had I not missed part of Wednesday and Thursday due to a pretty big asthma attack… I would take a least a half day.  I know at some point… I am going to crash and crash hard.  I might try and take a cat nap over lunch.  I have several things that I need to take care of today… so here is also hoping that I can remain clear headed enough to take care of them.  When I have had a night like this… I generally tell my immediate coworkers to fact check whatever I tell them… because I may or may not be lucid.

Thankfully these nights are somewhat rare… and this is the first panic attack I have had in a good while.  In part it might be due to the fact that with the start of the school year… our nightly exercise routine has fallen to shit.  I think the exercise was helping out the panic attacks, so we need to find a way to be able to return to doing that regularly.  However I think the bulk of last night can be directly attributed to the medication.  I took my pulse a few times last night, and each time the rate was something I would expect as normal… and the beat itself was regular… so I feel as though more or less it was “all in my head”.

Wrapping Up

I hope I can make it until at least 4 pm and home safely before the big crash happens.  If I am too drowsy to drive… I will likely try and take a cat nap in one of the conference rooms before coming home.  I feel like at this point I need to psyche myself up… because ultimately I know today is going to be pure hell.  Having a second cup of coffee this morning, to hopefully act as jet fuel to start the day.  I hope you all had a much better night than I did… and I hope that you have a really good start of the week.

Livestream Rundown

Yesterday feels like a really odd occurrence, with three different major live streams…  that were in no way actually connected.  Currently SOE Live is going on right now in Vegas and QuakeCon is going on in Dallas.  From those two we had the huge EQ Next reveal and some really sweet live gameplay footage from a dungeon in Elder Scrolls Online.  Then adding to that stack we had the normal Friday afternoon live stream from Trion worlds announcing a bunch of nifty things coming up in Rift.  As a result I have so many things to say… but it is almost difficult to organize my thoughts around them…  I guess for simplicity sake I will just start in chronological order.

Fungal Grove

 

First up in the stack was some sweet live demo footage of The Elder Scrolls from QuakeCon.  Up to this point we had seen a lot of recorded footage of the game but to the best of my knowledge this is the first real live demo of a player just poking around in the game.  Instead of just having a guy on stage moving around they took it up a notch and decided to run a live dungeon, in this case apparently one in the Ebonheart faction area called Fungal Grove.  All in all the dungeon looked really cool…  it seemed to be story driven as they moved through it providing simple objectives that the group followed.

One of the cool things is that at some point one of the players died and Paul Sage the person moderating the game play mentioned that any player can resurrect any other player using a soul gem.  This should be handy as it removes the need to have resurrection being a class specific skill.  I have to say the first person mode looks exactly like it should… seeing them playing in that and all the animations looking right made me extremely happy.  Additionally the bows seem to work like Elder Scrolls bows should.  Bow sniping from stealth totally appears to be a thing, and that should make a lot of diehard Elder Scrolls players extremely happy.

Ultimately the game looks exactly like what it is supposed to be… Elder Scrolls but Online with other players.  Additionally it does not seem like they are trying to be any of the other MMOs on the market.  The problem I had with SWTOR was that it felt and looked like World of Warcraft in space.  The storyline was awesome, but ultimately you were left playing a vanilla era WoW experience apart from that.  This looks like Skyrim with people… which is all I really wanted while playing the previous Elder Scrolls games.  I am definitely looking forward to seeing this in person.

Pixar EQMinecraft

 

Okay if you did not have a chance to watch this all yesterday… stop what you are doing and watch it right now.  This is some seriously amazing stuff and I do not want to be the one that blunts the impact.  Watched the above videos?  SOE Trolled us… and trolled us hard yesterday.  If you watched the videos… there was roughly 20 minutes of filler ahead of the meat of the demonstration.  So much frustrating and bad jokes were flying over twitter as we all experienced it in person.  A lot of us, myself included started to feel like maybe they were putting up filler because they really did not have that much to show.  We all remember the filler content from Blizzcon a few years back that clearly were meant to be Titan presentations.

Once the trolling subsided… Dave Georgeson… quite possibly the happiest man on the planet EVER…  came on stage and started easing into the presentation by showing us some concept art.  Then like a master showman… he drops the bomb on us by showing us a bunch of screenshots that look almost exactly like the concept art.  Just to prove that the game really looks like that, he does a flythrough of the very painterly zone of Ashfang.  The world honestly feels like it is made out of clay… has a very claymation appearance to it.  I was pretty questionable about how the world would look until later when he got into demos that involved motion and characters.

EQNext_HumanFemale_Emotions

If you were like me… a year or so ago you were perplexed when all the sudden SOEmote was introduced into Everquest 2.  It seemed like an extremely detailed system to build…  but made zero sense that they did it when they did it.  Apparently EQ2 was a test for what they were planning on doing with EQ Next.  The above shot shows a Human Female Caster going through all of the range of emotions.  The amount of squash and stretch in the faces gives it a very Pixar quality that I am amped to see in person.  Ultimately that was the only real aspect I was interested in about Wildstar, so EQ Next has completely blown that out of the water.

Additionally they went into detail to explain why the world looks like it does.  Apparently everything is made out of voxels, and as a result every single object in the world is destructible.  That means as you are going through a battle… you can knock out a bridge to keep forces from getting to you… or pound a mob into a column and the column breaks from the motion.  They did a few demos to show this off and it looks really cool.  The only concern I have is how jarring will it feel when the world heals itself over time (which was mentioned as a footnote in one of the demos).  I would hope that the healing occurs over a large expanse of time and gradually instead of everything magically flying back into place.

Additionally I have concerns about how this will lead to greifing.  There was a demo of the Kerran Warrior and Human Mage fighting a rock elemental… and it does some kind of giant slamming attack knocking a hole in the ground and dropping all three to a cavern below the main forest floor of Feerott.  Will players get pissed at each other and knock them down below eventually into the lava on the bottom level of the world?  Fully destructable world is awesome… but I realize there will always be a player willing to grief you, and this seems like an amazing mechanism for doing so.

I could go on and on for hours about the cool features of the game… but like I said at the start you really should just watch the video reveal for yourself.  If you believe the marketing spiel… EQ Next seems like it is going to be the game everyone has ever wanted to play.  Allowing you to just go adventuring in the world and respond to things as they happen around you.  The mobs apparently have storybricks style likes, dislikes and motivations… and the ability to grow a camp to a city over time.  So the world should be  constantly changing around you based on the influence the players have placed upon it.  There are several awesome demos that explain this concept.

The biggest part of the reveal for me is that December of this year we will be getting a taste of Everquest Next with the release of Everquest Next Landmark.  It essentially will give the players an ability to adventure through a procedurally generated world and the ability to build structures on their own private plot of land.  The details were a bit fuzzy but it sounded like they were essentially planning on crowdsourcing much of EQ Next through a series of contests that let them call out to the EQ Next Landmark builder community to help design various constructs of the game.  If they really use EQ Next Landmark as an incubation chamber for new content for EQ Next in general… they might solve the “not enough content” problem that plagues every game.

Essentially over the course of the demonstration I went from annoyed, to interested… to eventually TAKE MY MONEY NOW!!!  No matter how hard I threw money at the screen it never actually seemed to work.  If you are as intrigued as I am… you too can head over to the EQ Next homepage and sign up for beta.  I am really hoping that the fact that I am a long time EQ2 subscriber and a Station Access level member will influence when I get picked in the process.  I want to be playing EQ Minecraft now!  Ultimately I am not sure if this game will completely replace the Rift like games for me… but having a game like this would definitely replace Minecraft for me.

Rift Livestream

I am lazy and since the editor I use to write my blog posts doesn’t support twitch tv… you will just have to click the link here.  Like every Friday, yesterday Trion did their normal live stream, this time about Rift again.  As always they are a glorious rambling mess of Rift gameplay and conversation with the folks in game and on the twitch live chat.  Additionally like always there are little nuggets of information that slip out about what is coming down the pipe.  If you want to see a fully summary, head over to Rift Junkies as they have a pretty good rundown.  Be warned the stream is well over 2 hours long.

One of the cool things coming down the pipe is that they plan on revamping all of the level 50 elite dungeons to update them for level 60 players.  While I have so many mixed feelings about this, because of the crap that WoW continually did in recycling content…  it sounds like they may be doing it the right way.  The new dungeons will be treated like completely unique versions, and as a result the old dungeons will still exist in their former state.  The first of these will be “Twisted Realm of the Fae”, which is a darker more twisted version of the original dungeon.  They were pretty scant on details but I definitely like the direction they are going.

Additionally it sounds like there will be a number of new Chronicles coming out in 2.4, the first of them announced is apparently going to be a 2 man version of Infernal Dawn.  I absolutely love the Chronicles concept because one of the frustrating things about no longer being a raider… is that so much of the storyline content in these games is told over the course of a raid.  Chronicles allow two players to get in and experience the key storyline of a specific raid instance.  Apparently this one will be roughly the same difficulty level as the level 60 Queens Gambit one.

I was kind of disappointed that no more information was mentioned about the Rift 3.0 expansion and when it was slotted to arrive.  It was hinted that we might be seeing a level 60 set of Guild Quests and that would be extremely awesome.  I just hope these open up another three or so quests available to players instead of making it you do the early ones or you do the late ones.  I am still very much in love with Rift again.. and really enjoying the guild and everything it has become over the last few weeks.  So many proud feelings about seeing House Stalwart ride again in all its glory.

Wrapping Up

I got a super late start on the morning… didn’t end up waking up until 10 am… so as a result this came out extremely late as well.  I need to get on with my day and get up and around.  Here is hoping your weekend started a little bit more smoothly than mine.  I had a great night doing our first every guild League of Legends Beginner night.  While there were not that many people who partook, I am hoping if we do it again we will be able to drag more players in the moba madness.  It had been roughly 2 months since I had played, so it was fun breaking back into it.

Homeward Bound

This morning as I sit at the keyboard typing away… my laptop remains essentially the only thing not yet packed and ready too be loaded into our rental.  I have a mixture of excitement and trepidation…  excitement because I will be so glad to be home… and trepidation because I detest flying… and know I have to deal with a 3 hour flight from Newark to Tulsa.  Hopefully everything at home is just fine, and that our animals are all happy and healthy, and that the house sitter had no real issues.

Holding Pattern

The most frustrating thing about this trip so far has been that while I had all the time in the world to do anything I liked…  I did not have stable enough internet to do much of it.  Sunday night when we finally arrived at our hotel room, the internet was awesome…  while not quite up to what I am used to at home… it was more than sufficient.  Monday the cast of an off Broadway show arrived… and from that point onwards regardless of the time of day… most everything has been unplayable if I could even get connected in the first place.

It feels like so much has been going on this week, with the anniversary events happening in The Secret World and a release of a new content update.  Then over in Guild Wars 2 there is quite a lot of stuff happening as well.  Finally I am still in the thrall of my Rift resurgence… and for whatever reason this is the game that seems to hate the hotel internet the most.  I will start off with a decent ping, but very quickly it degrades into completely unplayable.  Often times I ultimately just ended up disconnecting and not being able to get back on afterwards.

Very quickly I realized that I would have to just wait to do much of anything until I got home today.  As a result I feel like I have been trying to find things that did not necessarily involve an internet connection to play them.  Unfortunately while my laptop is loaded full of MMOs… it is sadly lacking in the single player and offline departments.  With the Hotel Internet not being super stable… I can’t really download anything from steam that I have in my archives.

A Game of Cubes

Cube 2013-07-11 06-31-04-27 Cube World was released last week sometime… but the store went almost immediately offline… and stayed that way for the majority of the week.  When the ability to purchase the game came back… they had taken the new accounts sign-up feature offline.  So it became a daily activity of checking whether or not this was open for registration, and finally on Saturday night… before we left for Albany…  the registrations opened up and I was able to grab ahold of a copy.  This game has served as my mostly offline shiny new thing to play with on this trip.

The game as a whole is much harder than I was expecting it to be.  Initially I was thinking this would be much more Minecraft than it has ended up being.  Essentially you start out in a completely randomly generated world… with little to no ability to actually kill anything.  At first you end up following around packs of NPC adventurers that will help you combat the bad guys you encounter in the world.  As a result… the process of getting from “I suck at everything” to “I can survive mostly on my own” feels a little tedious.

I am not sure if this is just another game that loathes melee players or not, because generally ranged tends to be easier as a whole than melee in most games like this.  I detest finger wigglers. so of course I had to go for sword and board…  though over time I have migrated to dual wield.  The block mechanic works well enough… but only for insanely short periods of time.  When you are dealing with monsters that seem to be able to do non-stop special moves…  it just isn’t enough to make the difference.

My biggest complaint thus far is that the torch feels inadequate for illuminating anything really.  It creates roughly a 5 block by 5 block bubble of light around you…  but when it comes to exploring anything like a cave… it is extremely hard to see where you are going.  I am hoping that over time you can get upgrades that increase your radius of light similar to how you can in Terraria.  If you intend to craft metal upgrades… you will spend a lot of time looking for caves, fighting bats and destroying iron nodes.  As a result the lighting system feels extremely limiting.

The major complaint I have had with the system… is that I feel it would have been better if it supported a building system like Minecraft or Terraria.  I like exploring… but I also like having bases of operation that gives me a feeling that I am actually changing the world around me.  The exploration aspect of the game is great, and I love encountering monsters I have never seen before… and often times dying to them the first time.  But I wish I could be building things in the world as well.  If this game could be blended with Minecraft the hybrid would probably be the most addicting game ever.

Fort Belghast

javaw 2013-07-11 06-57-27-91 As a direct result of playing Cube World… and this feeling that I wanted to be shaping my world…  I have spent a lot of time alternating back and forth between exploring in that game… and building over in Minecraft.  I started a brand new world and the seed I chose had a really nice shallow cave system.  I started off boxing that in and using it as a prebuilt base until I started constructing a proper fort on top of it.  Right now the underground area has a few large chambers, with a structure growing up into the little fort that you can see in the image above.

I created an elevated bridge style entrance, because it allows me to see what is surrounding my base before exiting out into the dangerous world.  Also when there are a large number of zombies or similar around me… it funnels them into one single block place for farming.  Additionally if I absolutely have to… I can bail over the wall to escape something.  Right now I am quarrying stone from below the base to build up the tower system above.  As you can see in the above picture… the tower is currently woefully unfinished.

I hope to do some terracing eventually to clean up the area and make the approach to my fort a little nicer looking.  I have really not done that much exploration… my focus has really been on building up a solid base of operations.  Eventually I will start a mine system below my base where I can hopefully get plenty of ores and other special resources.  I mostly play Minecraft to build structures… but for whatever reason it feels more real to me.. if I do it on survival.  I could be just as happy playing on creative… since all I really want to do is build nifty things… but the world then feels completely dead.

Homeward Bound

I cannot express in words… how happy I will be to leave this area and get back home.  I miss essentially everything…  my animals… my comfy sofa… a world that makes sense to me.  I’ve found plenty of interesting things to do to kill my time…  but it was not really the grand voyage of discovery I was hoping for.  I know the workshop my wife attended, has been massively useful for her… and each night she has come home with pictures of the labs and activities they did.  So the major focus of this trip was a complete success… and my being here…  was just to make sure that happened.

I came on this trip just because I wanted to make sure my wife could attend this workshop.  While she is a trooper and an amazing road warrior… she would have struggled with driving in this environment.  She doesn’t really like driving period… and Tulsa traffic is far more sane and rational than anything I have experienced here.  Her lack of depth perception would have been a major issue in this environment where I am essentially constantly scanning both sides of the street watching for some idiot that is about to dart out into the middle of traffic (as has happened so many times I have lost count).  So ultimately regardless of how I have felt about this vacation…  I feel like my role in it was a success.

So essentially today I have to check us out of the hotel at noon and then figure out a way to kill 3 hours of time until I pick my wife up from class.  We are ferrying two other classmates to the airport… turning in our rental… and catching a 5 pm flight to Newark.  We have a 45 minute wait until we catch another flight to Tulsa that should take 3 hours.  So hopefully by about 9:30-10ish tonight I will be home in my own bed.  After the hotel bed all these nights…  our comfy bed at home will be amazing.

Wrapping Up

This has been an interesting experiencing even if it has not been super exciting.  Time for me to do some googling to figure out how exactly I will kill the rest of the day.  Thinking I will play some Minecraft until around noon… pack up the rental and then set off and do something for the rest of the afternoon.  Elo was telling me about another mall with another game store… so I will likely set my sights on that.  I hope you all have a great day, and that it is relatively uneventful.