Frog Fractions

Conference Prep Work

20140719_151945 As I mentioned yesterday morning my day was filled with helping my wife prepare for the conference this week.  One of the goofy things about a school system is that you cannot take for granted any two rooms being configured the same way.  I have no doubt that at one point or another they were probably all working exactly the same.  However a series of teachers with their own way of doing things has meant that no two projector systems were set up quite the same.  So over the course of the morning we went from room to room turning everything on, and making notes as to how exactly you got sound from the system, and video to the projector.  To add a monkey wrench in the works, some of the rooms had what is called an Elmo, which I guess is some sort of modern age version of the overhead projector.

Some of the systems routed through this device, others you simply had to switch the VGA port over to if it you wanted to use it.  In each room I left instructions on a sticky note as to how to access both Audio and Video, and where needed how to use the Elmo machine.  All of this said I will be around on the first day of the conference playing A/V support if someone has any issues.  I am not phenomenally good at this role, but I can usually figure things out.  Where things get dicey is in the few rooms that have bad connections run through the walls… and for those they were going to just have to deal with it.  Most of the rooms go from an RCA jack to an optical connection that gets run through the wall, and it sounds as though maybe some of the optical cables have been damaged over time.  The approved method of fixing this is apparently randomly wiggling the cords… which is probably what fractured the optical cables in the first place.

For the most part it took an hour or so per floor and then we broke for lunch.  The highlight of the day was getting to have spicy chicken and cheese tots from Rons.  The above picture represents the fruition of our work after lunch.  I should have taken a before photo because the room had been previous configured with tons of tables strewn about.  The tables didn’t fold and stack, but instead the top flipped up and you had to drive them carefully into the closets in a way as to compact them.  I am rather proud of just how compact we managed to get them in there.  The next thing was these heavy iron trays that the stacks of chairs sat on, which I carried into place and figured out a way to stack them in the closet as well.  Finally this allowed us to arrange the chairs all 180 of them in 12 rows of 15 chairs.  It was a busy day, but it looks awesome and is starting to feel ready for guests.

Weary Podcast

Last night was a podcast that I thought might not actually happen.  Generally speaking we tend to start recording around 8 pm CST on Saturday nights.  Last night it was 10 pm and we had not yet started recording, so I was beginning to think maybe episode 15 was not going to happen.  I knew it was going to be a weird week because Rae is travelling and I thought Ashgar was going to be absent as well.  Initially Kodra and I had planned on just having a conversation between the two of us about a few things we had talked about earlier in the week.  As we got closer and closer to the show time…  Kodra was nowhere to be found, but Ashgar miraculously showed up.  I knew that Kodra had intended to come, so I just kept waiting.  I was playing away in Minecraft and Ash playing Destiny so quite honestly the evening slipped away before we really noticed.

When Kodra finally came online we ran pretty late but I think we recorded an enjoyable podcast in spite of the overall tiredness that we all felt.    A major event that happened this week was the  complete and utter failure of the Yogventures kickstarter, and the scandal surrounding it.  We talk at length about this and the potential ramifications it has for kickstarter projects in general.  Additionally we talk about the Destiny Beta and FFXIV free weekends and how crazy it is when so many things are going on during one single weekend.  We also talk about how our sense of community has changed and that it seems to no longer be connected to one game, but instead we take it along with us.  Finally Kodra and I geek out talking about Wolfenstein New Order since he has recently played it.  We had to cut a few sections to trim down time, but we kept the best stuff in there and have it ready to listen to.

Frog Fractions

2014-07-20 11_19_30-Frog Fractions _ Twinbeard I feel like I might be the last person on the planet to have experienced this game.  For some time it has been coming up in both the podcast and just in regular conversation among my circle of friends, and I felt bad because I really did not give the game any time.  My patience for web browser played flash games is pretty much non-existent.  My line of thinking is, I cannot get away with playing this at work… so when I am home I would far rather be spending my time playing a “real” game instead of a web browser based one.  Granted that probably sounds a little harsh but I have yet to find a web based game that really provides me as meaningful of a gaming experience as a traditional PC or console game.  So when the absolute hype cycle surrounding the game happened I booted it up, clicked a few bugs saw some random shit appearing over their heads and walked away bored.  I guess I didn’t pay close enough attention to realize… there is some really strange shit going on in this game.  Be warned… there is no real way for me to talk about this game in any meaningful way without spoiling the fun.  If you have not played Frog Fractions you should do so now before you progress any further in this post.

2014-07-20 10_22_05-Frog Fractions _ Twinbeard The game starts out as this somewhat charming if not low tech game where you are trying to protect fruit, allowing them to ripen by keeping bugs from eating them.  You left click with your mouse to fire out your tongue, gobbling up the bugs and at the end of each round you earn points for each fruit you saved.  The ones that you did not save fall into the water, and at first there is nothing really you can do about this.  The moment at which the game starts to get odd…  is when you start getting power-ups.  Like the point at which I thought maybe this game was a bit strange was when I hit Cybernetic Brain.   You can also upgrade your lilypad into a turtle friend, that allows you to move around with WASD to catch the fruit as they ripen.  There is so much I don’t quite understand… like what the hell Zorkmids are or how you earn Indignity… which I assume is a bad thing.  At this point I kept clicking away with the help of the upgrades…  of which lock on targetting and static tongue seem to be the most game changing.

Then Shit Gets Weird

2014-07-20 10_32_00-Frog Fractions _ Twinbeard At some point you can unlock an upgrade that turns your turtle into a flying dragon… at which point the game suddenly becomes a bullet hell shooter.  So you fly around trying to avoid the multicolored balls while still gobbling up the bugs and trying to save the fruit from falling into the water.  By this point I had upgraded the fruit to durians… which smell bad, and cause the bugs to eat them more slowly.  This is the video game equivalent to Axe Cop, in that it seems like it was almost designed by using madlibs and a 8 year old kid.

2014-07-20 10_32_51-Frog Fractions _ Twinbeard It was at this point I figured out that I could go underwater….  where all the lost fruit was apparently waiting on the bottom of the lagoon.  You can see that apparently now the fruit score does not matter at all, because it now simply reads “Like a billion”.  I have no clue why but I made five or six passes through the fruit watching them all fail to register.  I thought maybe something would happen if I did it enough, but finally gave up on the process and went back up to bullet hell land.  One of the funniest things is the whole lock on vision upgrade.  First you get it, then you get the ability to uninstall it, and then you get the ability to reinstall it…  which finally unlocks the ability to uninstall it again.  Each time this happens it is not like the previous slot becomes available again… it just keeps tacking new upgrade slots onto the grid.  I kind of want to play again and see just how many times I can unlock and remove this option.

Starfox Has Nothing on Me

2014-07-20 10_35_01-Frog Fractions _ Twinbeard After a few more waves of bullet hell madness…  my dragon apparently decides to shoot off into outerspace.  So now I am inexplicably trying to save flying fruit, while dodging asteroids and bug attacks.  Apparently I am going to attack the bug homework… which is apparently “Bug Mars”.  All the while this phase is going on, various characters keep showing up and giving me words of advice in Starfox fashion…  I was disappointed that none of them told me to do a barrel roll (which tam will tell me is not a barrel roll at all).  This continued for six or so waves, all the while it getting harder to get at the bugs because my frog tongue could not go through the asteroids.

2014-07-20 10_37_02-Frog Fractions _ Twinbeard In the weirdest of possible events… some how I get captured and taken to Bug Court.  Where basically I am forced to choose between becoming a naturalized citizen of Bug Mars… or forced labor.  I am not sure you actually have a choice here, or if you are pretty much forced to become a citizen either way.  They ask you a series of questions about Bug Mars culture, and either I got really lucky or quite literally answering anything… is the correct answer.  Some of the responses are really damned funny, but man this is not anything I ever saw coming before playing this game.  In a way it kind reminds me of a modern version of “Takeshi’s Challenge”, and for those who have no ideal what this is you should totally watch the JonTron playthrough.

2014-07-20 10_38_14-Frog Fractions _ Twinbeard So there you have it… I am now apparently a naturalized Citizen of Bug Mars.  You would think that maybe this is as weird as the game gets, but you would be wrong.  Shortly after this I rode on the back of my dragon through an underwater world while a narrator explained to me the true meaning of boxing…  and how this modern punching thing is just a strange bastardization.  Which then lead me to a rocket ship…  and a text based adventure game.  This is the point at which I stopped playing this morning.  This game…  is insanity bottled.  I keep wondering just how deep the rabbit hole gets.  I mean like what is on the other side of the text adventure game.  The best thing about all of this is the fact that the name of the game is a complete and total lie.  Nothing at all about this game has to do with fractions.  Even if you have against my warning made it this far in my post without having played the game yourself…  I highly suggest you experience the madness for yourself.

#AggroChat #FrogFractions #SteampoweredSunday

Follow the Shiny Bauble

Too Many Things

So for whatever reason this weekend has conspired to have a bajillion competing things happening at once it seems.  Firstly this weekend is like the prep weekend for the conference that I will be taking off from work next week to help my wife with.  Three years ago her and several of her twitter buddies decided to make a conference appear out of thin air, and this year it is being hosted here in the Tulsa metro.  As a result I am being a dutiful husband and helping out however I can.  That means today I will be moving things and testing out the various technology in each of the classrooms that will eventually host random speakers.

Right now my only fear is that the systems are designed to be hooked up to a VGA out and 3.5 mm jack.  Some of the newer laptops only actually have HDMI out…  especially the Mac laptops.  So here is hoping those people bring their own hookups because otherwise we might be pantomiming some of the power point presentations.  Needless to say my entire day today will be spent running around like a madman trying to get things set up as much as we can.  The problem is there are lots of other things going on this weekend.  Honestly I think game companies do this shit on purpose…  where they should time their events to be on opposite weekends as a thank you to the fans.

Destiny Beta

Destiny Beta_20140719081821 This weekend is the return of Destiny to my PS4.  I wish I could embed some video from my play sessions to date, but alas the Hitbox export to Youtube is still on the fritz and I have not figured out how to embed videos directly.  But if you are so inclined you can check out the first and second videos.  At some point this weekend I want to record some more footage in the hopes that someday I can upload it somewhere meaningful.  The second video is especially hilarious because I did not realize that it was picking up teamspeak while I recorded as well as my PS4 chat.  However once again it seems like the PS4 only picks up MY side of the conversation even though I am picking it up from an external capture card.  I really wish I knew a way to hang out on teamspeak, but have my voice from teamspeak get transferred as mic input to PS4 party chat.  I have some ideas but it involves a massive rube goldbergian effort.

Destiny Beta_20140719082406 I have to say I still very much love this game, and compared to the Alpha weekend… it seems extremely polished now.  A lot of the issues with voice acting are gone and the end product feels really good.  Similarly I seem to get items that are way over my level a lot less, so I am actually able to use and equip the various ingrams I find.  Ingrams for un-initiative are basically like unidentified loot from Diablo or similar games.  You get them while out in the field and you have to take them back to town… or in this case Tower to have a scribe identify them for you.  Most of the time the items you get are way better than anything you have access at that level, and they often have the side effect of “leveling up”.  When an item reaches a certain point they unlock special abilities that you can purchase on the item.  I have a pair of gloves for example that greatly increases the striking power of my grenades.

Destiny Beta_20140719082201 Everything about this game is awesome if you really want to get down to it.  You take a really good shooter, probably one of the best I have played in years and wrap it in a warm blanket of MMO style progression… and you have a game that is right in my wheelhouse.  My only question is just how many of the traditional Call of Duty/Battlefield crowd will be jumping ship.  I really don’t feel like the game is for that demographic, but instead for the players that absolutely love Borderlands 2.  While the loot doesn’t drop quite as frequently as it does in BL2, all of the leveling options feel really good.  The one thing I wished from BL2 was that I would have a persistent character that existed on the server, instead of one that existed in my local save game, with all of the things that come along with that.  Destiny gives me that, and I really think we are looking at the new model for MMO gaming.  Player Interaction light, action oriented co-operative and competitive environments.  That is not to say that grouping is not key in Destiny, but it is on a scale that is much more casual friendly in that you only need two other people to really tackle the most intense of situations.

Destiny Beta_20140719081907 Once again I am playing a Titan, because it fits my personality.  I want to be able to rush in, gun things down and throw them the hell back with a shockwave.  I don’t remember the name of the attack but you get it around level 5 or 6 and it is executed by pressing left and right shoulder buttons at the same time.  There are few more satisfying things in a game than jumping up in the air and watching everything fly away from you in brilliant slow motion ragdoll physics.  This class makes me feel powerful and mighty, and about as subtle as a nuke.  All of which fit me perfectly in how I like to play.  Kodra was playing through Wolfenstein last night… and to make a point Tam asked if I could remember what the crouch button was.  Kodra immediately chimed in “you mean the most important button?” and I was like “Nope! I have no clue what crouch is… I just baited the enemies to come attack me in the open and gunned them down.”  Subtlety feels like a complete waste of time when you could just kill every last thing that moves.

An Old Friend

ffxiv 2014-07-19 08-45-57-846 Another thing going on this weekend that is fighting for my attention is that they are having a free weekend for Final Fantasy XIV ARR.  For whatever reason lately I have been missing the game, and I feel like it is one of those games that I parted on good terms with.  I simply ran out of things that I wanted to do.  Right now the biggest problem I have with the game is that the people I know that are still playing it… are spread out in various tiny puddles scattered across a long list of servers.  When I first connected to the game it had me choose my Data Center, which temporarily gave me some hope that they had done something to consolidate the long list.  Apparently that is not the case and each server is still its own little island as far as grouping and guilding, but instead the Data Centers serve the purpose of the Battle Groups in World of Warcraft.  They are essentially your pool of players for doing anything that requires a group.

ffxiv 2014-07-19 08-46-45-762 The game is just as enjoyable as it ever was.  The hardest thing so far was remembering where the hell I kept my abilities and getting my hotbar back in order.  I think I got most everything to a place where my fingers can return to muscle memory for hitting.  I am sure a few things are out of place but the key combos that I hit constantly are all in the right places.  The main thing I did last night was participate in a hunt, which is a kind of daily event that appeared in a patch while I was out.  Basically each day you got to a hunt NPC and they give you this card… which is a physical item in your inventory with a bunch of wanted posters for the day.  These involve wandering around the world and killing specific mobs that appear in specific places.  The first three were pretty easy, and then the tedium set in for the last two.  Apparently these mobs were part of rarely occurring FATEs so I had to just sit around waiting for it to spawn.  For the most part it wasn’t too bad except one of them occurred in a level 3 area…  so I couldn’t even work on leveling my chocobo while I waited.  I am not sure if there is enough here to keep me for very long, but I am enjoying playing for the time being.

The Path Not Taken

archeage 2014-05-08 22-34-42-478 Another big thing happening this weekend is the beginning of ArcheAge closed beta.  Up until this point there were only two ways to get into Alpha testing.  Either you had to know someone like I did, or plunk down your $150 and buy the most expensive founders pack.  This weekends the floodgates have opened letting everyone in that has bought even the cheapest of founders packs.  The problem is I feel like I have been burned by my experiences in Alpha.  The community was so heinous and toxic that I just don’t want to have anything to do with it.  At this point Glyph is running in the background right now downloading the 21 gig patch that is needed to get it up and running in closed beta, but that said I am not sure if I will play it much.  There are a lot of problems I have with the game, not all of which can be improved.

I still have a fundamental problem with the character design.  While I managed to find one I could live with, I am still not terribly happy with it and the lack of “real” beards in most Korean games.  I do want to give it a try to see if letting in all of the closed beta players may have fixed some of the problems with the community.  One of two things is going to happen… either the super toxic voices are going to be drowned out in the sea of not so horrible…  or they will adapt to the “young eating” culture that is the Alpha game.  I know Trion is working hard on trying to find ways to moderate the toxicity, but I am just not sure if it will be enough for me.  At the end of the day I am a huge carebear and want to spend my time collaborating with other players… and not competing with them.

Follow the Shiny Bauble

The thing that frustrates me the most about this weekend and weekends like it when it seems like every single company is fighting to steer the hype train, is that it trains us to be flighty.  I feel like what is happening right now is that each of these companies is trying to fight for front page presence against any news that might be coming out of QuakeCon.  The problem is…  your player base is nowhere near as loyal as you might want them to be.  By constantly dangling shiny baubles in front of our faces… all it really does is train us to constantly be on the look out for the next shiny bauble.  So many weeks when it comes to gaming I feel like the James Woods character from Family Guy “Oooh a piece of candy”.  Ultimately I feel like the constant vying for our attention is only serving to make us less interested in staying any one place for terribly long.

Look at me for example… I already play a long list of games with no real signs of landing in any one place for terribly long.  This weekend I am looking at playing three more games that I was not really playing before.  But I didn’t start out this way, because I played Everquest for 3 years, Dark Age of Camelot for 3 years, and then World of Warcraft for a solid 7 years before the launch of Rift and the beginning of my rampant nomad phase.  Now I just follow whatever happens to suit my mood, and as a result I am popping between games on a weekly basis.  I feel like in part I was trained to be this way by the game industry constantly dangling an every tastier steak in front of me.  So I feel like stacking all of these events on the same weekend is just the highly of how frenetic things have gotten.  I decided long ago that life was too short to be playing something I was not enjoying, so I doubt I will be changing my nomadic ways any time soon…  but folks have to stop and thing that the constant fight over the hype cycle is only serving to make more people nomadic in the process.

#Destiny #FFXIV #ArcheAge

Hitbox is Beta

Changing Religion

hitbox-logo-green

I honestly do not remember when I first signed up for Hitbox.tv but it has been some time ago.  I have this habit of signing up for everything that comes out if for not other reason than to reserve the name “Belghast” on any given network.  I have belghast at outlook.com for example but will likely never use that email for anything considering I am joined to the hip with google products.  In all honesty it was not until this week that I even considered using Hitbox for anything…  until oftentimes tastemaker Scopique mentioned in a post that he was planning on using it for his website Levelcapped.com in part because he was actually able to get the name Levelcapped.

So being a sometimes devoted member of the internet Zeitgeist I gave it another look.  It turns out that Hitbox has the single “killer feature” that I had been longing for from Twitch.  As part of the default interface you are able to organize into “teams”, which is a functionality locked away on twitch until you become a partner.  There is no way in hell I will ever have enough viewers to reach partner status on any network, let alone twitch.  That said I still wanted to be able to create a shared channel for all of the Alliance of Awesome streamers so that we could give that out as sort of a television channel to anyone who was curious what all was going on in a given evening.

The other “killer feature” is the ability to have a configurable delay.  By default everything on twitch is delayed by at least 30 seconds.  In practice if you are doing HD streaming… this delay tends to be considerably more.  Ultimately this delay was factored in for the purpose of competitive match play, but since I don’t really compete doing anything… it just becomes a pain in the ass to deal with when trying to respond to folks in chat.  I’m a carebear and so rarely doing anything where prior knowledge of what I am doing… would actually matter at all.  So while the stream is not actually instant either it is far more manageable, and probably something similar to the conditions that our oceanic gamer friends have to deal with on US servers.

Hitbox is Beta

hitbox-icon-green The problem with the switch to Hitbox is that Twitch has become so damned ubiquitous that it works with almost everything simply by default.  So while the livestreaming and video playback functionality work amazingly well, little things that I have come to just expect don’t function at all.  For example after playing with it, I can seem to find no way that actually embeds a video from hitbox into my blog, nor does the documented embed a stream seem to work either.  This would not be a huge deal since I try not to embed twitch either… but for the time being both their download your stream and export to youtube functionality also seems to be broken.  They mentioned a few days ago on the @hitboxliveHelp twitter account that they should have a fix tomorrow… but at this point that tomorrow was two days ago.

In a day and age when “Beta” has come to mean a highly polished public preview… it is both refreshing and frustrating at the same time to see that Hitbox in fact really uses beta in the appropriate sense of the word.  However none of us is really enough to scare me away from the service.  For starters it seems like there might be a better integration point between my favorite little social network that could Anook and Hitbox in the near future.  Also there are just so many things that are nicer for the streamer.  Built in polls, and contests and the whole popout dashboard is extremely all nice.  There are so many times that you have a few technical hurdles when you start up your stream, and having twitch spam your friends each time you start and stop OBS gets old.  Having a panel that automates the message for you when you are good and ready is awesome.  Additionally it seems to actually remember my channel title and the game I am playing, unlike with twitch when I seem to have to rename things half a dozen times each time I switch games.

The Results

All of this doesn’t really matter unless the results are nice.  I’ve streamed for roughly five hours now and a combination of three different games.  So far I think the end product has been excellent.  There was a little bit of tweaking in my OBS settings, but I think all of that is working nicely.   If you are curious check out some of the broadcasts below…  since you know I can’t export them to youtube or embed them directly yet.

I think overall the stream looks really good, or at least good enough to keep me using the service given all the other advantages.  The biggest thing for me is the ability to have the Alliance of Awesome team.  So if you are using Hitbox or want to use Hitbox and already a member of the Alliance of Awesome community…  let me know and I will throw you an invite to the team.

Blaugust Update

I am still very much working on a mega prompts post, that I will likely make a little closer to the event.  So far I have had a bit of interest in the proceedings and this makes me happy.  My goal is to have sixty or more prompts that folks can pick from when in need of a topic.  In part this is going to give me something to fall back on as well when I am having one of those blah mornings where I can’t think of anything to write.  One thing that I wanted to make sure folks knew about is the Blaugust Anook community.  If you are going to participate please pop out there and join the nook, as I am going to give folks elevated access to advertise their new posts out there.

The truth behind this initiative is a simple one.  Newbie Blogger Initiative is like this shot of adrenaline in the arm of the blogging community.  While it is going on everything is active and vibrant and regularly updated.  That said a few months after the proceedings… folks start to wane a bit.  My idea was to have Blaugust a few months after the initiative as a way of maybe kicking up the volume again.  For some of the folks who have responded thusfar, this seems to be doing exactly that.  At this point however I have no clue just how many people will be participating, but I am hopeful.

#HitBox #Blaugust

Blaugust is Coming

A New Challenger Awaits

A bit over a year ago I embarked on what I called the “grand experiment” and idea to force myself to blog something new each and every day.  Since then I’ve awoken each morning, and gone through the process of writing a brand new post.  At this point I have over four hundred thirty of these posts and I don’t intend to stop the momentum any time soon.  There are so many days when doing this is a struggle, but I feel like I am committed to something larger than myself.  There are many days the fact that I have gone so long without breaking the chain is the only thing that gives me the drive to finish a post.  Even when I feel like I have no inspiration at all, the act of sitting down and working through my ritual seems to cause a post to materialize in front of me.

This past month my wife decided to take on the challenge of posting something every day and she has gone through some of the same struggles I did starting out.  There are so many days I felt like I didn’t really have anything worth posting, or that anyone would be interested in reading.  It turns out that oddly enough I have this group of readers that are interested in me, and not so much what I happen to be reading about.  But watching her go through this struggle gave me an idea.  The Newbie Blogger initiative has been amazing and produces some great writers, and gives us a month to focus on promoting this new talent.  What I am suggesting is that we follow this initiative up with a challenge of sorts, our own version of NaNoWriMo in a way.

The idea is rather simple.  During the month of August I challenge you my blogging peers to take up the mantle of daily posts.  To win the contest, you must post one new entry each day.  Now personally I tend to view staged posts that are written in batch as cheating, to make things easier on the varied schedules this is totally fair game.  There are several of you out there that already post regularly… and that is awesome.  I totally hope each and every one of you will enter into the challenge, but what I am hoping even more is to spur the folks who post maybe once a week into producing content more regularly.  The media has said that blogging is dead… and I want us to prove to the world that it is very much alive and breathing.  Additionally my intent is to try and advertise as many of the daily bloggers as I can through my own blog and social media outlets.

Bonus Round

The act of blogging every day is a truly awesome thing…  but I want more from you.  More or less I am targeting the gaming blogosphere with this concept.  We are all very comfortable writing a post about this game or that, and generally not so comfortable writing about ourselves.  One of the big things that came out of my “Grand Experiment” has been a willingness to share my life with you all.  Trust me it was not the easiest thing to do, but as a bonus I challenge you all to try and do the same.  I am talking baby steps here and not expecting folks to do anything like my “Factoid February” right away.  While I appreciate good gaming content, ultimately I care about the person behind the screen and not the persona you develop.

As an additional effort I challenge you all to start being more personal.  If something happens of note in your life, even if it is not gaming related… share it in blog post form.  This really serves two purposes.  Firstly you are letting your readers behind the scenes into your life, and showing that you have the same struggles everyone has.  Secondly writing from your own life is a good way to solve the whole writers block issue that will hit you around the second week.  Each of us leads a far more interesting life than we think, but I admit I was scared to share too much of myself.  I thought I would see everyone that was reading my blog run screaming into the night.  Turns out that apparently folks actually liked it, and I have noticed a slow and steady increase in my readership since I started trying to share more of myself in each days post.

A Little Help Along the Way

While August is still a few weeks out, I wanted to get the word out so folks could “psyche” themselves up for this.  I will not however be throwing you all to the wolves and expecting you to complete this journey alone.  Right now I am working on all sorts of “fodder” to help you spur your creative juices.  My intent is to have a huge post or two of blog prompts so that when you are struggling to find something you want to write about… you can cherry pick one of those and create brilliance.  Additionally while I am already doing this…  we will be in essence embarking on this mission together.  As a community we will help each other stay true to the mission.

One of the most awesome things about NaNoWriMo was the support I got from the other members of the twitter blogger community.  I would have never reached the goal if not for the support of awesome people like MMOGC and BlueKae just to name a couple.  So while I am already doing this and have done it for a year now…  we are still in this together.  When you resolve to writing each and every day… there is a point at which it just magically becomes easier.  I feel like at this point I could sit down and knock out a few paragraphs on almost any subject if needed…  and that is a pretty awesome thing.  I’ve found this also help me in the working world, as I am never afraid to tackle a project charter or writing a large block of copy.  If you endeavor to join this adventure, I promise there will be a hand to hold in the process.

The Prizes

I am still working on the details here, but I want there to be something cool from participating.  At the very least you will have earned the right to post an “I Survived Blaugust 2014” trophy on your blog sidebar, but I want there to be something more as well.  My plan is to enter everyone that participates in a drawing for something larger.  I just have not determined what exactly that “larger” is and some of that will be determined by just how many people participate.  Ultimately I will come up with something cool, and will be keeping folks updated as we get closer to the August 1st start date.  My hope is that I am giving more than enough warning to let folks prepare for the challenge.

[Edit]

I threw together a quick Anook community for the Blaugust event because I figured it would be the easiest way to coordinate things.  Please pop over and join the nook!

#Blaugust

Shaders in Minecraft

Modding State of Mind

The other day I decided to try and mod Fallout 3 to look like a series of images that I had seen… and it seems to have opened up a rabbit hole that I am still falling down.  Yesterday I decided to try and get shaders working in Minecraft.  For some time I have seen videos of minecraft that just look insanely detailed for what is essentially the blockiest of games.  I would do a small bit of research and pretty much halt when I heard that it involved a modification to the game.  Granted I have applied a ton of mods to minecraft, primarily adding in a minimap to make connecting tunnels up easier.  Ultimately this involved me configuring something called the “Magic Launcher” to mod my game JAR file on the fly.

Once upon a time you used to have to open the JAR file in 7zip and manually replace individual files inside of the archive.  This was tedious and also involved a lot of trial and error as you were ever quite certain what order you had to load the files in with.  When I started down the path of trying to figure out shaders a long while back… this was still the method of getting them to work.  However a wonderful invention seems to have sprung up in the Minecraft world called Forge.  Once installed it essentially allows you to fiddle with mods on the fly from within the game itself, and gives you a “Mods” directory to dump things in.

Shaders in Minecraft

javaw 2014-07-15 22-45-12-519 So while this process is a bit of a pain still… as you can see from the above photo the end result is very worth it.  It feels like a bit of an understatement, but this completely changes the feel of the minecraft experience.  So many things just feel better from the way fire reacts, to the way spider eyes glow out in the instance of the night… to the fact that the day night cycle actually feels like something that is more predictable.  When you get close to evening it starts to feel like maybe you better duck in for the night as the light begins to significantly dim as the sun nears the horizon.  Granted you can install shaders without the use of a custom resource pack, but I decided to take the advice of SonicEther the creator of the shader preset I am using and go with the ChromaHills texture pack.

javaw 2014-07-15 23-37-30-476

I mean everything about Minecraft is still very much a blocky game, but for some reason adding realistic lighting makes everything immediately feel that more real.  There are little touches that I think are adorable like the fact that at this moment I had just gotten into a fight with a skeleton.  You can see the shadow of all of the arrows sticking out of my head as I prepare to fight a zombie that has caught fire and is still lumbering towards me. But I have to say the place where it gets most impressive is underground, giving an entirely different feel to moving about in the long tunnels I am prone to build.  When you are down there it feels like you are playing some updated version of Doom or Wolfenstein 3D and not really a building game.  I would imagine that bow sniping in this mode would be extremely fun.

Faffing about with Blocks

Last night I streamed some Minecraft for roughly an hour mostly to show off the shaders in action.  The true effect really only hits you when you see it in motion, with the depth of field and the way the shadows and lights work.  My primary project of the night was to work on my tunnel system and try and burrow out far enough to get somewhere interesting.  Legdur one of the other users on the server at some point during the night came over and gifted me an insane silk touch diamond pick and thats when the construction really kicked into overdrive.  I go over this in the video but basically I started out in a small cave and then built out from there over top of the water forming my first “base”.  Instead of abandoning the cave I opted to simply connect it to the tower.

javaw 2014-07-15 22-42-53-996 One of the things I have learned about myself thanks to Minecraft, is that I am most comfortable when underground.  As a result instead of building pathways on the surface or roads… I end up building deep tunnel systems that get me where I want to be.  Primarily I think it is that when I am underground I have more control and am ultimately safer because I can control my surroundings.  As a result I have three main tunnels that lead out of my initial base.  One of which leads back to the spawn point and I have crafted a little hut of sorts to mark the entrance to my territory.  Think of it almost like a subway terminal or the Dragon Age deeproads.  Another tunnel I simply dug until I broke ground in what is a nice secluded valley.  I have not actually done anything with this path but I intend to have it be another intended place of expansion.

javaw 2014-07-15 23-01-03-563 The tunnel that I built last night, or completed last night connects up to this building that I am currently working on.  Ultimately it will be significantly larger than the island tower I initially built primarily because I have a hell of a lot more resources stockpiled right now.  It is nothing terribly special yet but I am working on it slowly.  Essentially right now it is spider proof and generally monster proof and hopefully I can use it as a way to lure some chickens down into my complex.  Animal husbandry is one of the things I dig about Minecraft and sooner or later I always develop an underground farm that allows me to harvest and breed animals for food.  I try to generally place said farm as far away from my main area as humanly possible… because the looped sounds of chickens, cows and sheep will drive you to drinking.

Installing the Shaders

javaw 2014-07-15 23-39-11-272At this point you may want to follow me down the rabbithole that is modding Minecraft and installing these spiffy shaderpacks.  Like I said yesterday one of the things that has always frustrated me about the modding community is how arcane the directions can be, and how it is generally a fairly exclusionary group by nature.  You have to have a certain level of knowledge of the inner workings of a game before anything that folks are saying on the forums will make any sense at all.  Here goes my attempt to explain how the installation process works so that my readers can follow along in this journey.

Downloads Needed

So after collecting all these bits you should have a handful of files…

  • forge-1.7.10-10.13.0.1180-installer.jar
  • ShadersModCore-v2.3.18-mc1.7.10-f1179.jar
  • SEUS-v10.1-Ultra-DOF.rar
  • ChromaHills-64×1.7_1.0.8.rar

Creating the File System

So for this part of the tutorial… I will admit I am a windows user.  I realize that Minecraft can run on a Macintosh, but I have no clue how that works.  I have a Macbook 1440 sitting in the closet, and that is the last time I have used anything vaguely resembling the Mac operating system.  So if you are not a windows user you are pretty much shit out of luck.  My steps might make sense to you, and if so hopefully you can follow along enough to make sense of what you actually have to do in your file system.

First we need to make sure we have the directories that we are going to need for this to work.  We have to navigate to our minecraft directory, and to get there the easiest way is to use the hotkey [Windows Button] and [r key] at the same time.  This should bring up the run prompt.  I pretty much do all filesystem navigation by typing in directories that I want to go to in the run prompt.  As my friend points out regularly I am a “power user” but quite honestly I have no clue how to get to this directory through the file system without typing it in.  Basically in the run prompt you want to type “%appdata%” without the quotes.  This is a windows shortcut that gets you to the application data roaming directory.  Inside of there you should see a “.minecraft” directory.  This is where your system actually has minecraft installed.

We will need to make sure your folder has three directories.  If they are not there then you need to create them.  All of these directories are lowercase names, and I am not sure if that matters but since Java is a language capable of case sensitivity…  I would suggest you just save yourself some hassle and name them lowercase as well.  Create/verify that you have the following directories…

  • resourcepacks
  • shaderpacks
  • mods

Setting Things Up

Now we get to the point where we actually have to do some things.  First you need to install forge-1.7.10-10.13.0.1180-installer.jar and if Java is configured correctly on your system… you should just need to double click this file to install it.  Accept the defaults and this will install forge and create a profile called Forge under your Minecraft installation.  Next we are going to need to copy the appropriate files into the right directories.

  • Copy “ShadersModCore-v2.3.18-mc1.7.10-f1179.jar” to the “mods” directory
  • Copy “ChromaHills-64×1.7_1.0.8.rar” to the “resourcepacks” directory
  • Unzip “SEUS-v10.1-Ultra-DOF.rar” to the “shaderpacks” directory

If you do not have a way of unzipping a RAR file, then I highly suggest you check out 7zip for all your archiving needs.

image

If you open the Minecraft launcher you should now have a profile in the drop down called “Forge” go ahead and log into Minecraft and hit the play button for that profile.  If everything went correctly with the installation of Forge, you should now see a [Mods] button on the front menu for Minecraft that looks a little something like this.

javaw 2014-07-16 07-03-37-476 Now we need to turn on the shader which should be possible if the Mods button is showing up.  To get there you click [Options] and you should see a new option called [Shaders] appearing there in Options Menu.

javaw 2014-07-16 07-05-02-861 When you click shaders you get a menu system that looks a little something like this.  Make sure you have selected the SEUS-v10.1-Ultra-DOF option.  I have a few more things in my menu than you will have if you have followed this guide.  There are lots of different shader packs out there that you can play with, but that is for another day.

javaw 2014-07-16 07-06-05-677 Finally we want to turn on our resource pack.  At this point your menus will look a little different because I have the ChromaHills pack already turned on when I am recording these screenshots.  But to get there you want to back out to the Options menu and select [Resource Packs].

javaw 2014-07-16 07-08-37-326 Again I have another resourcepack in my list that you will not have if you are following the guide to the letter, but the important thing here is that you want to make sure ChromaHills is on the right hand side of the screen meaning that it will be used.  When you hit done, your system might freeze for a bit but this is completely normal.  The game is essentially unloading all of the textures and reloading the ones from the resource pack which includes the various menu textures as well.

If Everything Went Right

javaw 2014-07-16 07-12-00-259 Then BAM! You’ve got shaders.  If you have any pointed questions about the process let me know, but I tried to make this as straight forward as possible.  If you have specific questions about the various items, I posted both the webpage link and the actual download link.  It is possible that at a later date some of the download links I posted may not work.  If that is the case refer back to the webpage link because they have probably iterated the version of whatever the item is.  So far I am loving Minecraft with more realistic lighting, and hopefully you will too.  Happy digging!

#Minecraft

SweetFX and ESO

Fallout and HDR

Fallout3 2014-07-14 18-24-13-252 Last night when I got home I continued down the dark journey of messing about with Fallout 3 mods and trying to achieve that look I had seen in many screenshots.  As of last night I had gotten a “better” looking experience but I wasn’t quite there.  It seems like the thing I was missing was one of the many post processing shader injection tools out there.  Apparently to get the best possible appearance you need to actually tag team them and use both SweetFX that seems to work with damned near any game, and one called ENB that seems to work with a much smaller subset of games.  The above shot was pretty much my first test after turning both on and going with pretty much the stock settings.  It is okay but feels a little technicolor, and the sky still seems to be a grey mess.

Fallout3 2014-07-14 18-37-47-443 After trying a few more presets I settled on this one because it feels far more realistic.  It is insane to see this game in action with all the shaders running.  I am not sure if I can actually record footage and have it capture it in full glory since the screenshots come out a bit darker than it feels on screen.  I might do some tests tonight with streaming some gameplay to see if it translates well.  For those who are curious I am going to attempt to rattle off the mods that I am using to achieve the look and feel.  It is pretty damned impressive that a game from 2008 feels so cool to play.  Granted I need to do all the same things to see if I can get a version of Fallout New Vegas that runs this cool, because that game has far more bells and whistles available than Fallout 3.

The Mods Used

Fallout3 2014-07-14 18-41-36-142 When someone posts their spiffy pictures of a modded up Fallout or Skyrim… they never seem to post the absolute list of what they used to get there.  It is almost like the special sauce at your favorite restaurant that no one quite wants to give away the trade secret to.  It annoys the hell out of me so as I dabbled into modded games I plan to do a complete list with links if they are available to exactly what I am using to get the effects.  Here is the total rundown of everything I am using… and compared to a lot of the listings I have seen… this one is fairly spartan.  Namely because I am only using graphical mods and none of the various game enhancement ones other than the unofficial patch which ultimately just fixes a bunch of bugs left in the final release of the game.

Fallout3 2014-07-14 18-43-01-697 The only puzzle that still has yet to be solved is that I cannot figure out why I am not seeing the brilliant skies that I have seen in some screenshots.  I feel like maybe this is just a problem with the area surrounding Megaton, and as I have not really ventured out further I am not sure if the sky clears up significantly out there.  I am pretty happy with the results of this combination of mods and post filtering however.  While I enjoy my consoles, this is the reason why PC gaming will always ultimately be superior in the long run.  I’ve taken one of my favorite games that just happens to be over six years old… and brought it up to something modern feeling.  You just can’t do that with a console game, ultimately because you have to wait for the company to do it… and not the army of dedicated fans.

SweetFX and ESO

eso 2014-07-14 21-46-45-167 The cool thing about SweetFX is like I said before it works with damned near any piece of software.  Since you can use a third party software called Radeon Pro to “Inject” it into your video drivers… you can make it work without any actual modification to the original game files.  In spite of the name, Radeon Pro works perfectly well with Nvidia cards and I am running it with my 750 ti 2 gig card without issue.  This is awesome because it means you can apply it to things like MMOs with some fairly anti-modding terms of service.  All you are doing is basically wedging some extra shader work into the rendering pipeline between the game itself and your video drivers.  So after some fiddling I found a preset that I liked and am up and running with SweetFX in Elder Scrolls Online.  There is talk that you can use one of the versions of ENB designed to work with Skyrim to process the graphics even further, but I have not had the chance to test that out.

eso 2014-07-14 21-29-00-615 So far I am pretty happy with the results… there are times when especially where flame is concerned that some of the lighting gets a bit trippy.  But overall I am enjoying running around in a post processing world.  The big thing that changes is that the world feels more realistic to me, with far better lighting and shading.  The impressive thing is that I really see no noticeable hit to my framerate.  In fact it might actually have improved it since I have completely turned off all anti-aliasing because SweetFX is ultimately taking care of that now.  I am guessing their processing routines are a bit more efficient than the standard ones that the games seem to use.  One of these days I am going to try the trick of running at 1440p and scaling the viewport down to 1080p instead of actually using post processing, but I have not gotten around to trying it yet.

Depths of Madness

eso 2014-07-14 21-27-34-289 When I was not fiddling with graphical settings… which in truth ended up to be most of the night.  You can ask PKdude, but I was popping on and offline for damned near all of the night trying out various settings.  When I finally got around to questing I completed one of my favorite Auridon quest chains called Depths of Madness.  What is cool about it is that you are essentially trying to free three people that are trapped in dimensional sub pockets that have them bound by fear, rage, lust etc.  Each one is a little mini adventure that you complete to free the spirit so they can move on.  I guess to some extent the quest sequence reminds me quite a bit of the whole madness of king pellagius quest chain from Skyrim.  It happens in a super secluded are of the map called Glister Vale and the first few times I played the Auridon content I didn’t actually find it.

eso 2014-07-14 21-27-57-107 I feel like maybe the time away from the game has helped my enjoyment, because the last few nights I have been running around in Elder Scrolls Online I have really enjoyed myself.  I am not sure if I am ready to return to group content again, but I am definitely enjoying the slow pace of poking my way through the veteran levels.  They still feel super grindy mind you, but so long as I focus on completing quests and not leveling I seem to be doing just fine.  As silly as it sounds, I am really enjoying seeing the game with the SweetFX shaders.  There are times where Elder Scrolls Online felt a little technicolor for my tastes and this version feels a bit more realistic and gritty.  Fallout and Elder Scrolls in general have both been very gritty games… and while I don’t think everything needs the “quake palette”  I do think the game feels more realistic with darker tones.

#ElderScrollsOnline #Fallout3

Wandering Auridon

Cheating on AggroChat

I don’t believe I said anything about this beforehand, but once again I was invited to guest host on Game On the MMORPG.com podcast hosted by @GameByNight and @Liores.  I guess this means I didn’t make an ass of myself the first time they had me on.  I have a lot of fun doing the podcast with them, because since I have known both for quite some time… it just feels like having a conversation with friends.  This time around they also invited @AppleCiderMage so it was awesome getting to properly meet and hang out with her as well.  The two of us have operated in the same circles for awhile, but never really had any direct interaction other than through twitter.

The podcast generally releases around Wednesday and I will post a link when it is up and ready to go.  I feel like we maybe derailed the podcast, because they had this long list of things to talk about and I think maybe we got through three of them in the allotted time.  Then again anyone who has listened to AggroChat should know that I can ramble on about nothing at length.  AppleCider held up her end of the rambling as well, and I feel like the two of us combined pushed the train good and solidly off the rails.  That said it was a blast to do it, and I look forward to maybe filling in again sometime in the future.  I have to say though that since we record AggroChat on Saturday nights, it was weird to get up the next morning and prepare to do another podcast.

Wandering Auridon

While waiting around on podcast time I decided to stream a little Elder Scrolls Online.  The other day I was absolutely shocked that someone posted on my youtube channel asking why I had stopped playing.  It made me realize just how much time had passed since I had streamed anything, let alone Elder Scrolls Online.  I guess maybe I am poking my head out of turtle mode, because streaming didn’t seem that bad yesterday.  I am still poking my way around Auridon working on the quests there.  In the video I play for roughly an hour and complete a couple of different quest chains.  Most of my morning however was spent trying to sort out my addons.  It seems like recently they had a patch that broke several of the addons that I was using.  The weird thing about it is that several of the addons were apparently working, but being suppressed by other addons that were not.

While I still really enjoy Elder Scrolls Online, it had been quite some time since I had logged in.  I of course logged into a mail message from my research assistant, but the one prior to that was from 19 days ago, so that means I had been offline for at least that long.  The pace of the veteran content is a bit of a problem to be honest.  While it is enjoyable to quest my way through the Aldmeri content that I had not seen…  in the video I complete a handful of quest chains and my experience bar makes no noticeable movement.  It gets frustrating to feel like you are making no forward momentum as you quest your way around the world.  I talk about that a bit on the Game On podcast but when you move into veteran content it feels like you get stuck on high center.  There are some rather sweeping changes coming in August, so here is hoping it improves the feel of the veteran experience.

Modding Fallout 3

Fallout3 2014-07-14 06-46-37-698 The other day I stumbled across a series of pictures of a completely modded out Fallout 3 install.  This combined with me playing some FO3 on the PS3 made me want to try playing the game with the same visual effects as shown in those photos.  While I am getting closer, I can’t seem to get the visual splendor shown there.  Right now I think I have all of the mods mentioned in the description installed and it looks much better than a default install, but something is still missing.  Namely the sky is still the ominous grey blob that it has been on previous plays of the game.  I am wondering if this is just a side effect of being in the Megaton area, and as I move out into the game proper maybe that changes.  In any case I am going to keep trying to mod it until I can achieve the kind of clarity that you see in the images.

Fallout3 2014-07-14 06-48-43-236 Other major change this play through is that I am trying to stick to using the Xbox 360 controller.  Basically I have reached a point where I feel like the mouse and keyboard artificially limit me in the number of games that I can play.  Right now the consoles seem to be the primary target for game developers, and the PC market gets ports namely, and that means all of these interfaces are designed with a controller in mind… and then later retrofitted to work with a keyboard and mouse.  I feel like at this point I need to teach myself to be better at using a controller or ultimately there will reach a point where my chosen way of gaming is no longer supported.  Hell to be honest it feels like the keyboard and mouse thing is already a rarity among anything that is not an MMO.  With games like Destiny looming on the horizon, I feel like training myself to get by with only the controller is going to be a good thing… and I will go through the growing pains with games that I am already very familiar with before branching out on new titles that I am not.

#Fallout3 #ElderScrollsOnline

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.

Tunnel Works

Hurry Up and Blog

This mornings blog post is likely going to be a quick and abbreviated one as we need to get on the road soon.  The wife and I are going off to Oklahoma City today in search of the illusive Half Priced Books store and my mission for the day… lots and lots of Cash America pawn shops.  Last weekend I managed to pick up some amazing deals on used PS3 games at that chain, and there are far more of them in OKC than here in Tulsa.  Basically I am cheap, and I would love to pick up more PS3 and Xbox 360 games… but I only really want to pay $5-$10 for them.  I had a blast playing Fallout 3 on the PS3 even though I had played it countless times on the PC, so I would be interested in visiting lots of titles I had played on the PC as well.

In part because playing on a console is so easy… you pop the disc in and go.  The negative however is that you can never really improve the experience.  Example here is a modded up version of Fallout 3 that greatly improves the look and feel.  Seeing this yesterday pretty much guarantees that I will play through the game at least one more time on the PC as well.  Another prime example of better living through software is the whole Skywind project, where they are completely redoing  Morrowind using the Skyrim engine.  These things will never be able to function on a console, but I have to admit there is something nice about the simplicity of just pressing play.  My only complaint right now is that I wish the modern generation of consoles would allow me to install the disc to the hard drive and then not have to worry about having the disc any longer.  That is the thing I like the most about my PlayStation Plus titles, the ability to have lots of them “on tap”.

Tunnel Works

2014-07-12_07.52.34 Most of last night was spent working on my extensive tunnel network…  or what will soon BE an extensive tunnel network.  Across a bridge from my main building is the first area I started out that I am using as some what of a stone quarry.  At base floor I started a tunnel to see just what I might intercept digging in a straight line.  Generally speaking I dig 3×3 tunnels because they feel about right, not too closed in and not too open.  After quite a ways of torching every 7 blocks I came out on the other side in what appears to be a riverside valley.  There is a cobblestone wall there so I am not sure who has been building in the area.  Hopefully I am not impeding on someone else’s land too badly, but I like as many entrances and exits from my area as possible.

2014-07-12_07.54.35 I built up a really simple fenced in area so that hopefully I won’t end up with too many creepers lurking there.  One of the interesting things about the lockette mod we are using is that supposedly if you lock a wooden door it makes it so that zombies cannot beat it down.  Traditionally I have used fence gates to bar entrance into my areas, because villagers cannot open them and zombies cannot break them.  However I have started trying out the whole locked door thing to see if it works.  I am not purposefully really trying to keep people out of my stuff, but more that I don’t want to come home and find everything full of mob spawns.

Cactus Shield

2014-07-12_07.55.51 The other thing that I worked on last night was redoing the approach to my house.  I ended up extending the path to make it far less likely for me to kill myself trying to leave it by hitting lots of cactus.  This almost happened a few times as I seem to be unable to walk a straight line.  Essentially I started the dual tier row of cactus a block further out so I have a 3 block walkway to get in and out of my area.  I might add a third row of cactus because I actually managed to have a creeper make it through earlier.  Granted the creeper only took a single hit to kill after being chewed up pretty badly by the cactus to get to me…  but this in part was because some of the cactus has not fully grown to 3 block height yet.  The creeper was able to hop up onto a single block height one and use it to make his way in.

2014-07-12_07.56.46

Now that I feel like my base is fairly defensible, it is just about time for me to start back working on the “mine to bedrock” project.  Essentially in every build I have done in Minecraft I eventually create a tunnel network that goes all the way to bedrock and start branch mining for diamonds.  It is my hope that I picked a decent spot to mine, because so often you get down to bedrock and struggle with lava.  Right now the project has been derailed in that I hit a fully enclosed cave system, but I need to build my way through it and continue digging.  So far I am finding playing on the Alliance of Awesome server to be fun and refreshing, since more or less I am having to play legitimately again.  If you are interested ping Zelibeli and she can get you white listed… but of note this is open to existing members of the AofA community and its requisite groups.

Base Building and Wormholes

Zombie Shamble

This morning I am shambling around the house in a zombie like state.  For whatever reason I seem to have not slept well last night.  I remember waking up at many moments to either kick the covers off or freezing and cover back up.  My wife has wondered if she is coming down with something, and I am honestly starting to wonder if this is something more than just allergies.  All I know for certain is that I could not seem to regulate my body temperature last night, and the constant pile of cats didn’t really help with the ability to get comfortable.  I generally had one pinning my legs down and another stopping me from rolling over, while a third fought for control of my pillow.

I enjoy the hell out of my wife.  She can fall asleep without any preparation and tends to sleep all the night through.  She can fall asleep at like 8 pm and then transfer to the bed and continue sleeping the rest of the night through.  I wish I could do that, but if I take a nap it completely destroys my ability to sleep that night entirely.  Additionally I never can seem to functionally get more than four to six hours of sleep in any given night.  The result of too much sleep is pretty much the same as not enough sleep for me, resulting in a morning much like this one where I have trouble stringing contiguous thoughts together in my head.

Base Building and Wormholes

2014-07-10_22.11.32 Last night I spent most of the evening plugging away on building my base on the Alliance of Awesome server while watching season four of Farscape.  I had a simple mission last night, to figure out a way to protect my base from invaders that all too easily could drop down from the cliff above or jump across from the trees nearby.  As a result I harvested copious amounts of wood surrounding the cliff to remove the ability for them to perch on top of the trees and drop down from above.  The main mission of the night was to find some cactus.  The area the spawn is near is a mixture of heavy forestation and to a lesser extent swamp land.  While we have an ample supply of cows and horses there was no readily available desert biome.

As a result I started going on these daytrips out as far away from my base as I could before eventually teleporting back using the /home command at the last possible moment before nightfall.  While the majority of these were mostly futile it did allow me to stockpile the various things you can get from killing animals and I have a 50 stack of steaks that should hold me for some time as well as a lot of chicken and ham.  In fact I brought home so much of it that I had to break down and build several more furnaces so that I could cook each meat at the same time.  During my evenings in game I would work on harvesting out the hillside quarry that links up to my fort out on the water.

Cactus Finally

2014-07-10_20.59.04 On the four trip out I was getting to the point where I thought maybe just maybe there was not a convenient desert adjoining the biomes in any direction.  I had crossed every other imaginable biome, except maybe deep jungle when I started to stumble into what looked like a savannah.  Then on the far side of that I started to see some sand dunes.  I was starting to get a little edgy however as the sun was extremely low in the sky, which mean I did not have very long at all to harvest any cactus I happened to find.  So as night fell I wandered around the desert gathering up whatever I could get.  A warning for anyone who heads to that desert… it seems to almost entirely be spawned with endermen.

I gathered up around 30 blocks of cactus and ported out of there with the /home command.  I wish I had taken more screenshots but I was in a rush to get the resources I needed and get out of there.  In the Savannah region there was what looked like an abandoned safari hut.  I would think it was a player creation, but there were absolutely no torches anywhere and it was completely open up on one end.  I am wondering if this is a new type of prefab since I last played the game.  There were no resources in it other than a crafting table that had been embedded into the floor.  That is one of the things that I find most interesting is that since I have not played much minecraft in a long time, there will likely be a ton of things that are new to me.

Defensive Position

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As you can see in the above photo I installed a row of cactus as a defensive barrier to stop things from either being able to scale the sides of my base or drop down from the cliff above.  It doesn’t stop the spiders from trying, because every night there is at least one that suicides down on the cactus dying well before they make it into the base.  Right now I have a pier or sorts that connects the door into my base to the landmass and I am thinking about putting a line of cactus there as well.  It does an amazing job of blocking bad stuff from getting to your base.  Right now I am also trying to tunnel towards the spawn so that I can hopefully have a route to get back there if needed.

2014-07-10_22.28.19 I’ve started my mine down to try and harvest some diamonds, but that plan fell apart completely when I broke into a rather shallow cave complex.  There is still a ton of iron and coal that I need to harvest out of that at some point and sure up the stairs so I can continue to go down past it.  Like any Minecraft session I have more projects that I have focus to complete them.  At some point I want to expand the main tower structure to go up into a lighthouse of sorts.  In order to carry that off I am going to need either some lightstone or some netherrack…  which both mean a trip into the nether.  Which also means that I need to find plenty of diamond, and use it to harvest obsidian.  There is quite a large amount of surface spawn lava nearby so that shouldn’t be a huge ordeal to safely harvest obsidian.  In any case…  I seem to be obsessing about Minecraft again.

#Minecraft