The Monkeysphere

AggroChat 44 – Tragic Relationships

As we were getting close to recording this weeks episode two things happened.  Firstly we decided that it was probably better for all parties combined if we tried to record on Friday instead of Valentines day proper, that would leave the day open for any holiday plans that our cast might have.  Secondly Kodra suggested that we try and record a Valentines episode talking about relationships in video games.  At face value this seemed like a great idea, and generally speaking even if an idea is destined to fail… I am more than willing to try it.  The problem is as we sat down to record, we quickly realized just how flawed and tragic most relationships in video games are.  We can’t even make it past three relationships in the episode without hitting in the fact that man…  video games are really bad at this.

The problem is that video games seem to be good at two emotions revenge fueled Rage, and utter soul crushing Sadness.  We joked about indie games being hung up on sadness a few episodes ago when Tam kept giving each game Kodra talked a sadness score “Seven Sads out of Ten”.  It seems as though we are not quite ready to talk about actual adult relationships that are productive and not abusive or hostile to the well being of the participants.  I think the problem is more that we have not figured out how to do meaningful stories that are not relying on these elements as a way of moving the plot forward.  After all if someone is happy with their life, chances are they are not going to go off and be and adventurer.  In any case the episode ended up being pretty interesting to record in spite of itself.

The Monkeysphere

TheBelSphere Yesterday Braxwolf wrote an interesting follow up to my post diving into my post and trying to explain some of his own thoughts.  His post was awesome for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that it gave me a real name to a theory that I have used for years.  Once upon a time I was driving home and heard some researchers talking on NPR about the “monkeysphere” theory…  well it turns out this is more properly known as the Dunbar number.  Essentially it is the maximum number of people that we can care about at one time.  The idea is that our brains are literally only capable of caring about a fixed number of people at any given time, so in order to start caring about someone knew… we have to punt someone out of the sphere.  I’ve long thought about this and I think my zone of caring maybe works a little different than the extreme examples of these studies.

While I am not sure if my sphere is larger than most, but I think it is arranged in some distinct regions.  I attempted to draw these out above, to make sense of them.  If you take that 150 is the maximum number of people that you can care about at any time like the initial study I read, my numbers would break down to something like this.  I generally have about 25 people that I would consider my inner circle, and these are folk that maintain their orbit relatively safely and I ultimately end up talking to them almost every single day.  After that we fall into a close orbit zones of folks I would consider close friends, and among this group I would say there are about 50.  From there you fall into what I refer to as the “hotswap” zone, to borrow a term from technology.  This would be a field of 75 people that gets swapped in and out of the larger pool of every single person I have ever met.

Points of Data

Each person that I meet gets stored in my brain as a pattern of data…  the closer I am to a person the more data points I remember.  The odd thing is… when someone moves in and out of orbit I don’t delete that data.  I can remember things about friends that I have not seen in years and may never actually cross paths with again.  Essentially I feel like I have a fourth sphere that is made up of the thousands and thousands of people I have ever met in my life.  At any time due to circumstance one of these people can come zooming into orbit and bump someone else out of that “hotswap” zone and I can functionally pick up where I left off, as though no time had passed.  I realize that not everyone functions in this state of constantly looking for new interactions with people, and pulling them into their own personal gravity for as long as possible.  But that is the way I work, as some sort of empathic computer looking for new inputs.

The biggest flaw in my system design however is the fact that there is no delete key.  When a group of individuals break out of orbit attempting to shun me…  there is no system available to write those individuals off as a “loss” and purge them from my memory.  The sting of rejection will always be there, even after decades pass..  it can be summoned up on a whim with brilliant Technicolor realism.  I can remember every disappointment, every failure, every time someone made fun of me.  Which seems horrible until you realize that I can also remember every single positive event that has happened to me, each warm fuzzy felt and recalled at a moments notice.  The problem is…  this makes it extremely hard to ever truly forgive someone.  I can reach a point of “being able to exist amicably” with someone, but I can never actually forget any of the transgressions… and in the back of my head will always end up holding a grudge.  So having this deep empathic memory…  is a double edged sword, but I would not change the way I function for anything.

More Than Pixels

The People Who Get You

Yesterday was an exceptionally strange day on twitter, in that an extremely length discussion started from something that @AlternativeChat said, and then spawned a side conversation including myself, @Jaedia, @BraxWolf and @GGChestnut regarding the nature of twitter and online connections.  The later conversation seemed to rope in at least half of my friends at one time or another.  Ultimately it started with the tweets above, and then grew a life of its own.  I come from a very small town.  To illustrate my point, I graduated from a class of roughly sixty students.  When you live in an environment like that, you ultimately develop friendships based around what was actually available.  So while I had many friends growing up, I also had the constant feeling that very few people actually “got me” on any real fundamental level.

I didn’t like the things I was supposed to like, and didn’t react the way to stimulus that I was supposed to react.  But in that situation you make the best friends you have available to yourself and make due.  It was not really until I stepped foot onto the internet and moved to college that I started to meet people I felt a deeper connection with.  There were in fact people out there whose life did not revolve around the football game, and did not think the pinnacle of their existence was getting drunk at a broken down picnic area beside a creek imaginatively referred to as “tables”.  I’ve lived much of my life with this sense that the world wanted me to play a role that didn’t quite fit.  When I leave the house, it is as though I am putting on my “man suit” and trying to be the person that the world just assumes that I am.  I like video games, if I watch television I am generally watching cartoons, and I deeply care about what is going on in the world of Lego this season.  I am not “normal”.

More Than Pixels


everyoneisawesome
Since I did not exactly have a lot of examples of people that I could relate to in the flesh, I cherished the few individuals that I did find a connection with.  So when I interact with someone, I try and approach it as though I could be meeting a brand new life long friend.  I got into a discussion during the day with Brax about how he feels that physical relationships are just different than digital ones.  Ultimately I feel like it is only different if you are making it different.  I guess maybe I come from a different place on this than most people.  I would not know my very awesome wife were it not for the fact that we were both IRC junkies back during the dawn of the internet.  We became friends when we were introduced by a mutual friend living in Belgium, and later found out we grew up thirty minutes apart.  So when I think about my own beginnings, I find it impossible not to think about the person behind the screen when I interact with anyone.

I realize that just because I feel this way about the people I surround myself with, that it isn’t automatically a two way street.  For many of the people that follow me on Twitter, read my blog or listen to my podcasts…  I am in fact just a collection of pixels assembled on their screen that they happen to find appealing.  There is nothing that I can do or will ever be able to do to bridge that gap.  However I do find that there are people out there that I make a real and genuine connection with, and ultimately cherish them for their willingness to care about individuals that in the strictest sense they have no obligation to.  I’ve often said it is the way you treat the people you don’t have to be nice to, that is what reflects your personal character the most.  When you interact with someone online, you are seeing the real person… the one that is buried deep inside.   We are all either inherently the villain trying to cause strife, or the hero attempting to right it.

Sharing Myself

sharingmyself
One of the conscious decisions I made a few years ago was that I would be open to my readers.  For the first several years of my blog I didn’t really talk about myself at all.  I would keep my posts limited to strictly the facts about the game I happened to be playing, but ultimately I am more than just the games I play.  I knew if I was going to manage to blog on a daily basis, I had to allow myself to talk about all of the things that were important to me.  So each morning I open my door and invite strangers into my world.  I walk this fine line however because I still cling to the relative anonymity of a “handle”.  My goal is to tell real stories, but just leave out the names, places and finest levels of details.  As a result I think you end up with a greater truth than had I said everything, because I have boiled whatever I happen to be talking about to the essentials that matter, leaving out the strictest minutiae.  To quote Dragnet “Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent”.

Brax asked me if I found keeping up this personal aspect difficult as I continue to widen this circle of people I interact with.  On some level I would say that yeah, it becomes much harder to keep your finger on everything that is going on.  That said I have developed a realization that I will never be able to read every tweet or blog post or keep tabs on every person in my life.  The interaction aspect isn’t that hard because each day I am just being me.  Once upon a time my guildies used to refer to a persona I would adopt as “Rockstar Bel”, in that I would wear this mask of a person that amplified all the characteristics that I wished I was.  Over time, and developing a certain level of confidence I have started to actually be this amped up version of myself.  Which goes back to the statement I made earlier…  when you encounter someone online, you get the see the person they really are, the person they have a potential in becoming.  I think slowly, bit by bit I am becoming that person that I always wished I was, the one that actually believed I could accomplish interesting things.  Maybe some day I will get there, but in the mean time I am going to keep sharing the ride with anyone who is willing to join me.

Satisfaction of the Year

The Birth of a Community

I think this year more than any other we say what was previously an island of disconnected city states merge into a real community.  Last January I posted a rather grumpy piece lamenting the lack of community, and throughout the year you all have strived to prove me wrong.  I am not sure what exactly it was about this year in particular that seemed to draw everyone together, in part I think it was because this year was the year of multiple events, that I hope will repeat themselves this coming year.  Since we have reached the end of a pretty epic year of community, I thought it was a good time to reflect back upon what we have achieved.  There were individuals who say that blogging is dead, but I think wholeheartedly we have proved them wrong.

February – Birth of Alliance of Awesome

While not really an event in the truest sense, it was still a pretty significant event in the year for me.  In February of this year some events happened that ended up in the forming of a much larger gaming community to be known as the Alliance of Awesome.  With the launch of the Landmark alpha… we quickly realized that each of us needed to be in as many as seven different “guild” based server channels to be able to keep in contact with everyone playing the game… especially since friends lists simply did not exist at that point.  It was proposed that we found a much larger community made up of all of different parts.  This alliance of guilds would pool resources and eventually even a chat server.  While at the end of the year I realize that maybe some of the ideas didn’t work as well as we had hoped…  there are still more of us in almost daily contact than there are not.

The idea that there would always be a friendly Alliance of Awesome guild in whatever game we happened to be playing was something that has for the most part stayed true to the original intent.  The only part that didn’t quite work was trying to create an actual Alliance of Awesome branded guild in Wildstar.  I feel it is still best if we stay separate guilds, just ones collaborating in a larger sense.  The biggest change in this direction was moving to using the same Teamspeak server graciously hosted for us by the ever amazing Saia.  Some things have worked well, others not so much…. and other groups have faded away from the core.  At the end of the day I think this was a really positive move for the community as a whole, and anyone that wants to participate is still more than welcome.

May – Newbie Blogger Initiative 2014

This may we saw a return of the seminal blogging event that at least to some extent started all of the momentum.  Several years ago Sypster started this contest and last year I believe was the third year.  Essentially it is a month for the elder bloggers in our community to encourage folks to start their own new blog and join our community proper.  For this year the catalyst was Doone as has been for a coupe of years, but he was joined by an excellent cast of helpers in the forms of Izlain, J3w3l, ModeratePeril, and Joseph Skyrim.  It was a bit hard for me to find numbers this morning when I was pulling together this post but based on my best guestimates and this list, it seems like we had 45 new bloggers join the fray during the month of May.

I did a quick run through of all of those blogs and as close as I can tell out of that initial group of 45, at least 30 are still active…  and I judged activity by having any posts within November or December.  That gives us right at 66% of the participating blogs still alive and kicking today.  When you add to this that there are still a large percentage of blogs from past years up and running as well that graduate from being a newbie to a mentor…  this really is one of the best events to grow our community each year.  I am extremely proud to be a participant each year, and I am excited to see a new crop of bloggers arrive on my “Class of” blog roll.

August – Blaugust 2014

The idea behind Blaugust started on an absolute whim.  I did not want to lose the momentum we build each year with the Newbie Blogger Initiative.  While that event is going on, folks are posting hard and heavy… and then as it finished the posts start to taper off again.  The idea was simple enough, get some of the most seasoned veterans in our community to take up the challenge of posting something new each and every day like I do.  When I proposed this idea I thought maybe at most I would get five or six people that were willing to take up the banner.  However this absolutely developed a life of its own, and before I knew it I had 52 people signed up to participate. I have to say I was completely overwhelmed with the support I got from the community on this one… and for the most part my entire August became about nothing but keeping track of Blaugust.

What I was even more impressed by was the level of participation.  At the end of the month I had 50 that actually participated, and of those 28 actually had “won” the challenge and managed to post something each and every day.  The biggest frustration with the whole event was that I had not really planned very well, and keeping track of who posted when became a very manual process.  As a result this coming year I am going to have to engineer a different solution to make it less intensive on my part, and allow me to make the daily recap posts a bit easier.  I never intended for this process to be something that “new” bloggers partook of, and as a result we saw a marked decrease in posts after it… since most folks needed a break after running that marathon.

October – Bragtoberfest 2014

bragtoberfest_spooky

Bragtoberfest was the brainchild of Izlain from Me vs Myself and I and the Couch Podtatoes podcast.  During September there was the beginning of some pretty horrible stuff happening in the gaming community as a whole.  Bragtoberfest was Izlain’s way of combating that by trying to get back to the roots of gaming… playing to have fun.  The mission statement was simple:  Bragtoberfest aims to make it fun to be a gamer again. We all game, and most of us also either blog, stream, vlog or podcast about games as well. Why not combine the two into a month-long event? 

During the month of October there were several competitions bringing folks together for the purpose of competing in a game.  These ranged from Strife to Team Fortress 2 and everything in between.  Not being a super competitive gamer myself, I did not join in as much as I would have liked.  That said I felt like I supported the mission by helping to provide a few logos here and there. Additionally many of us gave exposure to the event with recap threads and announcements on our own blogs.  This morning as I was trying to pull together numbers for all of these things, I struggled to find firm numbers of participants.  That said I know it was well over 20 bloggers who joined in during the month of October.  Hopefully this one will happen again next year and like everything, we can grow upon it.  The Bragtoberfest tag on Izlain’s blog seems to be the best summary of the event as a whole.

October – Alliance of Awesome Extra Life Marathon

One of the best things to come out of Alliance of Awesome this year…  is the fact that we participated as a team in the Extra Life marathon.  This all started with a random conversation between Zelibeli and myself about how we had always wanted to participate in the Extra Life 25 hour of gaming event.  Both of us had not done so yet for the same reason… we questioned if we could actually manage to stream all 25 hours given our family lives.  With the birth of AofA we kicked around the idea of having a Relay style stream, where each of us took a 2-3 hour block and then tagged off to another stream.  This became a logistical problem since we were all using Twitch at the time, and you could not create a “team” unless you were at the partner level… and quite frankly none of us were popular enough to actually have that.

Thankfully along came Hitbox which offers the ability to create a team at the most basic membership… and we were off and running.  We created an Extra Life team… and not having a clue what kind of participation we would get, I set a very sober goal of $200 as a team.  We blew that goal completely out of the water, with a participation of 9 gamers…  we managed to reach $1728 which to me is an absolutely staggering amount.  My hope is this year we can be a bit more organized and maybe raise more by getting the awareness of what we are doing out there a bit more.  Additionally my hope is to find someone who is a twitch partner that is willing to get an Alliance of Awesome twitch team created for us.. since that will open the door for folks to stream from the current generation of consoles as well.

December – Bloggy Xmas

Finally we had one last event that wrapped up last week with Christmas.  My good friend Syl game to me with the idea of doing a sort of blogging advent calendar.  It seems there is a local tradition in her area where folks in the villages decorate the windows of homes and stores to represent a day of the advent calendar.  I started work on a logo, and she spruced it up by adding in the d-pad snowflakes and bam we had another event ready to run.  I think she originally intended to have one blogger per day, but just like with Blaugust she was a bit overwhelmed by the folks wanting to participate.  I tried to pull together some numbers this morning but it seems like for the 25 days of the event she had 45 participants, meaning most of the days had two different bloggers posting.

The overarching theme of the event was to write something about community, and I personally wrote a post about my need to keep growing my own communities by adopting awesome people.  For the full effect of the event you have to check out the Bloggy Xmas website that gave us a really awesome advent calendar layout for the months post.  My hope is that we will grow this to be an even bigger event next year.  The community focus seems fitting since this was a year of so many awesome events bringing the community together, all the while existing in a climate where there was so much negative being caused by other gamers.  I feel like our little community stood as a beacon for the fact that gamers could in fact get along, and not just get along but thrive.  I want to thank all of you out in the community who participated in any of the events, or just kept your own personal blog active throughout the year.  I feel we represent the best values our community has to offer, and I hope we can make next year even more amazing.

Fear of the Tonberry

Unexpected Enjoyment

ffxiv_07202014_212651 This weekend was an odd one, in that I had to devote pretty much all of Sunday to helping set up for the upcoming conference.  Since we recorded so late Saturday night, that meant that pretty much as soon as we finished with the podcast I crashed hard.  Normally I stay up that night and edit away on the podcast getting it posted round or about midnight generally speaking.  What this meant in practice is that my entire day was pushed by by a number of hours yesterday.  So by the time I had finished with that, played my SteamPowered Sunday title and knocked out yesterday mornings blog post… it was 11 pm.

At this point I struggled to find anything to settle into, in part because playing Frog Fractions was such a weird experience.  Before long my wife and I decided to go run some errands and get lunch.  By the time we made it back from that my day had pretty much dissipated.  When it came time to finally play something I settled into Final Fantasy XIV and quested my way through the daily hunt.  After finishing that I opted to work on my gladiator a bit, which meant trying to remember where the hell the optimal area for level 27 was.  It turns out that FATE running isn’t quite like it used to be.

Previously you would jump the gun 25-30 and go straight to Costa Del Sol.  The problem with this is that you no longer have the huge wandering mass of players needed to make an army of under level characters work in a zone.  As a side effect however FATEs have become far more enjoyable in that running across a zone to get to one is no longer an act of futility.  They are no longer up for a matter of seconds but instead feel like real epic battles with big monsters.  So for me at least this makes it a far more enjoyable prospect for leveling, in that I feel like I actually have to work to get my experience.  The single best addition to FFXIV though is the ability to have your Chocobo out to get it experience, and then turn around and mount it again when you are finished.  This instantly improved the enjoyment of the game for me ten fold by no longer having to make the choice of leveling my Chocobo, or moving at a snails pace.

Fear of the Tonberry

ffxiv_07202014_203225 Something interesting happened while I was sitting there playing Final Fantasy XIV.  One by one various friends opted to download the game or at the very least patch it back up, given that it was a free weekend.  Before we knew it we had the beginnings of a group.  Tam first started the idea of running a dungeon, and after I had fixed some dinner for my wife and I that is precisely what we did.  Sadly at this point Warenwolf had to leave because he gets up at a truly insane hour in the morning, this coming from someone who gets up every morning at 5:30 am.  We decided to roll the dice and pug in a fourth player to run Wanderers Palace.  This served two purposes, firstly Ashgar needed it for a grand company hunt log and secondly this is one of the easier max level dungeons.  We figured it was a good way to break us back into the game.

ffxiv_07202014_201342 Surprisingly it went really smoothly, with only one wipe happening… and that was in the not terribly surprising “rush to climb the tower” phase.  We had two things happening at the same time that proceeded to make it a difficult thing.  The first thing was the fact that for whatever reason myself and Tam were having some massive lag spikes, that even went so far as to cause him… our healer… to disconnect a few times.  Secondly I really did not remember how to bard.  The muscle reflexes came back instantly for playing a Warrior, since I spent most of my time in this game tanking, but Bard was a relatively new thing and while I had completed up through Hard Mode Ifrit as a bard…  it took me a bit to remember what exactly I should be rotating through attack wise.

During the course of this run is when we started to remember just how enjoyable the dungeon content is in FFXIV.  Of all of the games I have played over the last few years, I think I have enjoyed these dungeons the most.  They seem to be the absolute perfect blend of challenge and reward and are beautifully done.  I am sure we will remember why we all faded away from this game, but at the moment all we are able to do is remember just how much fun we had.  Ultimately where things will either click or fall apart is if we can manage to find enough things to do to level our alternate jobs.  That is the point at which I started to lose interest.  I leveled one job through questing, and the second job through FATE grinding… and at that point I felt like I had exhausted all of the ways to level in that game.

The thing is Square has been quietly plugging away on this game in the year we have been gone, and as a result there is a ton of new content.  I just hope I can find some mix of it that makes the leveling process enjoyable.  There seem to be a ton of quality of life changes, like being able to repair gear to past 100% durability without actually switching to the profession needed to repair it.  Also while you are out harvesting nodes you can get treasure maps, which open up a new minigame of trying to find the treasure.  They seem to have finally added in some Gold Fountains to counteract the Gold Sinks.  The daily hunts for example will earn you a grand total of 7,000 gil pending you do not spend too much of it teleporting across the world in search of the next mobs.  In any case there seems to be a way to finally earn some money, instead of constantly being broke.  I have a feeling I will be mostly leveling through dungeons, as the overall community of the game seems to have been massively improved.

Blaugust Update

Over the last few days I have received quite a bit of interest in this whole Blaugust thing.  However along with this has been quite a bit of confusion over what exactly I mean by a new post a day.  Since this is coming from the gaming blogosphere, many folks are assuming that I mean it has to be a gaming post.  Additionally there has been some discussion in exactly I consider a post.  Wilhelm for example keeps a photo blog updated, and he wondered if this classified as a daily post for the purpose of the contest.  Now if you wrote a couple of paragraphs about the image, then totally this is a post…  if it is simply a bunch of pictures, then no sadly I have to say it doesn’t qualify.  I figured I would post some ground rules today.  I will be expanding on these further on the Blaugust Anook since that is the official headquarters for this initiative.

The Topic

Since this is the biggest point of questions, I figured I would get it out of the way.  You can write about anything you want to write about.  You can diverge from gaming in any fashion you like, and your blog doesn’t even have to be gaming related.  Liore for example was talking about making a gaming foodie blog, and that would totally count for the purpose of this event.  The idea is to get you used to writing on a schedule, and not so much dictating what you are writing about.  Inspiration can be an extremely fickle thing, and if you want for it…  there end up being massive lapses in your posts.  The idea here is make you realize that you don’t need the muse to crank out interesting posts.  If you allow yourself to, your personality with inhabit the writing and inspiration will find you mid paragraph.

The Guidelines

  1. Write a New Blog Post no less than 10 sentences in length.
  2. Include a link back to the Blaugust Initiative page
  3. Advertise the post on the Blaugust blog – you will be given permissions to do this
  4. If you Advertise the post via twitter, please include #Blaugust hashtag
  5. Over the course of the month, repeat this 31 times.
  6. ????
  7. Profit!

The Rewards

I will be keeping track of who has posted a post each day during the course of August.  On September 1st I will be holding a drawing for several prize packages.  Firstly I hope you like games… and want to acquire more of them, because basically that is what is going to happen here.  Over the course of a few years of the Humble Bundle series, I have accumulated a bunch of duplicate keys.  I can think of no better way to give away some of these, than to reward the hard work of participating in a challenge such as this.

– Grand Prize

I hope you follow me on Steam, because I will be picking a game off your Steam Wishlist and purchasing it for you.  In addition to this I will be letting you pick a game from my Humble Bundle surplus list as well.  For this prize specifically I will be looking for someone who has actually posted a post each individual day, rather than someone who has posted 31 posts in the month.  This prize should represent the truest form of the challenge.

– Three Also-Awesomes

Additionally I will be picking three individuals at random from the total pool of contestants to win the “Also-Awesome” award.  To quality for this you have to have started your posting on August 1st, and written a total of 31 posts over the course of the month.  I will be having these folks in order drawn pick 2 games a piece from my Humble Bundle surplus list.  I am varying the requirements here a bit, to allow someone to have missed a day here or there but posted a catch-up post to still be in the running for something.

– The Catch-Up Artist

Anyone who joins the initiative late, is going to be in the running for this one.  To quality you have to have joined after August 1st, but managed to catch up and still write a total of 31 posts in the month.  You an procrastinate however long you like, but I am expecting 31 well formed posts to get this one.  After the above prizes have been picked from my Humble Bundle surplus list, the winner of this prize gets to nab one of the games for themselves as well.  I promise the surplus list is big enough to support all of these people… and still allow them quite a bit of variety in the choices.

– All Participants

I will be crafting some sidebar badges and banners that can be affixed to your website showing the world that you won the Blaugust challenge.  Additionally you will be able to bask in the warm afterglow of knowing you accomplished something awesome.  Depending on the number of participants I reserve the right to make up a bunch of other awards along the way.

The Sign-up

While there has been quite a bit of interest, only a handful of you have actually joined the Blaugust nook.  For ease of maintenance on my part, I would really appreciate it if you all went out there and clicked the Join button.  This and the whole advertising on the nooks blog thing is going to help me account for all of the posts, and also turn around and advertise them myself easier.  I am trying to make this work but at the same time not make August a hellacious month for me.  I appreciate the desire to participate, and I appreciate everything you are doing to make my life easier as well.  As I said before I will be posting some prompts before the start of the initiative.  Right now I am shooting for 60, but that number might change.  I look forward to reading all of your entries during the month!

Hitbox is Beta

Changing Religion

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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

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

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

2014-07-11_06.19.32

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

Crimzon CLover World Ignition

Technical Difficulties

Last night was probably the roughest time I have had editing the AggroChat podcast in the eleven episodes we have been running.  Mostly this centers around us trying to change the way we record the show.  Since its inception we have been recording it on the House Stalwart mumble server in a private and locked down channel.  This worked pretty well and produced the first ten episodes without much issue.  However on July 19th that server will be going away and as a guild we will be permanently switching to the Alliance of Awesome Teamspeak server.  In theory Teamspeak does the same type of things that mumble does, so I thought we could simply record our channel without much issue.  Turns out that was not quite the case.

Mostly we had a lot of issues with Kodra coming through either garbled or not at all when he was holding down his push to talk key.  Apparently on his end it was me that was coming through like this.  Oddly enough Ashgar and Rae didn’t seem to have any problems at all.  It might be something we can fiddle with codec wise to make it work better, but honestly after the trouble I had with last nights podcast I am just of the opinion that we not try and record on teamspeak again.  We have access to a more private mumble server, and I am guessing from now on we will just use that one instead.  A lot of folks have suggested skype, but none of us are really skype users… so that would take its own trial and error to figure out how to really use it.

Last night we finished recording around 9:30 and I started editing by 10 pm.  I did not actually finish editing the podcast until well after 12:30.  The hard part was trying to glue together enough audio out of the garbled sections to make sense of what was being said.  I’ve listened to most of it while I was editing and I think the end result works.  However if you hear something that doesn’t quite make sense…  it was probably me trying to make the of a corrupted segment of speech.  While I don’t think the show was our weakest, it definitely made for some strained recording time since we kept having to redo segments that did not transmit.  Hopefully what did make it through is enjoyable.

Fly That Geek Flag High

In this weeks episode we have the original cast reunited again.  Ashgar is back from doing whatever it was that Ashgar was doing the week before, and Kodra is back from the awesome gaming convention Origins.  As we had talked two weeks ago, Kodra gave us a run down of what exactly he did at Origins.  This leads to a little discussion about something that is unfortunate in the gaming and geek communities…  geek on geek shaming.  Apparently Kodra catches some crap from the Magic the Gathering gamers for his choice of playing the My Little Pony card game.  But hey we pretty much support all potential diversions here on AggroChat.

Additionally we talk about the Warlords of Draenor expansion and my experiences so far with the Alpha.  We also talk at length about the Wildstar patch schedule and our hopes that they are actually able to maintain it.  Join us for these topics along with a bunch of other ones that just get slipped in here and there was we go.  Since neither Ash or Kodra were here to talk E3 2014, we do a bit of a callback there as well to talk about a few things that make people excited.  Remember to let your geek flag fly high, but remember to respect everyone else’s choice of flag as well.

Crimzon Clover World Ignition

For the last couple of weeks I have been trying to get enough time to really give this game a proper playing.  My friend Ashgar and I seem to be the only folks in our immediate circle of friends that really appreciate the “bullet hell” shooter.  So when a new one comes out, he sometimes throws it on my game pile because he knows I will actually play it with him.  The latest one of these is a random gifting of Crimzon Clover, and if you want to see a more logical and proper write-up about the game check out Ash’s blog.  The other night when he was working on his indepth reviews of the game I took a break from Four Job Fiesta and Wildstar to play Crimzon Clover with him.  I say play it with him… but mostly we just happened to be on voice chat at the same time while both of us are in game.  It sadly does not support internet multiplayer gaming.

CrimzonClover_WI 2014-06-22 08-43-26-121 The game actually does a fair bit of bait and switch.  When I booted it up and started playing the other night I originally thought it was going to be a “Shmup” and not really a “Bullet Hell” shooter.  This however changes quickly as it somewhat eases you into the game play as you get used to the movement controls and various attacks.  By the time you reach the first boss however things have escalated to the point where you are dodging the attacks like crazy.  The game itself is extremely clean and the controls responsive.  This is the sort of game where you just hold down the fire button at all times and spend the rest of your time looking for the only safe spot on the screen.  I question in this genre why the fire isn’t just toggled on and left on, since there is never really a point at which you don’t want to be holding it down.

CrimzonClover_WI 2014-06-22 08-43-43-581 As is often the case with this type of game you end up with the choice between different ships.  Type-I tends to be the most baseline and the easiest to control, whereas Type-II and Type-III give you a benefit in one area but make another area variable through the play session.  I started off trying Type-II but quickly fell back on going with the tried and true “default option”.  Ash actually managed to beat the game, but I only made it through boss number four before deciding my fingers were too sore to continue onwards.  Apparently in order to truly beat the game, you have to make it through without hitting continue.  If you do that you get a different ending and I believe a different boss encounter.  This also seems to be a theme with a lot of these very serious games.  I remember in the BlazBlue games there were “good” endings and “bad” endings depending on how you did in the earlier content leading up to the final encounter.

CrimzonClover_WI 2014-06-20 20-02-18-571

I have to say this game is a really good entry into the genre, and combined with Danmaku Unlimited 2 gives some seriously good options for Bullet Hell shooters on steam right now.  I am happy that this genre is alive and well and did not die with the death of arcades.  This specific title is interesting in that it is what they call a Doujin or essentially the Japanese version of an Independent PC game.  This appears to be another thing that steam is doing right, in that it is giving these games a market in the united states.  Recettear is another one of these Doujin games and it has been wildly popular and also likely would never have been seen here without steam.  If you dig the Bullet Hell shooter genre, this is one of the more pristine examples I have seen in a long while.  You should totally check it out  because right now during the steam sale you can pick it up for only $7.  This game is more than worth that money even if you only slightly like shooters.