Tunneling Addiction

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I think we need to talk.  I have a significant problem on my hands… and that problem is Minecraft.  What I mean by that is that I have been obsessing about the game since Christmas day, and wound up staying up until 1:30 last night.  I apparently was digging more tunnels that never seem to end… and just when they appear that they might… I find a way to start a new one.  I’ve said before how my bases in Minecraft tend to be more a complex of interconnected tunnels and underground areas than really anything big and above ground…  and in truth that is happening again in a big way.  The project I happened to be obsessed with last night, however was my treasure room.

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When I play Minecraft, it is less that I am willfully building structures and more like discovering them in the existing land.  I almost always start out exactly the same way… which is burrowing into the side of a nice large hill with the purpose of creating a temporary shelter to survive that first night.  However what inevitably happens is that I then use that cave as a sort of starting point for burrowing deep into the hillside and connecting up a bunch of disconnected areas.  Then it is almost as though I am uncovering a lost civilization… and connecting up pieces to create a former empire or something.  Which lead to the thought that I really needed a proper warehouse/treasure room… and where better to put it than deep under the ocean.  I have a dock of sorts and off of it is a large building hovering out over the water… which then leads to my obsession of the night which is a large stairwell shaft that leads down into the water and underground beneath the ocean finally ending up in a room with tons of chests for storage…. and then apparently I dug a shaft back up to create a skylight of sorts.

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There was then a point last night when I realized that I had no real way of getting back out of my tunnel system other than jumping from one of the many bridges I have built.  As a result I constructed this entrance point of sorts that leads out onto the mainland…  and being me I then apparently started off a whole new tunnel complex to the left of the above screenshot.  Now my previous tunnels had quickly ended up in the ocean… where I built some sort of an outpost.  One of which literally is a staircase that goes deep down into the ocean and all the way down to bedrock.  That was a bit of a challenge to build and I ultimately flipped on creative mode since I had to be underwater for large chunks of time during its construction.  It is cool however because as you are going down the staircase I have windows that allow you to see out into the ocean and it is really cool when the sun is coming up and the water is swarming with squid.

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This new tunnel project however that has consumed most of today… is apparently going off in a direction where there is nothing but land and mountains.  So as a result each time the tunnel has broken free of the mountain briefly I have created a little outpost or at least an exit into whatever area happens to be surrounding it.  There are roughly five of these… and another that I discovered yet another ravine while tunneling, so I took time to build a ladder all the way down to its floor.  The problem with my tunneling obsession is that I have zero clue where exactly I am going or if I will ever reach a point where I consider it “done”.  This is ultimately the challenge I face each time I boot back up Minecraft, is that I get caught up in a project that I never quite know when it is going to let go of me.  However since it had literally been a few years since I last built anything in the game… I am guessing I had a lot of tunneling pent up inside of me.

Christmas Basebuilding

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My friend Grace calls today Super Xmas…  or the day that you get to chill out and rest after the manic running around that happens around attempting to make everyone happy on Christmas and Christmas Eve.  This absolutely used to be the case for me, but over the last few years Christmas has become a much more low key affair.  I’ve talked a bit about the concept of an anchor household, but for me most of those are now gone.  Instead we have to sort of make our own new traditions, and one of those recently has consisted of going out to dinner on Christmas Eve with my folks, and then coming back to our house and doing gifts together.  For years there used to be a strict schedule of… my folks and mothers side of the family on Christmas Eve, and my Dads side of the Family early early Christmas morning…  then my wife’s family for Christmas lunch and eventually another gathering Christmas evening.  Over the years deaths in the family have taken the corner stone of each of those gatherings to where there really isn’t a whole lot going on during the holidays on either of our families.

There were of course a few options…  one of which was the household that introduced me to the term “titty milk” a few years back and we opted out of that one.  Instead for the most part we just chilled out at home and enjoyed the fact that it was freaking 70 degrees outside for Christmas.  In the afternoon between thunderstorms we went out for a walk, which is something I need to start doing every day in an attempt to get myself prepared for all of the walking that is going to happen at Pax South.  As far as gaming goes… I spent a lot of time not actually gaming yesterday but more in an extended state of transitioning between games… as I checked twitter and surfed the web.  I did play a significant amount of the Sparrow Racing League, but largely playing remotely through the laptop.  I am getting surprisingly good at dealing with the input lag that comes from playing PS4 via PC, so much so that it actually takes a bit to get adjusted to using the real console again.  I am now in this place where I need two items to hit 400 light…  Ghost and Heavy.  I’ve since gotten two Exotic Heavy Engrams… but both of them decoded to 399 light instead of bumping on up to 400.  This seems like a massive bug because every engram seems to decode at 399 rather than giving me what is usually a level bump.  As far as the ghost goes… I tried some more forge only to have it bug out on me with the waves sitting at 100% for 10 mins and then eventually failing out without actually spawning the boss.

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Another thing that happened yesterday is that I fell into a giant Minecraft shaped hole as we hung out and watched some shows on demand.  It has been several years since I had legitimately played Minecraft and as a result I went back to pure vanilla for the moment at least while I get my bearings.  Before long I was back into my standard operating procedure which is digging a big hole and then eventually erecting some large structures.  I decided to have my main base out over the open water with a big tunnel leading from what is ultimately turning into my quarry.  I used the seed “BelChillingChristmas2016” and wound up with a pretty cool spawn.  My original cave opened into a giant chasm underground and I have been building the infrastructure needed to explore it more properly.  I wound up digging down into the rock and laying a bunch of ladders as I went which ultimately allowed me to create a shaft straight down to the chasm floor.  I have a hut of sorts down at ground level that lets me get down there in relative safety and at least see what monsters happen to be around.

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I plan on building a dock of sorts under my base that should allow me to launch boats easily for exploring new areas, and I also plan on building another big land bridge/tunnel to the other nearby coast giving me access to new areas.  Right now a lot of my time has been spent simply quarrying cobblestone and hollowing out the mountain side for that purpose.  There is a bunch of gold in the chasm, but I don’t really have much need for it yet.  I have not seen any of the more useful materials like Diamond or Red Stone so at some point I am probably going to have to do the whole dig down to bedrock thing and start some branch mining.  At this very moment however I am trying to expand my base of operations and make more safe space for me to travel in.  Minecraft is one of those games that triggers my base building instinct to the extreme, and I am ultimately falling back into the familiar patterns I do when I always play this game.  In truth I should be playing Diablo 2 since we plan on recording the game of the month show this coming week… but for now I am indulging myself in a little bit of structured madness.

Week In Gaming 9/27/2015

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Week of Playstation

This week was very much a week of me waiting on something to happen on my PC while pivoted to the side and playing the PlayStation 4 instead.  The strangest thing has happened and I am not sure exactly when it did.  For years I was a diehard Keyboard and Mouse gamer… and if you suggested that I play a shooter with a controller I would give you a dirty look at best… and at worst give you a thirty minute rant about why that is a sloppy control mechanism.  The thing is…  shooters now have a significant amount of aim assist regardless of what platform you happen to be playing them on.  Sure you can get closer to pixel perfect aiming with a keyboard and mouse… but I am finding for extended gaming sessions a controller just feels more comfortable.  Destiny was essentially the game that forced me to learn how to play with a controller, and now…  I am finding myself replaying some games that I played exclusively on the PC on my PS4.  Over the week I picked up the Borderlands “Handsome Collection” because it was silly cheap on PSN, and I have to say… I am finding the game more enjoyable over there.  While I won’t necessarily say I have abandoned the keyboard and mouse…  I am finding myself equally comfortable with a controller and it seems so strange to be typing those words.

Destiny

Exotic Weapon FTW!

This week the game that I spent the most hours playing was without a doubt Destiny.  I am not sure why but the game feels fresh and new, and all of the frustrations I had over gearing for light are just gone.  Instead light has become this number based on the average attack power and or defense of your items, and seeing it climb is awesome…  but at the same time not something oppressively holding me back from doing interesting things.  I now think of light much more like a traditional gear score system in MMOs.  There is some content gated on that number, but it doesn’t feel like something that is extremely grindy to get.  I happened to luck out this week and Hawkmoon this seasons exotic hand cannon was available on Xur.  I had enough coins to buy it and bam I am now rocking a really awesome weapon, which only serves to improve my experience.  I’ve heard that you can send blue engrams to low level characters as a more efficient way of farming Strange Coins, and I might end up doing that as I pretty much depleted my entire stash on this one item.

Super Hammer Brothers!
Super Hammer Brothers!

Other than that I am slowly working my way through all of the story content that I have not played since launch.  It feels strange to be progressing in three different storylines at essentially the same time, doing whichever happens to suit me at the moment.  The big thing I am trying to work towards right now is I really need the dreadnought patrol zone opened up because I keep getting those as daily quests.  I am not sure how far into the story that happens but I keep working on creeping that storyline forward in the hopes that the next one will unlock the patrol zone.  Other than that I unlocked Sunbreaker and am completing most of my content as that, in the hopes of leveling it quickly.  There is something satisfying Fist of Havoc, but I have to say super fire hammer brothers is also pretty awesome as well.  You can whittle down objectives super quickly while throwing those hammers.  I’ve taken Taken bosses down to half health during my “hammer time” but the only problem is it essentially leaves you out in the open and vulnerable.  So I end up having to run for cover as soon as I’ve spent all of my energy.  Needless to say I am having a lot of fun with Destiny and probably going to continue playing it over the coming weeks.

Creativerse

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I’ve blogged about this game already at length this week, but I have to say I am still really liking it.  I am also digging that the company is from McKinney Texas which isn’t terribly far from me.  Not sure if I can rig this but it would be kinda awesome to go down and meet that team at some point.  I am hoping that they end up doing Pax South this year, because the game has so much potential.  I called it “Pretty Minecraft” but really that is selling the game short by a large amount.  I will say that it has pretty much killed my desire to play Minecraft at all from this point out.  I get what people say about the mods, but in reality I never modded Minecraft that much other than adding in quality of life things like a mini-map.  Regardless of how I modified the game it just felt like I was playing the same thing over and over with varrying differences.  This game however feels fresh and interesting because the world itself is something that I don’t know the formula behind.  I talked about this a bit the other day, but I think part of it is the fact that I have no real resources to rely on yet.  I can’t go on a wiki and find out that obsidian spawns between these two coordinates or if I need an item for a recipe I have to find it the old fashioned brute force way of exploration.  If you are in the mood for a building and exploration fix I highly suggest you check it out.

Star Wars the Old Republic

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Oh Captain My Captain

Last night during and after the podcast I finished up Alderaan on my Smuggler.  In the time it has taken me to get this far on my Smuggler, I found out that Tam has leveled like three characters from 1 to 50.  How is he doing it?  Well he is doing ONLY the class storyline, and I think maybe he has made a convert out of me.  I shot through Alderaan last night only working on my class storyline and gained three levels in the process.  Mostly at this point I just want to see the class storyline on several new classes before Fallen Empire comes along and changes a good deal of it.  I think the rest of the day I am going to likely work on my Smuggler and see just how close to the end I can manage to get.  My hope is that even after Fallen Empire they come up with a way to speed characters to the post 50 content.  I need to circle back around and do the Shadows of Revan content on my Jedi Knight, but honestly I am having so much fun with my Sawbones.  This is still such a great game, if you just treat it like a subscription.  The free to play options are complete and total bullshit, and feel like the most punitive way to play a game I have seen period.  If you can stomach the fact that you have to pay a subscription to really enjoy this game…  then it seems like a really enjoyable experience still.

 

 

A Better Minecraft

Ash is Awesome

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I have a really huge wishlist on steam, in part because it is a nice way of tracking all of those games that I see every now and then that interest me.  Steam will remind me through their UI when they go on sale, and sometimes this is extremely handy.  However occasionally it has unintended consequences, like for example…  during Pax Prime my friend Ashgar somehow acquired a copy of the sandbox building game Creativerse.  The other night he handed me a key for it, and over the last few days I have been playing a significant amount of it.  I remember looking at the game and thinking “Pretty Minecraft” and honestly…  after playing a lot of it that title still largely applies.  Minecraft is a charming game, but it is also a fairly primative game.  The magic of Minecraft comes from the fact that it has been so easy to extend and create new types of experiences out of.  So in the meantime there have been lots of games that have come out providing a much more aesthetically pleasing experience.  Until recently I would have crowned SkySaga the king of this new breed of “pretty minecraft” games, but after playing Creativerse… I think maybe it is more fitting the title.

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When you enter the game you are asked to create a name for your character and choose a simple boy or girl avatar.  The game loses some points with me right out of the gate because these avatars really are not customized in any fashion.  From there you can set up your own private world or join someone elses, and similar to a minecraft server you can toggle different variables.  My world for example has PVP disabled, and I set a password…  but for the life of me I cannot seem to remember what password I set which will probably come back to bite me in the ass at a later date.  You are plunked into this pretty world with a power glove that allows you to pull blocks up from the ground, and a stick that serves as your default weapon.  The first thing I noticed was how generally difficult combat is because I died quite a bit trying to sort out which types of creatures I could kill and which I could not.  The other item that I finally noticed I had in my inventory allowed me to change my spawn point and plunk down a teleporter allowing me to pop around the world freely and teleport back to my spawn point later.

The Struggle is Enjoyable

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With Minecraft, from almost the first moment I set foot in game… I had resources that I could draw on.  There are wikis of every sort that contain detailed information about what every block does and how you can best use it in the game world.  So far I have not found anything similar for Creativerse, or at the very least when I google for anything… all that returns is a series of YouTube videos.  Since I don’t want to have to wade through a YouTube video to find the one nugget of information I need… I just started falling back on the things I know as true in Minecraft.  The basic logic of how the world works is very similar, but the primary difference comes in the actual creating of things.  Recipes in Creativerse are significantly more complicated than they are in Minecraft.  For example to create stone flooring, you need raw stone which is a given, but also stone rods and melted wax.  You get the melted wax by taking honey comb that you can only find way up high in the leaves of trees… and melting it in a forge.  The end result is this complicated sequence of chicken and egg scenarios where you never actually reach a point of equilibrium where resources no longer are a problem.  Coal for example is one of the basic resources needed in both Minecraft and Creativerse… but the primary difference is very early on in Minecraft I reach a point where I no longer care about getting Coal, however here since I have to use special expendable extractor items to harvest it… I am constantly searching for a new supply of both the resources to build more extractors and more coal nodes to extract.

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The problem with Minecraft is ultimately that we know that game too well.  Within thirty minutes of a new game I can go find every resource I need to do pretty much everything I would want to do.  In Creativerse I feel more at the whim of spawn dynamics and hoping to find the right needle in the haystack to keep moving forward.  I’ve learned several things, like how to find Diamond, but I still cannot for the life of me figure out a way to get a reasonable supply of obsidian…  which is needed for most of the Diamond item crafting.  One of the nice things about this game is that as you collect an item it starts opening up your recipes for said resource.  Then by crafting sub components it will unlock further things that you can create with it.   Occasionally while out in the field you can find books or pages of paper that contain special “fancy” versions of existing items that you already know how to create.  As you go through the game you upgrade your weapon and powercells for your glove, that allow you to do progressively more advanced things.  However at no point even though I am swinging a magitek looking sword… do I feel like I have made combat any easier.  When I see a creature especially while delving deep into the earth… there is still a high likelihood that I am going to get faced rolled and add another “death statue” to my collection.  The game keeps giving you these rock idols each time you die… and I’ve started surrounding my base in them as a bit of a sign of honor.

Darkness is Dangerous

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Much like Minecraft there is a day night cycle and during the night things spawn that do not appear during the day.  For lack of a better term I am going to call these things “corrupted” versions of the normal monsters that you can find during the day.  When the sun raises they disappear just like they do in Minecraft.  One thing that is different however is during the night treasure chests also appear to spawn, and wandering around the countryside looking for them is much easier because they give off a glow that you can see for a large distance.  However to do this you also have to survive the onslaught of aggressive critters that are generally slightly tougher than their day time counterparts.  These treasure chests also often give you access to materials that you cannot find yet on your own and give you a bit of a jump start.  The problem being however… if you find an item in a treasure chest you have no clue where  it actually came from.  There has been a lot of trial and error and me taking on things just to see what sorts of materials they might drop.  Funny enough it took me a really long time to figure out how to get a reliable source of sinew which is used by so many crafts.

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While the game does not have the sort of food and water survival system that Minecraft eventually adopted and so many addons provided, it does have something interesting.  When you are exposed to dangerous conditions you start to see an exposure bar appear.  For example if you are roaming through the solidified Magma area, you will start see a flame gauge begin to creep up.  I am not sure what happens when the gauge reaches the top, but I am guessing you catch on fire and die.  Similarly in the above image you can see a purple biohazard gauge which is when I broke through into the “corrupted” zone.  Deep under ground I found an area that had a slight purple glow, and featured corrupted trees and all sorts of nasty creatures.  It has been extremely difficult to explore because I broke through into the cavern way the hell up into the air, and I can only spend so much time in there before my corruption creeps too high and I have to retreat.  I need to figure out how exactly you can fight these influences and see if there is a way to counteract the exposure gauge.  Similarly I went out exploring and found a tundra biome and the entire time I was there a cold exposure gauge kept creeping up.  With no real way to counteract it I finally had to teleport back to base.  The tunnel to the corrupted zone is deep under my base so I figure at some point over the next few days I will explore it further.

Speaking of Bases

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Almost all of my time so far has been spent underground, but towards the end of the night I started working on an above ground dwelling I can be more proud of.  For a long time I had a simple stone shack plunked out in the middle of the Savannah.  Last night I started raising walls for a courtyard and building a proper stone floor.  I am not sure exactly where I am going with it, but I just wanted something more noticeable while I am out roaming around.  I want to build some sort of a tower and place a beacon at the top of that now that I finally have all of the components to build one.  I am certain that once I build a white beacon it will start unlocking the patterns for different colors.  The building system is pretty intuitive, but it reminds me more of Trove than it does of Minecraft in that you toggle back and forth between building and combat modes.  Trove would honestly be my ultimate “minecraft-like” game if it weren’t for the simple blocks and insanely garish color palette.  I love the combat though, and that along keeps me coming back… I am just not that big of a fan of the building aspect.  Creativerse however seems to have that side of the equation for me, and if you also really like Minecraft, but are getting tired of its primitive client…  you might check this game out.  Right now it is $19.99 on Steam Early access, but supposedly if it ever launches it will be free to play.  They originally planned on being in early access for 4-6 months… but now it has been a little over a year so who knows how long it will last.

Of Geekdom

You’re A Gamer

Yesterday I saw the above video pop into my subscription feed on YouTube, and since Pixel is awesome and was a Blaugust participant I of course watched it.  In the video she talks about a problem of shunning going on in the “girl gamer” circles, and it prompted me to write yet another one of these pieces.  While I absolutely see the issue happening in that community, I also think the issue is inherent in all “geek” communities, and it becomes pretty damned frustrating.  For awhile now I thought I could blame it on my generation.  As far as video games go, we are essentially patient zero.  My folks had a pong system, then I graduated to Atari… then to Nintendo… and pretty much every gaming fad in between.  So for awhile now I have felt this strange sense of responsibility for apparently being part of the generation that created this broken model.  I thought maybe the gatekeeping came from the fact that for many of us we have experienced a bit of shame over our hobbies, or at least being treated to those “you are not normal” type of looks on a regular basis.

I wear my “geekdom” on my sleeve but once you leave the development row at work… I am absolutely “not like the other kids”.  I have Lego MiniFigures instead of pictures of kids, and I have to explain so many of the assorted items of kitch on my desk.  Weirdly enough pretty much everyone knows what a Creeper from Minecraft is however, but I guess if folks have kids… that makes sense.  The odd thing is…  I remember a time when it wasn’t like this really.  I remember when you went to someones house and saw an Atari… you were essentially instant friends because you had a fast point of reference.  Same thing happened for Nintendo, and everyone would huddle around the lunch room to talk about this game or that.  It wasn’t just a geek thing, it was an every kid thing.  Hell my wife does not consider herself a gamer at all… but she had an Atari and a Nintendo and played both.  Her favorite game growing up was Snoopy and the Red Baron, and at some point I am going to find one for her for no reason other than sheer nostalgia.  So I guess the question is… what happened?

Forming Camps

sonicvsmario

The very first time I can really remember any tension forming, came from the early Sega versus Nintendo rivalry.  I mean during the Atari era there were other console systems like the Colecovision or Intellivision, but ultimately it didn’t really matter that much.  At the end of the day we were all playing the same ports of arcade games, which seemed to be universally offered on all platforms.  The first party title thing didn’t seem to really matter… that is until Mario and Sonic.  The advertising was constantly and obnoxious and full of partial truths.  I grew up in a small town, and quite literally no one that I knew could actually afford both a Super Nintendo AND a Genesis, so it ultimately meant you had to place all of your hope in one console or the other.  I don’t remember any fights breaking out but it was really the first time I can remember such a thing as someone owning the “wrong console”.  I had a friend with a Sega Master System, and I remember one birthday party where everyone was disappointed that he didn’t have a Nintendo to play.  No one really wanted to try this “other” thing, because everyone wanted to play Super Mario Brothers.

I could drive myself insane trying to trace the roots, but regardless of how we ended up in this situation…  it isn’t a great one.  Any system where we claim that Gamer A is not as much of a gamer as Gamer B because they like this thing or that thing…  is a really bad system.  I guess the part about it that I don’t really get is when did we start competing with each other on everything.  Can’t it be enough that you like a thing, and want to do a thing…  without having to feel the need to shit on everyone who is doing something else?  I mentioned Minecraft earlier, and that game honestly gives me a lot of hope.  A friend of mine was telling a story the other day, about how their kid bumped into some other kids while on vacation.  Somehow the topic of Minecraft came up, and suddenly all of these random strangers were instant friends.  Games have the power to bring people with no other shared interests together, and honestly most of the people I know on the internet… I know thanks to gaming.  So I see the potential that this shared interest has to unite us all… and it just makes me even the more depressed when I see people fighting over this game or that game.  Does it really matter if you prefer Call of Duty to Battlefield, or if you happen to like a PS4 over an Xbox One?  Can’t we all just be okay with saying “these are things I like” and be equally okay when someone else happens to like different things?

I Have No Answers

I have no real answers at the end of the day.  Lately I have seen a lot of angst in the World of Warcraft community as people disappear from that game.  I was absolutely part of the problem during the first great exodus to Rift, and I feel bad for it.  Ultimately what I want is for people to do whatever makes them happy, and play whatever game they are passionate about.  Similarly when they stop being passionate about it…  it is perfectly okay to walk away with zero shame.  Just because I am in a down cycle where I am not all that interested in World of Warcraft it doesn’t mean that I wish the game harm.  Sure there is a bit of schadenfreude occasionally over the earning reports, simply because I have felt for awhile that the staff doesn’t really get what players actually want.  I keep hoping that they will right the ship and turn us back to a game that I would be happy to play again.  At no point however do I want the game to go away or am I willing to actively rail against people for playing it.  I guess what happened to change my opinion… is that I started to see the alternative.

During that first parting of ways…  we had not seen the consequences of when a game stops being supported.  Ask the folks who played Star Wars Galaxies, City of Heroes or Vanguard how they feel about having a game world disappear.  After watching several worlds just simply vanish…  it has made me quite a bit more respectful of whatever game anyone happens to be playing.  We invest so much of ourselves in the games that we play, and whatever it is that you happen to be passionate about is awesome.  The gatekeeping and the “you must be this tall to ride this ride” signs that we seem to constantly be willing to tack up all over our landscape are counter productive.  I original thought it was my generation that broke the system, but now I am just not certain any more.  Maybe tribalism is just something that is naturally going to happen in any system when it gets too large.  Maybe “gamer” isn’t even really a thing anymore… and video games are just something that everyone does.  We don’t have a title for folks who watch TV, because that distinction is utterly meaningless.  Just because we both own a TV does not mean we are likely going to be watching the same shows…  but by the same token no one is expecting us to.  Maybe we need to shed the notion that we all have this common point of reference, and maybe we just need to accept the fact that we are all going to like different things.  Maybe in another generation this question just simply won’t exist any more because gaming has become so mainstream that nobody even thinks about it as an identity.  Whatever the case…  for the time being…  I just wish we could treat each other better.

 

 

Bel’s Big Adventure

Posting Late

Today I am getting an extremely late starting in getting my “morning” blog post out there.  At this point it is almost 2pm as I sit down to write this.  There are a lot of reasons behind that, in part because video takes a really long time to render.  Not to mention the fact that somewhere between streaming and now we also went out and ran errands.  Blaugust is alive and kicking and I am still shocked and amazed at the turnout.  My wife has even spawned her own version of it within the Math blogosphere without really meaning to.  I think it is pretty awesome when the spirit of Blaugust spreads to communities that were not a part of the first year.  As of this morning I had eighty four bloggers signed up and tracked on the list I am keeping.  I am still trying to catch up on day one honestly because that many blog posts…  is an awful lot of reading.  This is absolutely an amazing problem to have.

If everyone managed to make it through the entire month with a post for every day… that would mean 2604 posts pending we don’t keep picking up more people along the way.  This is really the idea is to get out there and get started on creating more content for our community.  One of the things that keeps coming up from time to time is how blogging is dead, and I love it when we can prove every single one of those naysayers wrong.  There is something magical about putting your thoughts on the page and sharing it with the world.  For me personally it is deeply cathartic to share my thoughts and feelings.  Over the years I have learned to open up more and share more of myself, and as a result my bonds with my fellow bloggers has gotten stronger.  In many ways this community that you are part of is a big support group, because every time I have struggled there has been someone out there to help pull me back to my feet.

Bel’s Big Adventure

javaw 2015-08-02 08-57-29-15 There has been a thing I have wanted to do for awhile.  Some of my favorite Minecraft video series have been adventures with a very simple premise around them.  When I play Minecraft however I tend to be a base builder.  I craft these extremely intricate underground structures, and never tend to move around much as a result.  As a way of combating my instincts, I am going in a completely different direction and starting a series of videos called “Bel’s Big Adventure”.  The idea is simple… only keep what I can carry in my inventory and keep moving North.  Each time I make camp and reset my spawn point by dragging along a bed, workbench and a furnace.  Each day I have to find the resources I will need to make it through to the next day.  Today I streamed for roughly two hours, and I am editing these into smaller videos, the first of which is about thirty minutes in length and involves my hitting the first major obstacle… a big ocean.

The Minecraft version I am using is 1.8 and I am using the GLSL Shader Mod 1.8 combined with SEUS v10.1 to produce the nifty more realistic appearance.  As for the Texture pack I am running Chroma Hills which is known to work fairly well with shader packs.  Finally I have the Mapwriter mod running largely to keep me pointed northward, because it shows an Arrow in that direction.  Other than these largely cosmetic mods I am using the stock Minecraft 1.8.3 that I freshly installed this morning.  It has been well over a year since I last played Minecraft, and as a result there is a lot of stuff in the game that I have not seen yet.  For example… I had no clue that there were Bunnies in the game until I came across a black colored one.  Similarly in what will likely be in episode two I encountered something bizarre that cursed me so that I couldn’t mine anymore.  Most of today has been spent either recording, editing or rendering the video so that I could embed it in today’s post.  Hopefully someone will enjoy it, but if not I at least enjoyed the adventure.  If I find something really interesting in my journey I might stop and set up a more permanent camp in order to explore better.  Since I spent the bulk of my day so far working on this side project, and will likely spend a good chunk more I plan on cutting this post a bit short.  Let me know what you think of this idea, and I am also open to other objectives for me to look out for along the way.

E3 2015 Day Zero

Microsoft E3 2015

MinecraftHololens Yesterday was a huge day of E3 shows with Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft and Sony all strutting their stuff with big press conferences.  While I still stand by my statement yesterday, that Bethesda software is winning this E3, everyone involved had some interesting things to show off.  Mainly for me this is the year that Microsoft figured out how to do a relevant press conference.  The past two years since the announcement of the Xbox One have provided extremely awkward and disconnected moments, but for the most part Microsoft nailed it this time around.  They provided a wide scope of games to appeal to all genres, and while I don’t believe in their exclusivity after seeing titles appear on steam months later, I do feel like they are trying really hard to wrap up a large stable of winners as far as software goes.  The big title that I am interested in is the new Tomb Raider game, which makes me realize that I really need to finish the last Tomb Raider game.

I’ve never been a huge Halo fan , but even I have to admit that the Halo Guardians demo looked pretty amazing.  The title I was most amped about seeing again however was The Division, since we had not really seen much since the last E3.  It seems like now we have a pseudo release date and a beta beginning towards the end of this year.  My big concern was with the lackluster showing of Destiny so far, that this title might have simply quietly been cancelled.  Thankfully that is not the case, and we will be exploring a new action role-playing game setting early next year.  The video that takes the cake however for Microsoft is the Hololens demo showing off a special Hololens version of Minecraft.  The more I see of Hololens the more I think it is going to be a real force in gaming, and not just another gimmick hoping to find a Market.  Virtual Reality headsets extract you from the world, and Augmented Reality keeps you interactive with the world…  I think that is going to make a big difference.  The little I have played with the Occulus Rift was cool, but I suffered a pretty massive headache and was dizzy as hell as my mind tried to readjust to the “real world” after being in the unit for only around fifteen minutes.  I cannot imagine what it would be like after some of my marathon gaming sessions.

EA and UbiSoft E3 2015

As good as Microsoft did with their press conference, EA doubled that effort in the opposite direction.  The entire thing was this awkward and disjointed mess trying to play towards too many different demographics and just coming off as frustrating to I believe all of them.  The biggest frustration for me personally was the fact that this press conference was about one thing for me… getting to see the new Mass Effect game.  We got a minute and a half trailer…  and that was quite literally all we saw of Mass Effect.  Similarly with Mirrors Edge Catalyst… the game so many people have been amped to hear more news about…  we got a two minute trailer.  It seems that all EA actually cares about is peddling the new years edition of the same damned sports titles they have been selling for decades.  From what I can tell roughly an hour of the presentation was tied up in these sports titles with blips at the beginning and the end about something interesting.  I do have to say though that Star Wars Battlefront still looks amazing, however I have had that on preorder from the Playstation network since the Fan Fest announcement.  They didn’t really need to sell me on that title, but I am looking forward to it all the same.

UbiSoft on the other hand unleashed a whole bunch of interesting stuff.  We are apparently going to colonize the moon in Anno 2205, which looked amazing.  They are releasing a version of Trials Fusion where you apparently play a cat that rides a flame breathing unicorn.  We got to see even more staged footage of The Division, this time centering around the “Dark Zone”PVP area.  The game I never thought I would be interested in however was Ghost Recon Wildlands, which for all intents and purposes seems to be their answer to the Just Cause franchise.  Big open world game where you take on drug lords in whatever fashion you see fit.  It looks like it is going to be extremely fun in the same way that I lost serious amounts of time to Just Cause 2.  The real triumph of the show however is that Aisha Tyler is amazing, and I want her to host every press conference from this point on.  Additionally they brought out Angela Basset at one point, who is the absolute badass mocapped leader of the new Rainbow Six.  While there was not a whole lot that I was extremely interested in, it was nonetheless a good show or at least looked amazing as compared to the train wreck that was EA.

Sony E3 2015

ff7remake_cloud Finally we wrapped up the night of E3 events last night with the Sony Press conference, and honestly even hours afterwards I am not 100% sure how well it went.  They dropped some massive bomb shells on the crowd, but it only really plays to the folks who were already PS4 fans.  Ultimately the goal of an E3 press conference for both Microsoft and Sony is to sell hardware, and at the end of the day I end up with the same equation.  Most Xbox One exclusives also come out on the PC, and I own a fairly solid gaming PC.  Most PS4 exclusives don’t, and as a result that is the hardware I chose to buy.  This years game conference only serves to give me more reasons to be happy with my decision.  The show lead off with finally giving a date to a game many had just expected got cancelled…  The Last Guardian.  This game was originally slotted for the PS3, and it was questionable if it had survived the generation hop.  The big reveal of the night however is that Final Fantasy 7 is in fact getting a Remake.  It was glorious to see at least glimpses of Cloud and Barret as they moved past the camera in all their ps4 glory.

18225727733_fb611b7f50_z The title that both came from out of nowhere and stole the show for me however was Horizon Zero Dawn from Guerilla games.  This apparently ushers in a brand new breed of post apocalyptic storytelling, that manages to do so without weaving in a zombie premise.  We live in what seems like a Clan of the Cave Bear like setting, until we see the first giant robot roaming the landscape.  This is Turok the Dinosaur hunter, meets Last of Us, meets Zoids.  We get to see the female bow hunter protagonist take down a giant robot t-rex like creature.  As Tam commented during the stream, we have apparently gotten really good at making fighting giant monsters seem awesome.  Had I not already purchased a PS4, this would have been the title that sold me the console.  I am really hoping this ends up being a vast open world landscape that lets us wander around and explore, hunting the big game and unfolding what happened during “the darkness” that lead to the machines roaming the earth.  There were of course other titles announced that looked great, and that I will likely play, however at six in the morning… the day after the show…  the Sony conference was all about FF7 and Horizon for me.  You can check out the full show trailer below.

Lego Worlds Impressions

Lego Open World

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

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

Custom Minifigures

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

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

Interesting Exploration

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

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

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

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

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

Grinding Gear into Plasteel

Ready for a Freeze

The last few weeks my allergies have been killing me, and this is not usually the case for fall here in Oklahoma.  It feels like the seasons are getting horribly confused, and ragweed that normally hits its worst during July has been still active in August and October.  As such my lungs have decided to betray me under the onslaught, and yesterday afternoon I ended up going home from work.  I took a few breathing treatments and got some sleep and this morning I feel marginally better, but still on the scale of “lousy”.  Right now I am just read for the first hard freeze to happen and kill off most of the allergens.  Sadly that doesn’t look like it is going to happen any time soon.  The temperature is dipping down today to the 60s, but otherwise we are still having 70 to 80 degree days.

dragon-age-origin-1024x640 The constant drainage and coughing just makes me want to stay inside and hibernate.  Thankfully right now I have a ton of good games to play.  With the impending release of Dragon Age: Inquisition several of my friends are replaying Dragon Age: Origin since like many Bioware games there is reportedly going to be a save game import feature.  I know my experience playing through all three Mass Effect games in a row produced a ton more quest options than when I played Mass Effect 3 without importing.  So it has me wanting to try going back through the past games as well.  My upcoming gaming schedule may be devoted to Dragon Age: Origins for a bit, but I still plan on poking my head into FFXIV, Trove and Destiny on a nearly nightly basis to see what is going on.

Grinding Gear into Plasteel

Destiny_20141003060320 Thanks to the miracle of the Queens Bounty event I’ve managed to shoot up to 24 light through upgrading the two purple pieces of gear that I managed to get.  Through running various other things I have managed to pick up a handful of nice weapons and other light bearing blues.  Right now I am running around with a level 20 scout rifle, that while it doesn’t deliver as much punch as the hand cannon, it still has a bit of impact and can carry like 250 rounds with me.  It makes it extremely good for whittling down enemies at range with extreme accuracy.  I would still love to find a level 20 blue or purple hand cannon, but so far my only purple ingram has produced crafting materials instead of a weapon.  Upgrading gear right now seems to be my sole source of getting more light, as I have yet to find any items that can directly replace anything I am currently wearing.

Destiny_20141003060344 Last night my play time entirely revolved around trying to find more green armor to grind down into Plasteel, and finding Relic Iron… which so far is the hardest of the materials to spot.  I’ve gotten rather good at picking out the chunks of brown against the red brown landscape of Mars, and had a fair bit of luck finding chests that had quite a large quantity of it.  The problem honestly as you can see from the screenshot is that I just cannot seem to get enough plasteel.  I could in theory buy ingrams from the Cryptarch and grind those down… but that seems defeatist.  Instead I am mostly spending my time doing patrol missions on Mars since they give me reputation and have a fair chance of dropping greens.  I have now entered the grind phase of the game, and while I am still very much enjoying myself I can see how this might wear on folks with a lower tolerance to grind.

Tron and Infinium Ore

Trove 2014-10-03 06-23-24-633 With the release of Beta and the addition of the Neon Ninja, they added in a biome to go with that theme.  While this morning I was only able to find a very small one… this is what folks have dubbed the “Tron” biome.  In fact when you are in the biome a musical theme plays that reminds me quite a bit of some of the Tron Legacy soundtrack.  There are rivers of neon blue water, and instead of grass and brushes you have chips and resistors.  It feels like you are in a datascape and the various robots have similar tron coloring.  Each biome has a version of the skeleton, and in this biome they look like the Red MCP guards from the original Tron movie.  I hope that eventually I can build a table that allows me to spit out stuff themed like this biome, because I will completely switch my entire cornerstone to look like it.

Trove 2014-10-03 06-14-54-858 This little innocuous looking block is Infinium Ore, and it has become the bane of my existence.  After a certain point in the crafting system… every single recipe requires this.  The problem is that as you go up in level this doesn’t seem to get any more common.  You can find Shapestone and Formicite Ore until your heart is content, but Infinium still is a very rare occasional, and any given vein maybe gives you twenty if you are extremely lucky.  Most of my playtime has been wandering around looking for these ore spawns.  The problem with Trove is I simply don’t understand how the game works yet.  In Minecraft the spawns were based on a certain logic, and once you mastered that you could be plopped down almost anywhere and be able to find the resources you need.  In Trove it feels more like you have to be lucky.  I feel like I need to spend some time scouring the Reddit looking for tips and strategies for finding this ore node.  I won’t be able to do any of the really cool things without large quantities of it.

#DragonAge #Trove #Destiny

Neon Ninjas and Knights

Its A Voxel World

Trove 2014-09-25 21-00-16-293 Yesterday something pretty awesome happened…  Trove Beta launched and overall everything went pretty smoothly.  I have been a fan of the game since I got into the very first Alpha wave.  You can check out my first video from November of last year and see just how much the game has changed.  This is one of those titles that has changed at an almost staggering pace.  I would pop my head in about once a month… only to find that the framework of the game was in a massively different place than when I last left it.  I have to say during the Alpha this became a bit of an impediment to me playing it.  I would want to just pop in and do something interesting and essentially have to relearn how to do anything at all.  That said my friend Rae showed interest in the game early this week, and oddly enough we happened to both log in together on the very last night of Closed Alpha.

Trove 2014-09-22 23-56-16-632 We had such a good time running around and smashing things, that we decided last night when the Beta launched to skip playing Final Fantasy XIV at least for a bit and dive straight into leveling up in Trove.  The above mounts we found during the final hours of closed alpha, and they are essentially rainbow piñatas that shoot rainbows and confetti out of their butts as you ride along.  Basically it is my goal to manage to get this mount again during beta.  Nothing says Trove quite like leaving a trail of sprinkles everywhere you go.  Unfortunately the mount comes from their version of a lootbox.  I have no clue what the drop rate is for one of the piñata mounts but I know I purchased 10 of them last night and Rae purchased 5 with the points we were given going into the beta… and all we managed to get were a few crafting recipes.

Neon Ninjas and Knights

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One of the brand new things for Beta was the introduction of the Neon Knight class.  For most of the night this is what Rae ran around as while I played my Knight.  The class is a bit of a stealthy melee in that your right mouse click causes you to drop a decoy and shift into stealth.  From there you can throw shuriken at your target for a fairly devastating effect.  The purple rings around you seem to be some sort of a charging up mechanic that indicates when you are ready to throw shuriken.  Other than that if you attack from stealth you do a significant amount more damage.  I personally found the class a little frustrating, since I like to rush headlong into combat and bash all the things in the face.  For someone who wants more tactical game play however this might be the ideal option.

Fortunately or unfortunately I feel like the most “Bel” class in existence is still the Knight, which is essentially your default.  For starters it is a melee class with pretty high survival in up close confrontations.  The secondary attack is this impressive weapon slam that can knock back enemies and deal a cone of damage.  The first ability you get is a charge and god knows I love charge attacks, but this one also doubles as a movement ability and a way to dash across gaps to get to places more easily.  Finally the last attack is this shield that you can put up that causes you to take no damage for a period of time.  The last one is on a long cooldown, but it serves nicely as an “oh shit” button for doing some of the harder content.

Content Density

Trove 2014-09-25 19-18-34-398 One of the coolest things about late Alpha and now Beta is just how diverse and dense the content is.  Early on in the game each biome section would have a single objective be it a castle or a tower or something of the sort.  This time around you would be hard pressed to go for very long before discovering something that has a boss or a challenge or something of the sort.  Granted by the time I came back later in the night, the world was getting more than a bit picked over…  so I am hoping that the world reset happens pretty frequently.  In any case we were able to roll around the map going to areas that had not been touched and doing the challenges we encountered along the way.  The above shot is from this insane rainbow dungeon in the clouds that you get to by climbing up through the hollowed out tree pictured in the back.  Each biome has its own challenges with is own mob types which make the gameplay feel fairly fresh.

Essentially the challenges that I have encountered break down into a few themes.  The first involves triggering an event.  These tend to say that there is something dangerous inside in the upper right hand corner of the screen.  When you trigger the event you have to survive a few waves of enemies, and if you do so a chest appears.  The negative is that both you and the mobs you are fighting have to stay inside a blue ring that spawns when the event starts.  We had issues when fighting mobs up in the air, that they would fall off the edges.  The positive is you can retry the event over and over by simply moving out of the ring and waiting for it to reset.  The part that makes these challenging is that generally the area with the totem that triggers the event is covered in spikes or surrounded by these pillars that shoot fireballs in a Castlevania fashion.  So while the half dozen mobs really isn’t a huge problem… keeping them from knocking you back into environment obstacles totally is.

Something Minecraft Doesn’t Give Me

Trove 2014-09-22 22-31-52-013 At it’s core the gameplay of Trove is similar enough to Minecraft that you cannot talk about it without at least mentioning that game.  You could call Trove Minecraft with more meaningful combat and MMO style loot, but the game itself feels richer than that might denote.  One of the aspects of the game that I like the most is the existence of my Cornerstone.  This is basically a plot of land that I control and can build permanent structures upon… but that also moves with me around the world.  I can walk up to any plot that is presently unclaimed and the  game will rebuild my cornerstone before my eyes.  So I can have crafting machines travel around with me, and each time I do this it resets my spawn point.  This gives me some permanence that I crave in an otherwise very flexible world.  This however does not make for a great community, as folks are constantly picking up their home like a hermit crab and moving it with them.

What is more interesting is the fact that players can create clubs, which in essence give you guild like functionality.  I’ve created a Club for the Alliance of Awesome, and as such we have a “Club World”.  This is a fully instanced biome where we can control everything in it.  This means you can build super intricate guild houses and give other players the ability to teleport into them.  This is the more permanent structure from the looks of it, and gives folks a way to link up and meet in user created worlds.  While ours does not really do much of anything at the moment, I have plunked down a few machines and will likely keep adding to it as we go along.  You are given only the smallest of islands to start building on, but it looks like more or less you can freely build out over the ocean for quite some ways.  There are a number of websites giving away beta keys right now, so I highly suggest you track one down and give this game a shot.