Saturday, January 22, 2011

Quick #Minecraft Upate

I don't have access to my home PC currently, so I can't share any pictures of my work in Minecraft, but I did want to give an update.

Work on the SMP (survival multi player) server that I frequent has been going well.  My mountain base has been a solid defensible position against the terrors of the night and I was able to install a really neat secret entrance.  I've also been playing with a neat secret door trick that I plan on implementing for this secret entrance.  However, I showed off my secret door trick to my closest friends who then decided to use my secret test area to build a shrine deep under ground for me to find a spiraling staircase to.  I was not impressed.

Before the secret entrance was constructed, we worked on taking down our monster trap.  It was an eye sore out in the open and we felt we needed some empty space between all of our buildings.  We blew it up with TNT and covered it over.  However, we love to leave leftovers underground so at some point in the future when someone digs up the remains of the project they will have something to think about.  The left overs include redstone wiring, torches, water flows, pressure plates, and ladders.  I filled the lava portion in to prevent forest fires as we planted trees over the spot.

We've been putting time into our minecart system.  I am the main engineer for the cart system and have been building the boosters and stations.  So far we have the main departure station and a 4-track switching station out at what I've dubbed "the cool ass rock formation".  From past experience I've learned that minecart systems can be overly complicated and prone to breaking.  For this iteration of our shared world, I decided to go with simple with room for expansion.

Simple because I am now  using Bleh's door boosters which leave the booster cart static until it is called upon.  This fixed the problem of self resetting boosters that would randomly stop working and require a push start to get going again.  So far it has been far more reliable once I worked the kinks out of the system.  This also reduces the amount of materials and space needed.  It is a single cart and can be fit into a relatively small area. 

The next issue was track switching.  As I am fairly ambitious with this project, I wanted to be able to have multiple switching stations and be able to deploy one rapidly if needed.  However, most of the 4-way track switching designs out there have fairly complex and tricky redstone wiring behind them.  For example: necramar's 4-way track switcher.  Something that complex was just not going to work.

Ironically the answer for simple switching stations came to me by the use of nothing other than SWITCHES and redstone wiring!  The basic concept is this: all switches start in a down position.  Only one switch is switched up (aka ON) and that switch ties to the departure track the player wants to take.  While realistically someone could leave two switches up and exit on a track they didn't intend, I have not run into any problems using my "all switches down except one" method.  And I've come to realize how dead simple and reliable this system is.  Not only that, this design offers a very simple way to expand the switching station to accommodate more tracks and greatly simplifies the deployment of a new switching station.  It was such a success at my first switching station that I've decided to start work putting  a multi-track switcher at the host departure station as well.

The only problem with a massive minecart system is having interesting destinations to cart off to and right now our server has a limited player base and therefore we don't have a lot of great destinations to head out to.  However, soon enough I will be packing my things up to head out and start some satellite projects out of range of our current area and connect them using the minecart system. 

Now inside my actual mountain base I have been doing work as well.  I've tunneled out some of the area above my ceiling and shot a "wing" out through the top of the mountain.  Its a glass and wood tunnel of sorts that covers the span to the next mountain.  Sadly, I have left this project sitting for a week or so now and while the wing is complete, I just have a stack of dirt and ladders currently set to access it.  Its an eye sore I need to correct.

Next, I redid my storage area and labeled all of my chests.  I have a temporary work area underneath the storage area that houses my furnaces and workbench.  I don't like having workbenches and furnaces sitting out in the middle of everything, so I am debating how I want to position them going forward. Its annoying right now having to climb down into my cubby hole to make stuff with the bench. 

I also got around to digging down to bedrock and counting up 15 layers to start my branch mining operation.  Layer 15, for the uninformed, is the richest layer for ore deposits and sits far enough above the lava spawning layers to be safe to work in.  I haven't done much mining up to this point (I actually have yet to get any diamond.  I've found some, but died bringing it home).  The coolest part is that I also took the time to build a water ladder to bedrock as well as a drop shaft with a water break at the bottom.  It takes me a couple seconds to get down and a couple dozen to get back up.  Efficiency!

In conclusion, I am still hopelessly addicted to Minecraft.  The possibilities are truly endless and every time I try and force myself to play some more Bioshock 2 or get started on Dragon Age or Mass Effect, I find myself logged back into Minecraft.  Oh, and I play Minecraft during my breaks and a bit at lunch while at work.  Too bad it doesn't get counted by Raptr currently :(

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Asymmetry in game design

I was reading this article over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun about Blight of the Immortals when one of the developers responses struck me as interesting. 

RPS: Hmm. The starting positions for both your games, particular the PvP in Blight, seems uneven. Position, resources – that can all give you a better or worse start. Is that deliberate?

Kyburz: I really love Starcraft but one thing I don’t like about it is that everybody starts on an even playing field. The sides are carefully balanced and each player starts with the same amount of resources and access points.

Most people would say this is absolutely critical, but I would argue that is actually makes that game more difficult and less enjoyable for new players, limits the number of interesting strategies for experienced players, and reduces the amount of player interaction.
As a long time MMOG player, I've had my fair share of arguments about balance.  In the decade I've argued about balance I've landed firmly in the middle.  I want balance, but only if it is asymmetrical.  Like the developer being interviewed, I find the Starcraft approach where both sides start on equal footing uninteresting.

This reminds me a lot about the discussion regarding racial abilities prior to World of Warcraft's launch.  Originally, races (and even classes) were going to have very unique traits.  Taurens were going to have plains running for sprinting over open plains.  Paladins were going to do more damage to undead, including players.  However, Blizzard pulled the plug on this idea and neutered the racial abilities into fairly meaningless afterthoughts; some more worthless than others (anyone that played a Troll or Dwarf at launch know exactly what I mean).

Its one of those "I wonder what it would be like..." moments that I look back on.  How different would WoW have been had the races and some classes kept their unique asymmetrical features?  How critical is this for the Blizzard design mantra: "easy to play, hard to master"?

Back to the interview, the asymmetrical starting resources definitely has me interested in Blight of the Immortals.  I couldn't get into this developer's first game, Neptune's Pride, as it was terribly unfriendly to new players (not challenging, but more just basic explanation of how you even played the game).  If I manage to kick my Minecraft habit (doubtful), I may get around to playing a few games.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

#Minecraft: The Monster Trap

From my previous post I got some feedback asking about my monster trap.  Don't want to go into much detail, but here are some pretty pictures.  Ask any questions you have.

Left: Trap on ground and spawn box above.  Right: Loot house.

View from the loot house, spawn box in the background.

Under the loot house is a pressure plate that is wired to the redstone torch on the roof.  When loot activates the pressure plate, it lights up the torch on the roof and I know to go collect.  The cactus is to kill any chickens or pigs that get past the trap (which happens a lot).

This is the trap.  It was poorly planned so the water is not efficient.  Simple really, water flows to lava, lava kills monsters.

Another view of the water flows.  Monsters spawn in the dark spawn box above and there are rivers inside the box that suck the monsters to a hole that drops them down into the trap.