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.

Friday, December 31, 2010

New Minecraft Project: Mountain Base

I have been getting busy in Minecraft on our new beta server.  I found an awesome cliff side to hollow out and then I replaced the cliff face with a giant wall of glass.  Here are some pictures I took during the process:

Getting started.

Notice the fenced in area, creeper protection.

The glass wall is in.

Another shot of the glass wall.

A third shot of the glass wall from my neighbors home.

Work area for digging out the inside.

Ladder leads up to the top so I could add a wooden ceiling.

I asked for help digging everything out and this is what I got.

And digging is complete!

View from the outside after digging was completed.  Monster trap to the right.

A sunset as seen from inside the base.

Next on the agenda:

1. Pick a good name for this base.  Any suggestions?
2. Make super secret entrance and remove old boring entrance.
3. Set out to "cool ass rock formation" and build our server's minecart track switching station.  We are building a more manual, switch-based station this go around to avoid the maintenance automated systems require.
4. Fill up all this empty space with a cool multi-level platform (think scaffolding that will be there permanently).
5. Destroy monster trap outisde base and build a new one on top of mountain.  Funnel new trap loot into base.
6. ????
7. Profit!

In The Year 2011, Heartless' Predictions

Read up on my 2010 predictions here.  Keep reading for 2011!

1. World of Warcraft will maintain its dominance.

2. Free 2 Play will continue its march forward and many will consider 2011 the year that F2P becomes the dominant business model not only for MMOGs, but for any online game (MOBA, FPS, etc.)

3. Star Wars: The Old Republic will NOT launch this year.

4. The "next generation" Xbox will be announced by Microsoft. Nintendo and Sony will stay with their current generation.

5. This blog will be completely different and may actually feature commentary and experiences from games I'm actually playing.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

What I bought in the Steam Holiday Sale 2010

Bioshock 2 - $10
Dragon Age: Ultimate Edition - $25 (Includes original, Awakening expansion, and all content packs)
The Witcher: Enhanced Edition - $5

The Secret of Monkey Island - $3.75

Total: $43.75
Christmas Cash: $50

Yay, I still have $6.25 left to spend on non-gaming items!  And damn it, how did I miss Puzzle Quest for $1.50!  Anyways, this is how I feel after Steam Sales:

Saturday, December 25, 2010


Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Vietnam - Expansion [Online Game Code]Thanks to this post over on Reddit, I just scored a copy of Battlefield Bad Company 2: Vietnam for $5 via the UK EA Store.  The code is redeemable on the US version via Steam.  And after a single game I am convinced it was well worth the $5.  Merry Christmas to all and to all a Good Morning Vieeeeetnaaaaam!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sorry, no part 2 for Minecraft What I'm doing

Sorry, there will be no part 2 to this post about what I was building in Minecraft.  As the beta approaches for Minecraft, tomorrow actually, my friends and I decided it was time to go all TNT Armageddon on our server.  And, well, my house was first and is now nothing but a giant hole in the ground. 

Normally, a month of hard work lost in a few heartbeats would cause a rage inside me that most have never seen, but with Minecraft things grow stale.  Also survival multiplayer has been updated so much that when I started my project the game was immensely different than when I left off (players NEVER finish anything in Minecraft).  I'm looking forward to starting over with all the awesome knowledge I have now.  This time, I may actually fit my mine cart system in my initial building instead of some sort of Frankenstein building that I was building on the old world!

A new world dawns tomorrow at  Come on over and say hi.

Friday, December 10, 2010

First game of League of Legends

Here are the results from my first multi-player match in League of Legends?  I think I did fairly well.  We won the match even though we had one player AFK nearly the entire match.  I played as Ashe, who I am liking (following this guide).