Thursday, March 31, 2011

Allods Online Official Launch

Word on the street is that Allods Online will hit it's official launch "very soon". Along with that news, comes news that their fourth expansion is also coming out.

Allods Online, further muddling the idea of an MMOG beta.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Heartless_ Gamer's Minecraft Mondays 003: From concept to reality; my minecart station

Welcome to another Minecraft Monday.  In my previous episode, I covered the concept of using water to solve some common issues I've had with past minecart stations.  However, last time I only had a model mocked up to show the potential.  Today, I present my artsy-fartsy fully automated minecart station:

A few quick notes:

1. Yes, I started with this look in mind. I wanted visitors to be able to see the carts being stored and being fed into the departure zone.

2. This design works flawlessly. I have yet to encounter an issue aside from Minecraft crashing and leaving me stranded mid-track (but I'm sure I'm not the only one to experience the black screen of death in Minecraft :P )

3. While I went all artsy-fartsy, there is no reason that this concept can't be integrated into a more formal look.

4. I've had requests to show off my switching station a bit more.

5. With 3 and 4 in mind, I will start a new project to integrate some of my switching technology and water minecart station into my server's main departure station (the brick building outside my base). I plan on using this to possibly shoot some tutorial videos with an aim to show people that minecart and switching stations are NOT hard to set up. Actually, I can set up a full minecart station in less than five minutes now with this new design.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Hey Tobold, Did You Forget About Star Wars Galaxies?

Tobold posted a couple weeks ago about the feeling that the crafting system in Guild Wars 2 was added onto what was an already fleshed out adventuring MMOG. This makes it seem like the crafting system is tacked on and was not present in any of the core design discussions for the game.

Tobold also asked:
I wonder how a MMORPG would look like if the developers *first* designed the crafting system, trade, and the player economy. And *then* designed the adventuring system around that.
I would answer this question very quickly: look at Star Wars: Galaxies (SWG).

For all intents and purposes, SWG was designed with the crafting and player economy in mind first and foremost and the adventuring gameplay added later. Combat was not even added to the alpha or beta phases of SWG until near the end and come release (and all the long years since), the adventure gameplay of SWG was terrible.

The funny thing is; SWG got the crafting and economy right! However, with the combat being so terrible and adventuring being nothing more than running across randomly generated terrain until the game spawned something for the player to interact with, SWG fell apart. Eventually the infamous NGE (aka New Game Experience) hit and SWG sits to this day as a pile of "what ifs". 

Tobold asks the right question, but may have overlooked one of the prime examples that the market has already churned out. With the SWG example in mind, what we need to really ask is: I wonder what a MMOG would look like if the developers designed the crafting system, trade, and the player economy AND the adventuring system at the same time AND with the same goals in mind.

IMHO, it would probably look like Minecraft with a story mode, but that is a completely separate discussion.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Monday Night Combat's Free Weekend on Steam, Missed Opportunity to try some Free 2 Play shenanigans?

One screenshot to sum up the Free Weekend that Monday Night Combat (MNC) just had on Steam:

While the graph shows that there was a lot of interest over the free weekend that quickly died off, it will be interesting to check out in a few weeks whether there is an uptick in sustained playtime to give us an idea of the impact on overall sales.

To me, this is another great example showing that a lot of people are up for free games. I wonder how much MNC could make by monetizing a free weekend spike like the one they just experienced under some of the Free 2 Play models out there?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Heartless_ Gamer's Minecraft Mondays 002: A concept minecart station using water

Didn't get enough Minecraft on my Minecraft Mondays 001?  Well here is 002!

In this episode I quickly cover the concept minecart station I am designing.  This is a tour of my mock up.  While the design appears simple, it took a lot of tweaks to get it right.  Secondly, I had to put a new spin on how to utilize a door booster.  Enjoy the video:

As noted in the video, I had a few goals in mind for this design:

1. Prevent "bumping" of a cart as a player enters or exits
2. Remove the need to "call a cart" by having one always waiting
3. Improve reliability and idiot proof the departure and arrival mechanisms

I solved the first issue by placing the departure cart within a confined 1 x 1 holding area which prevents the cart from being bumped off target.  This holding area is on top of what most Minecrafters may identify as a door booster.  This allows me to use the door booster differently.  In my reversed scheme, the player loads into the booster and is boosted by what would normally be the riding cart.

This is actually beneficial in many ways and helps with reliability.  The number one issue with door boosters is the fact that sometimes the booster cart on top just doesn't make it all the way to the end of the run and when activated it simply falls into the door breaking the entire system.  Since I am feeding the loading area with the flow of water, and flip-flopping which cart is being ridden, I can use a 100% reliable self-resetting booster on the lower track for the main boosting power of the system.

Secondly, the rider does not have to wait for a booster cart to be sent out to come and "pick up" the cart they are riding in.  Once the rider hits GO, they drop into the self-resetting booster which powers them along the track.

Another quick tip: carts can be dropped long distances vertically without the rider taking any damage. 

The arrival "splashdown" area also prevents the bumping of the cart upon exit and the water flow also carries the cart off to be reused in the system.  In my mock up, I did not connect the arrival and departure areas, but in my final build, they will be linked.  Again, there is no need for an additional booster to be called to retrieve the now vacated cart.  The water does all the work!

This design is very good at removing many of the moving parts from traditional minecart stations.  When idle, everything in the station is sitting static.  Nothing moves until a rider is present (and with a tweak, I hope to make it so that an empty cart can't be accidentally launched by using a stone pressure plate next to the loading zone).

The biggest draw back is the speed at which water pushes a minecart.  It can be slow waiting on a cart if they have just been dumped into the holding area.  Fortunately, the holding bay can be rack and stacked with carts and the water will neatly organize and feed them one by one.  However, currently there is no way to manually load a cart at the departure point and all carts must be loaded through the holding tank.

I hope you enjoyed and please feel free to ask questions.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Seriously? Who invited the blog police?

This sits like vomit in my mouth: World of Warcraft bloggers fight back against RIFT.
"Many of us are experiencing tough times in WoW, we have lost friends, guildies, entire guilds have crumbled and fallen. I don't begrudge RIFT the shelf space, but when there are more RIFT posts on a WoW blog than WoW posts... well... I don't like it,"
A true gaming blogger posts about whatever they are playing and doesn't prop their site up by stringing readers along with stuff about games they've lost interest in. This is exactly why I made the conscious decision over 5 years ago never to pigeon-hole this blog into a single game. It is also why I am formulating a plan to better represent my thoughts and opinions on the game(s) I'm currently playing instead of the ones I want to bitch about the most (well that is if I can ever break my addiction to Minecraft).

Blog police say what now?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

March 2010, what I was doing

I was going to do a Minecraft Mondays 002 yesterday, but I have family in town from out of state, so I took them out on the town instead. However, I feel like I need to post to keep people from drop kicking me off their RSS feeds and blog rolls. So I figured I would look back and see what was up on this blog last year during March.

It's a bit ironic that I have an MMOGs blog, yet the majority of my inbound traffic has nothing to do about MMOGs. That's all thanks to my wonderful Punkbuster posts from March of 2010 for Battlefield: Bad Company 2. Anyone that has dealt with Punkbuster errors knows the first place to look is Google and Google will generally direct Punkbuster + BFBC2 queries to this very website.

Battlfield: Bad Company 2 also launched on the PC in March of 2010. I had my initial impressions of singleplayer and I shared a bit of propaganda for the game.

I also got around to talking about Elemental and Lord of Ultima. Both games pretty much disapeared off my radar shortly after my initial postings. Elemental went on to a gloriously epic failure of a launch that I'm unsure Stardock (the game's developer) can ever recover from. Lord of Ultima was pretty much like any other browser strategy game, built and aimed to suck as much money out of teenagers and tweens that somehow got a hold of mommy and daddy's credit card.

We also found out in March that George RR Martin's book, A Game of Thrones, was coming to an HBO mini-series. Since this initial announcement, the pilot episode was completed and the series signed on for full production. The brief glimpses we've seen of the show so far are very promising. I'm really excited about this mini-series!

Lastly, probably the biggest event of the month for me, was my Gmail account getting hacked. Ah, the memories!

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Heartless_ Gamer's Minecraft Mondays 001

So I promised a Minecraft video. Here it is. A bit outdated and I missed Monday, but it's never too late for a Minecraft video!

001 show notes:

This is an older video from the previous beta version 1.2.

This video covers my mountain base, cart station, and track switching station on the SMP player server I play on.

Sorry there isn't any sound in the video. I am working out some technical issues with FRAPS.

If there are any questions about any thing I show in the video, please let me know and I may follow it up with a video response!

Thanks for watching.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

#Minecraft continues to amaze

Minecraft was down for a good portion of the day yesterday. After it came back up and I was able to get logged into my friend’s server again, the feeling of how great Minecraft is hit me again. Minecraft is full of endless possibilities for every type of player. After hundreds of hours of playing the game, it continues to amaze me each time I log in.

My current project is two-fold. I'm expanding out of the topside of my mountain hideaway. I am building both a sapling/log catching apparatus and a chicken coup. These will solve two annoying problems for me: collecting saplings and farming eggs.

The first, collecting saplings, may not seem that big of a chore. Chop down a tree and wait. A minute or so later you can collect all the fallen saplings. However, during large tree cutting operations, who wants to have to go back and run all over the place to get fallen saplings? Instead, I’d rather go to a single point and collect all the fallen saplings on my way to the storage area.

My tree farm is moving out of my main base and up to the top of the mountain. Two stories tall, it will be situated over a series of six whirlpools that will collect fallen saplings and logs and funnel them all to a single collection point. After clearing the trees, the collection point for the saplings will be on my way back down to the storage area.

The second item on my list, collecting eggs, is nearly impossible to get started and annoying to babysit afterwards. It generally involves finding and pushing several chickens into a hole and letting them procreate. Later on you jump in and collect the eggs. This is made easier by one of the recent Minecraft updates which allowed eggs to be broken and chickens spawned from them. However, a chicken only spawns from every eighth egg.

Now, the “chicken pit” is the simplest form of egg farming . It boils down to throwing eggs in a hole and waiting X to go in and get the eggs. Not only is that too simple for me, it is annoying to have to run all over the pit to get the eggs and when I’m done collecting, what do I do with the chickens?

My current solution is a crafty piece of engineering. It is two stories tall and features two whirl pools stacked on top of each other, each on their own floor. The top whirlpool sucks all the chickens together into a group so they lay eggs. The bottom whirl pool catches the eggs and funnels them to my collection point.

The important feature is that the second floor whirlpool is situated on signs. The water in the whirlpool keeps the chickens on the second floor and the signs hold up the water. However, since the signs are not solid, eggs fall right on through to the first floor. Throw in two dispensers with a clock generator and a flip of the switch unleashes a blizzard of eggs (and eventually chickens) into the second floor. Just like in real life, chickens sit on top, eggs get collected at the bottom. The system feeds into the same collection area as the saplings.

But there is still an important question to answer: what to do with all the chickens when a sufficient amount of eggs have been procured? If the area is left alone by all players, the chickens will simply disappear with time, but that isn’t much fun. Instead I will eventually have a door on the second floor that can be remotely opened. The whirlpool will force the chickens through the door and a short trip around a cactus corner and the chickens will be killed. Their feathers will then be collected into the same collection stream as the eggs and saplings and be delivered to my collection point.

Now this is a wall of text, so I promise that once I have the bugs worked out of these two systems I will post a video. Real life continues to be busy, so please be patient!

Sunday, February 06, 2011

The Green Bay Packers are WORLD Champions!

The Green Bay Packers just won Super Bowl XLV.  The curse of 4th and 26 is lifted.  The shadow of Favre has passed.  A new era of Packers greatness has been ushered in.

Now, lets see how I did prognosticating the game:

  • The Packers have not trailed by more than 7 points in any game this entire season, including the Playoffs.
  • The Packers lost their six games by a total of 20 points, not losing a single game by more than 4.
  • Of those six losses, most came down to the final play.
  • The Packers played one of the toughest schedules this year of any team in the NFL.
The Packers never trailed during the game. If they would have lost, it would most likely have been on the last play of the game and it would have been by one point.
  • The Packers went ON THE ROAD and beat the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd seeded teams in the NFC playoffs to advance to the Super Bowl.
This paid its dividends in what seemed like a game that was being played at the Steelers home field.
  • The Steelers probably didn't anticipate the Packers having a running game. The Steelers are most certainly sleeping on James Starks. And while James Starks is not the next Barry Sanders, he has shown a spark that no other Packer running back has this year. He could single handedly break this game wide open running the ball well which will lead to Aaron Rodgers picking apart the Steelers defense with the play action.
Well, I was definitely off here. The Steelers didn't bite on play action, but then again the Packers never tried to run the ball to set it up. Starks showed some promise with a couple good runs. Would like to have seen him with the ball near the goal line.
  • Unlike last years match up with the Steelers, the Packers have Sam Shields this year, easily one of the top cover corners in the league. Big Ben will find it very difficult to throw against this years Packers because Sam Shields talent allows the Packers to blitz freely or drop extra men into coverage elsewhere.
Wow, what a prognostication this turned out to be. When Sam Shields was out of the game due to injury late in the first half, along with Charles Woodson and Nick Collins being out at the same time, the Steelers attacked that side of the ball. When Shields was back in the game the impact was immediate and outside of a couple plays the Steelers respected Shields cover ability.

  • Big Ben is known for shrugging off would be tacklers and creating big plays outside the pocket. And the same thing was said about Michael Vick this year. The Packers played him and beat Vick twice this year, forcing him into being mainly a pocket passer and wrapping up their tackles on him every time. I anticipate the same thing when the Packers get to Big Ben.

Big Ben was forced to stay in the pocket for a lot of the game. He broke containment a couple of times, but once the Packers put Clay Matthews on spy-mode Big Ben was stuck throwing it in normal rhythm. This may sound like a bad thing, but this actually prevented Big Ben from opening up huge plays long after the normal rhythm of a play had ended. Basically, the Packers contained Big Ben, hit him a few times, and wrapped him up when they did get their hands on him.  The didn't "shut him down", but they didn't need to.  Big Ben is average when he can't extend plays.
  • Oh and the Packers are missing 14 starter-caliber players to injuries and yet proved they had and still have amazing depth at every position other than running back (which may be changing, see my Starks comments above). Imagine this team next year.

Another beauty of a prognostication considering the Packers lost three starters during the course of the game (and had more starters sit out several plays). IMAGINE THIS TEAM NEXT YEAR!
  • My actual prediction? The Packers win by double digits.
OK, the Packers didn't quite make it to a double digit win, but they did lead by 18 at one point. Also, they lead by 11+ point sat half time of every postseason game this year. The Packers may not have had a perfect game, but the first quarter couldn't have gone any better.

See ya'll next year when the Packers attempt to repeat.