Posts tagged ‘minecraft’

Looking Back at 2013

What a weird year 2013 has been. I started the year looking forward to several MMOs none of which lasted. City of Stream imploded, Defiance and Neverwinter both fizzled for me, and Elder Scrolls Online didn’t release. Defiance turned out to be the least social MMO I’ve ever played, and add to that the bugginess of the interface after launch, and I lost interest after the first month or two. I’m still not sure why Neverwinter didn’t click for me, I was very excited for the game and really enjoyed the demo I played, but somehow I shifted from mostly playing to mostly doing offline crafting to not doing anything. This year was also the first time I didn’t buy the Lord of the Rings Online expansion, and even now I’ve not logged in to try out the class changes that came along with Helm’s Deep. I just didn’t have that moment of nostalgia this time around like I did when Isengard was being released.

Star Trek Online was the only MMO I played regularly this year, and I think that this past year was probably STO’s best year to date. Romulans have always been one of my least favorite non-Federation factions, so when Cryptic announced their expansion plan at the beginning of the year I was ambivalent. I did get excited though after I got a change to try some of the new Romulan content on Tribble. Cryptic really hit a home run with the mission content for Romulan characters and the upgraded tutorial missions for the Klingons, so much so that updating the Federation tutorial became a priority. I was very surprised that Cryptic had decided to add a new faction but allowing them to ally with either the Federation of Empire allowed people to play as Romulans without further splintering the PvP community, as well as fitting with existing canon. Then in the second half of the year with the Season 8 update and the incredible visuals of getting to fly my ship inside a Dyson Sphere. I’ve enjoyed the space adventure zone much more than the ground zone of New Romulus, and I’ve especially enjoyed the more streamlined and far grindy Dyson reputation. I’m hoping that Season 9 includes a redesign of the other reputations along the same lines.

Besides STO my other main game this year has been modded Minecraft. I started with the Direwolf20 pack from Feed the Beast but eventually moved on to making my own mod pack in order to stay on the most current releases of Minecraft and mods as possible. I haven’t tried yet, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to enjoy playing standard Minecraft again. I enjoy designing and building automated systems too much, and exploring the different magic systems, alternate dimensions, and building with a wider array of cosmetic blocks than vanilla Minecraft provides. Minecraft has always been a favorite game of mine, but generally I’d always get to a point where I was bored with a map and move on to something else. Having mods available changes that. Minecraft is always changing now as mods add new features or new mods become available, there’s always something to try, and starting over in a new world also means a chance to make big changes to which mods I’m using.

This year I’ve also added board/card gaming to my collection of hobbies. After going to GenCon and picking up Firefly, I realized that there were board games out there that would play well solo as well as in a group. Since October I’ve been spending a lot of time on BoardGameGeek and started collecting some games. Ironically, I’m playing board games now much the way I play MMOs. Solo. So far, in addition to Firefly I’ve picked up Space Hulk Death Angel, Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, Thunderstone, Marvel Legendary, and Pathfinder the Adventure Card Game.

My proudest achievement this year though has to be finally winning National Novel Writing Month. Not only has it motivated me to spend March doing a first revision but it’s heavily influenced my plans and resolutions for 2014.

Been gone Minecrafting

So that was a longer than intended break, especially since I thought doing my January write-ups had gotten me recharged. I just took a break from writing though not gaming.

In February I rediscovered Minecraft, or more specifically I discovered mod packs. I was introduced to YouTuber Direwolf20 from watching a Haat Films video (whom i started watching because of their excellent Minecraft release trailers) and from there found the Feed the Beast mod pack.

I already knew about modding but hadn’t messed with it at all because I didn’t want to bother manually patching JAR files. Well, the modding scene has advanced substantially since I last looked. For FtB, I just had to download a launcher then pick a pack, let it download and play. It’s about as easy as installing and launching an MMO. I’ve been playing heavily ever since.

Mods have made a world of difference in my enjoyment of the game. Setting up power systems and automating mining scratch nearly the same itch as playing the Anno series. When the game starts to get stale, I add another mod. I’ve been able to customize my copy of the Direwolf20 pack easily by downloading some other Forge compatible mods (the modding framework FtB uses) and adding them via the launcher.

If you loved Minecraft in the past, but got bored then I highly recommend checking out one of the FtB packs. There’s the big ones like Direwolf20 and Ultimate that contain a large cross section of mods and then there’s more focused ones like Magic World and Tech World. Personally I think the Direwolf20 pack is a great starting point as you can watch his current Season 5 Let’s Play and get a introduction to all of the mods as he starts a new world and builds from there. Don’t bother starting from Season 1 though, Dire starts a new season with every major version change so Season 5 Episode 1 covers starting out with the current release of the mod pack (at least at the time I write this).

Looking Forward to 2012

Family

Before I get into what games I’m looking forward to, I wanted to mention some personal and blog related things. My wife and I are expecting our second little Kae to show up sometime in June. I’m sure that’s going to kill any time I have to play MMOs for a few months. I really dislike logging into an MMO, when I don’t know if I’m going to get pulled away at a second’s notice. When my son was born, I focused mostly on single player games, since I could pause it and go do father things without worrying about ruining anyone else’s game.

Not playing MMOs will either mean that this blog goes silent for a few months, or you’ll see tons of posts as I’ll have lots of time to read, think, and write.

Writing

Last year, I tried an experiment with posting consistently on week days. I wasn’t perfect about it, but I did well enough to consider it a success. I stopped doing that mid-summer though once it started to take the fun out of writing. I don’t regret doing it though as I developed some good habits and even got to the point where I started to feel antsy if I hadn’t written anything by the end of the day. Kind of like those healthy people who talk about missing the gym. I guess anyway, I’ve never felt that.

Anyway, this year I’m trying a new experiment. I write a lot from my phone and from work, basically anytime that I get an urge to put pixels on a screen. Most of the time though, those posts go into the draft folder and never emerge. I always intend to edit and publish them that night, yet rarely ever do. So this year, I’m going to try skipping the editing stage as much as possible. After all, if there are any really stupid grammar or spelling mistakes, I’m going to be much more motivated to fix them if the article is public, and this way I’ll not have any regrets about not getting an opinion or idea out in a timely fashion.

So now you know, if the blog stays empty it’s just because I have no ideas and not because I’m a lazy self-editor. Finally, let’s talk about some games.

PC/Xbox

This is the first year in a while, that I’m not really looking forward to much. Mass Effect 3 is basically my whole list for the year.

I believe this is a good thing though, because my backlog of unfinished, never played, and never installed games is getting embarrassingly massive. I still haven’t gone back to Skyrim and finished my first play through. I have the last DLC for Mass Effect 2 to finish. I’ve barely touched Minecraft since the 1.0 release in November. Then there’s my Steam library, let’s just not even start on that.

So while there’s not much new I’m looking forward to, I’m still excited for single-player and offline gaming this year.

MMOs

Rift

While I do still have an active subscription, I’m not planning on renewing it in April. As I mentioned in my 2001 review, I had a ton of fun with the game, but between feeling so behind with all of the content updates and most of my friends playing other MMOs, I have no interest in going back.

Champions Online

I fully expect to keep playing in Millennium City off and on as Cryptic adds new story missions and new power sets. Honestly, I’ve already started eyeing the launcher as they’ve added some cool new costume options recently as well as the Earth and Wind power sets. The cool thing about this game is I have no expectations for the coming year, so I’ll enjoy whatever comes.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

I’m playing a ton of TOR right now. I have a Jedi Knight Guardian in the mid 40′s (level cap is 50) and am nearing the end of the story missions. This means I’ll hit the mythical end-game soon. Generally when I do that, I start an alt and lose interest in repeating content after a few days. This is followed by moving on to another game. With TOR, I’m hoping that having some fresh class missions will be enough to keep me interested and get a second character to 50. We’ll see if BioWare manages a first in my gaming history.

Interestingly, I’m already feeling like I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of TOR, so if I do end up cancelling my subscription, I’m not going to feel bad about it. I suppose that because the game really has felt like playing KotOR 3.

Looking at the rest of the year, I hope to still be playing in June but I kind of doubt it given my history at level cap. Obviously once the baby get’s here, all bets are off.

Lord of the Rings Online

After taking most of the year off and then getting in a solid month, LotRO has been on hold since November. First it was Skyrim and then it was TOR keeping me from playing. Eventually, I’ll return to Middle-Earth and resume my hunter Brynulf’s journey into the Gap of Rohan. It may well be the fall, but it seems like I always go back to LotRO eventually, and that makes me happy.

Star Trek Online

After an extremely rough year, I really hope that STO turns things around. The F2P launch is happening (today actually), and the long awaited Featured Episode Series Four is coming as part of the second anniversary of the game.

Past February, I want to see a permanent Executive Producer hired and I really want to see the monthly Engineering Reports and Ask Cryptics restarted. I know there have been a few new hires since the PWE acquisition, but I’d like to see the team continue to grow, and start seeing that investment payoff in more regular updates of new features and new story missions. If we get to December and have seen Featured Episode Series 4, 5, and 6, I’ll be very happy. If not three FE’s (which D’Angelo doesn’t think is likely), then I want to see more single mission story content added.

One thing I do want to clarify though, I’m not at all disappointed or upset with the Star Trek development team at Cryptic. I think they’ve done as much as possible given some pretty difficult situations over the last six months (if not longer).

Looking Back at 2011

Xbox

Last January, I wan’t looking forward to much on the Xbox. In fact, there were just two games: Mass Effect 3 and Batman: Akham City. Unfortunately Mass Effect 3 was delayed, but Akham City more than made up for that. The game had everything I loved about the first Batman game but added improvements, and even though I’ve finished the game, I still pop it into my console occasionally to beat on some thugs.

Outside of Arkham City, my Xbox didn’t get much playtime, which I guess is why it decided to red-ring on me in December. I had hoped by waiting through the first few manufacturing runs and getting an Elite, that I had dogged all of the overheating problems with Microsoft’s console. I was wrong. The repair process was relatively painless: go online and submit a repair request, print out a label, box and ship it out. I just wish it hadn’t cost me $99.

PC

The PC had a few more titles I was excited about: Minecraft, Portal 2, Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War 2 – Retribution (could the title be any longer?), and Warhammer 40k: Space Marine. Well okay, Minecraft was a bit of a cheat since it was pretty much already released. Portal 2 was as good as I hoped it would be, and I got to have some extra fun by playing through the co-op version with MMOGamerChickDoW Retribution I’ve barely touched. I really really loved the original Dawn of War games, but the shift in focus from base building to boss battles has soured me a bit on the franchise. Space Marine made up for my disappointment in Retribution though, the game was over the top gory fun. Some people may try to tell you that using a chainsword on an Ork get’s old, but they’re lying to you.

Unlike with Xbox, this last year also had two big surprises for me on the PC platform. First there was the colossal disappointment of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. This was a game I was not anticipating in the slightest, but ended up buying because of the wave of good press and excitement from friends. Unfortunately, I only put five hours into it before running headlong into a boss battle geared for the exact opposite type of character that I was playing. I realize I’m in the minority opinion on this game, but I still strongly believe that you don’t build a game around choice and then take it away during the central moments of the game.

The second big surprise happened in exactly the same way, but with opposite results. Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim was another game that I wasn’t anticipating at all. Like DXHR, I hadn’t played any of the earlier games in the series, and even though the screenshots looked good and I thought I might like it, I was wary of letting myself get sucked along with the ground again. In the end, I did end up going ahead and getting it, and I’m so glad I did. Skyrim has been a Minecraft-like experience for me (which is ironic given the legal battle between the companies). Just like I got sucked completely into Minecraft last year and played nothing else for months, my gaming time was wholly subsumed by Skyrim. Today, I’ve put 117 hours into just one single-player game. One hundred and seventeen hours. That is incredible, considering a good single-player game usually lasts me no more than 40 (like Red Dead Redemption or Arkham City). But even more incredible is that after more than a hundred hours, I’m not even halfway through the main story line.

PC was much more exciting this year than I thought it would be. I’m not sure that 2012 will be though, but I’ll save that for later.

MMOs

Rift

Trion had the perfect situation this year. From January to November, they had the only new major MMO title. I think they capitalized in it very well too. They’ve been continually releasing new content and making tuning changes. Honestly if anything, I think Trion’s proved it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. They’ve been updating the game so much, that when I came back after a month away, it felt like I’d been gone for six months or more.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

BioWare ended up releasing much later in the year than I expected. This ended up being a good thing both because they had more time to get things right, but also because they managed to get through the hype backlash I was expecting before release (or even beta). There’s not too much more I can say about TOR as far as 2011 goes beyond I got in at launch, had no problems, have seen no queues, and am immensely enjoying the Jedi Knight story line.

Champions Online

Champions has been a fun game to hop into of f and on over the year, especially the few times I’ve gotten to play with Scott. The game had a successful F2P launch and has released some good story content with their first Comic Series and a third Adventure Pack. While I haven’t had that original love of the game rekindle, I’m sure I’ll continue to login anytime I get an urge to play superheroes.

Lord of the Rings Online

Last year, I was feeling pretty down on LotRO. The F2P conversion caused an explosion of gold store buttons in the interface that just got under my skin. My disinterest continued for most of the year, including well into the development cycle for Rise of Isengard. It wasn’t until I saw a developer diary with some video about the making of Orthanc for the game, that I had any interest in returning to Middle-Earth.

Once I got back in the game, I was motivated enough to finish Volume 2 of the Epic Quests, get caught up on Volume 3 in Enedwaith, and charge on towards Isengard. I didn’t make it to level cap before Skyrim started dominating my playtime, but I was really happy with the new work Turbine has done on the game and I’ve finally trained myself to not see the store buttons.

Star Trek Online

And lastly, we come to the MMO that I’ve had both the most and least fun with during 2011.

The game started out very well. We had an anniversary event, an excellent renovation of Earth Spacedock, and then a third Featured Episode Series, Cloaked Intentions. The Series 3 was the best one so far and featured great missions, fun voice work, and the music from Amok Time.

Unfortunately, that was the high point of the year. We did get the Foundry followed by a good revamp of ground combat in Season Four, but we also got Atari selling Cryptic, Dan Stahl leaving the Executive Producer role, Free-to-Pay announced, and no new story missions.

Whether it was Dan leaving, the change in ownership from Atari to Perfect World, or the announced F2P transition, the high level of communication and transparency that I loved in 2010 has vanished. The last Engineering Report was released in August, with no word about if or when it’s coming back. The last Ask Cryptic was in September. Granted, the temporary Executive Producer Stephen D’Angelo did write a lot of blogs during the F2P development, but I found them pretty thin on details.

Overall, it’s been a disappointing year for me in STO. I guess I have to have at least one MMO to be down on at the end of every year.

Minecraft Milestones

There were two really cool Minecraft events over the weekend that I wanted to commemorate.

First was this post on Reddit:

On May 17th 2009 a little known user of the Tigsource forums made a post…

The link is to the first post by Notch about Minecraft Alpha 0.0.11a. I really enjoyed reading through the first dozen pages of the Tigsource forum post. Seeing how much people enjoyed the game way back in its primitive initial state. Looking at screenshots of the first builds and seeing how cool everyone thought they were while knowing the kinds of massive builds that people are doing now.

It’s a weird faux nostalgia. I wasn’t around at that early point in the game’s history, but their excitement about the game was the same as mine when first playing the game months later.

The second milestone was this tweet from Lydia Winters, Mojang’s Director of Fun, also known as MinecraftChick on Youtube:

Wow! Over 4 million sales. Congrats @MojangTeam. I am so proud to be part of such an awesome company! #Mojangstas4Lyfe

That’s amazing for any game, let alone an indy game, and especially for an indy game still in beta (although only for ten more days or so).

Peaceful

With the 1.7 patch of Minecraft out, I decided to start a new single player map. The one that I’ve been playing on was generated before dyes were added to the game or sandstone started to occur naturally, and I really wanted to find some lapis lazuli blocks. I’m sure you can guess why.

I did decide to do something different this time, I set the difficulty level on peacefully. While playing survival is fun, it causes me to play much much more conservatively. So much so that I very rarely die from monsters (falling in lava is another story). Still having monsters turned on makes exploring caves nerve wracking, and this time around I just want to focus on building and checking out the new features.

It’s been very strange not worrying about building a secure base, or placing torches every half dozen blocks, or keeping an eye on the sun so I don’t get caught outside at night.

Strange but liberating.

I don’t plan to play like this all the time. I’m sure at some point I’ll get bored of building and exploring the world and decide to turn the difficulty back up to normal, but for now it’s a nice change of pace. When I break into a new cavern, I’m just excited for what resources I might find and not worried of what might be lurking in the dark.

Distracted

After catching up on the Champions comic series, I took a bit of a vacation from MMOs over the weekend. I’m not burned out, but I was much more interested in playing some Minecraft and doing some reading.

Speaking of Minecraft, I was catching up in the Mojang Twitter list I caught this impressive piece of news from Notch:

2.5 million sales! That’s as much as Diablo 1 and FarCry, according to Wikipedia.

Pretty incredible for a game that’s not even finished yet.

E3 2011: Day 1

I’m not at E3 and I didn’t watch any of the live streams, but I’ve been catching up on the news of the day.

SW:TOR – Yet another movie. It’s a geat movie and it breaks my heart how much better it is than Episodes 1 and 2 (I gave up and never saw 3), but this is a game not a movie. I want to see more gameplay video.

Batman: Arkham City – I caught this inteview and gameplay demo on RPS, and man does this game look great.

Minecraft – It’s cool that Minecraft is coming to XBLA. I’m not interested in Kinect integration though and I’m not sure I’ll bother to buy the Xbox version. Half of the fun of Minecraft is modding it after all.

Mass Effect 3 – I’m surprised how much they’re showing of the game. I expected Bioware to be pretty quiet about it since it was pushed back. I’m honestly struggling a little bit with what I’m seeing in the many videos. It looks like the pace of combat has sped up considerable, which is great if you’re an FPS fan but I’m not. Still, I’m keeping in mind the lessons from ME2 where the marketing gave me a lot of bad vibes that turned out to be completely false.

Kinect Sidenote: All of the Kinect tie-ins worry me a bit. I’m really hoping Microsoft doesn’t manage to figure out something cool enough that’ll make me want to buy one. It’s not that I hate the Kinect or anything, but my Xbox is in my office which is a small fourth bedroom in my house, and there just isn’t room to set one up and stand 8 feet away from it. Well not without remodeling.

Sony Update: I’m adding this a day late since I didn’t watch it live or stay up to see the post-conference news about it. I was impressed with Tretton’s apology, but I think Sony would’ve done itself a world of good to do that earlier though. Not being a PS3 owner, more of the news I didn’t care about but there were two things I wanted to mention.

PS Vita – That is not a good name, but that’s nitpicking. As cool as the technology sounds, the only thing I thought about when reading about the new portable was that I have a PSP that’s in a box in my closet and I haven’t played with it in more than a year. Even when I was using it, it was basically a Lumines machine. They did get the price right at least.

Dust 514 – Being an exclusive is a mistake. Yes, I’m sure there were business/technical issues with Microsoft but I don’t care. CCP’s new shooter is going to be competing with a lot of established brands and limiting sales to just one console is not a good idea. I’m under the impression that the game is not coming to PC, but hopefully I’m wrong about that. Then again even if it does, I have to wonder if PC players and PS3 players will be able to play together. They can’t in DCUO.

Terraria

I decided to check out Terraria recently. It’s a 2D game similar to Minecraft that everyone has been excited about. I’ve only put about five hours into the game, and I’ve had fun but I haven’t gotten sucked into the game in the same way I did with Minecraft.

Both games have a pixellated art-style. Both games focus heavily on exploration and building, but Terraria has more of an adventure game side to it. You have more health than you do in Minecraft, and there’s a lot more combat in the game both in the daytime and the nighttime. Ironically, I never felt like I was in as much danger in Terraria as I have in Minecraft. Because it’s a 2D side-scrolling world, zombies can’t sneak up on you, and even if one get’s the drop on you, you can live much longer even without armor.

For me, the 3d perspective is just more engaging. In Minecraft, I feel it when I stand on top of a cliff and look down. When I’m mining run across a cavern, the yawning black space is much scarier and more exciting than coming across a cavern in 2D.

I’m planning to continue playing Terraria occasionally, but it scratches a different itch than Minecraft does.

New Kind of Tutorial

Don’t be put off by the name, achievements are now in Minecraft but they are just as much a tutorial as they are achievements. When you first login to Minecraft now as a new player, you’re prompted to open your inventory. This unlocks the Taking Inventory achievement and starts you on a path of learning the basics of the game. They’re still pretty basic for the moment, you can check out the full list on the Minecraft Wiki, but I can see this developing into a nice way to introduce players to the game and provide some initial goals.