Minecraft

Tuesday Ramblings.

I don’t post nearly as much when I am playing. One of those funny things – when I play a lot, I don’t post. When I’m not playing a lot, I post. With limited gaming/personal time, it just works out that way.

I am in, and there is, a SWTOR beta. That’s all I am allowed to say (NDA wise). No no, not sharing any impressions either way, just sharing what I am allowwed to share. And that’s it.

I have done a lot of beta tests at various stages, and the amusing part always is the disconnect between customer expectations based on released information, and what you see know when you are ‘in the know’ – hands on, so to speak. This observation is completely unrelated to my sentence prior, but is a pretty consistent and common theme in the beta tests (in general) I have participated in.

On a side note, I am somewhat shocked at the lack of World of Pandas/Pokemon rage. When I read the announcement I started going to some of my favourite blogging sites to enjoy reading pages upon pages of hate and anger. Perhaps it was because Blizz’s next step down wasn’t a surprise to anyone (anymore), or that bloggers just tend not to care about WoW anymore. If I missed any good posts on it, please link them.

I actually like the idea of the monk class (a personal favourite in EQ) but everything else is both unsurprising and uninspiring. I will tip my hat to Blizzard for fighting to the end, trying to break the standard-ish MMO growth curve and climb then slow decline. On a somewhat unrelated note, Zynga’s IPO is due soon. Not sure why that popped into my head when writing this section.

Best blogging post I read this week goes to the BBB, and it’s not even game related. JP sure has a way of tackling a polarizing topic in such a way to encourage thoughtfulness on the subject. While many may not agree with him, he hits the nail on the head, and it’s a brave post considering his normal subject matter. (It’s also a sad statement to qualify a post about human rights as being courageous – but you know what I mean. Right?)

Have a few posts I have been plugging away on in the background that I’ll get to this week. Time permitting, of course =)

I did say ramblings, after all.

Feast or Famine

Going to a new blogging style. The exciting ‘when I can/feel like it’. When I blogged regularly I blogged pretty hard, 3+ posts a week, keeping on top of current events and all the “excitement”. I took an extended break once, and in the same breadth kept lurking and reading my favorites without posting. I haven’t posted since December and plan on making it more regular (without any firm commitments!)

Now I’ll just have the odd meal, enjoy the writing part, and keep blogging for no ulterior purpose but to enjoy myself on much needed breaks.

So, what have I been up to gaming wise?

a) I broke my EA holdout 10 months after it started while in a gaming funk, and bought Dragons Age 2 on sale. As reviewed by others I was a bit dissappointed when compared to the first.

b) Long after Cataclysm was released, I did my WoW dance once again, enjoyed it for what it is, then left when all I could do was done. Un-subbed prior to 4.1 with little interest returning. Maybe next expansion for a 3 month ride to remind myself why I unsubbed in the first place =)

c) Played more of Minecraft – although given up on creating something completely awesome, I am strip mining to hollow out under the world but making all resources renewable – anything I take from the ground I have to reuse above ground. Will someday end up with a rediculous cavern underground and floating islands in the sky. It’s definitely Zen grinding down blocks then finding uses for them elsewhere

d) Played Rift until level 15, quit, much for the same uninspiring reasons the current-gen MMO mechanics I often lament

e) Trialed AION for the free 20 levels, enjoyed myself a bit, not buying.

f) Less excited than ever about SWTOR and their marketing giganticnous of the title, and looking forward to not buying it on release while waiting for the reviews to pour in from trusted like minded bloggers. I still expect to play it someday as I am a fan of the DA/ME conversation wheel choices, but everything I have read about it from the CE backward has me in pure holdout mode.

Work wise we are expanding into Asian and South American countries, so that has been interesting and exciting. My family and I (odd to make the distinction, heh) are moving this week to a new home 7 hours away for work.

How have you been? =)

The Sandbox Knows No Bounds

Interesting thread over on the Project Reality forums about putting together a Minecraft Tournament.

The PR community is a war inspired bunch, their hobby being tactical shooter games. A lot of the forum members are members of the military as well (although not exclusively) and in the Politics sub forum there is a lot of chatter on engagements around the world, discussions of various armies, etc.

With that in mind, I was a bit surprised to see the Minecraft tournament suggestion (yet equally delighted). The short premise being discussed: Two teams on a big Minecraft map, both sides get two hours to build whatever they want, and then they go to war. No respawns, either. One side wins, one is decimated.

I didn’t expect MC to be a hit with the gamers in that community, and here is yet another way to enjoy the game in a manner I didn’t think it would be used for. I am definitely signing up and I’ll let you know how it goes (if it goes down).

Goes to show, if you (let them) build it, they will come.

Deferred Success

This title stems from educators wanting to remove kids from an ‘F’, or ‘Failing’ grade. No more failing – just deferred success! Clearly the change in terminology will make kids all become hugely successful.

This Epic Defer is part of a longer list of deferrments by public offcials who manage powerful unionized employees (the same unions that say it’s unfair to periodically test teachers to ensure they are, you know, smart enough to teach kids). So in essence the teacher’s union has accepted their own deferred success and want to pass that onto the kids. That part makes complete sense.

Sorry for the mini rant, its funny stuff.  The gaming slant comes next.

Gauging success in all forms of gaming has me in a proverbial pickle. Is wiping on a boss mechanic, only to come back and conquer it, any more or less satisfying than restoring from a save game point in a single player game? Single player games do have ‘difficulty’ levels, while MMO’s have been adopting that same sort of mechanic with Hard Modes. Developers have to take into account all sorts of play styles and ability levels to range the expected outcomes of success. Players want to win, developers want players to win too – for the satisfaction of the purchase. So in a sense, developers are just setting their own levels of deferred success for their player bases.

Make it too hard – players revolt. Make it too easy – players don’t feel challenged and have a superficial experience. Where, and how, is that line drawn?

This thought process has lead me to a pillar that should be of more importance – the story. Regardless of difficulty level story is a trump card. If the story is amazing, I’m more likely to bang my head against that wall in a tough level to learn what happens next. I’m also left with a feeling of satisfaction after completing an easy level as my waltz through it is still rewarded with a narrative. Call of Duty, Black Ops did this particularly well in their interactive movie experience single player campaign.

World of Warcraft, and most of the other MMO’s I’ve payed have not done the story aspect  particularly well.

Then we have the outliers, the games that don’t present directed experiences as the challenge but where the players create the stories. Minecraft is a good example of this. Sports games where players play against other humans also has a much stronger skill aspect.

All games are created for you to have success in them – they are just designed in a length of time format that players expect a return on based on the monetization scheme.

I don’t have a conclusion here and just throwing this up for discussion. It just all feels very shallow to me right now -the deferred success in our games – like the Wizard of Oz is just some dude behind a curtain was just revealed to me.

Minecraft Zen (for you, Tesh)

Tesh often waxes poetic about forms of Zen grinding, and I found it recently in Minecraft. I realized in game I am not a fancy builder – but hey, can I strip mine with the best of them! When a much needed work break opportunity appears, I make 12 stone pickaxes (saving the iron ore for the future) and clear out my already very deep mine.

This evening while doing so I discovered a horriffic discovery.

Not-so-inside-yet-not-obvious-chuckles sure makes for good blogging.

And oh, that picture doesn’t capture the magnitude of how much I have strip mined (it’s well over half way down, and in one of the thinner areas), but I had to catch super chicken in the act. It’s the first animal I have seen this deep… coincidence?

Minecrafting

I forgot how much I love the sandbox. It even took me a while to adjust my playstyle expectations – big, random generated world that I can do whatever I want with.

Sadly, I have lost the ability to post pics to my own blog (help, Joe!) – so I can’t share the sheer awesomeness of the completely crappy graphics. Although I prefer to call it ‘stylized realism’. The graphics are part of the charm, anyway.

I learned about Minecraft through Random Mileages blog who heard about it through Rock Paper Shotgun. I felt compelled to check it out. The game is in Alpha (and runs incredibly stable at this stage) and the game is, as advertised. Big sandbox. Do, or don’t do, whatever you want. There are some incredible gameplay moments to be had, and a little discussion about the incredible success of this little title, after the break.

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