Tag Archives: Gaming

Gaming Update

Let’s see… what have I been playing lately?  Still playing Minecraft and I’m still not so much of a mind to become a hardcore survivalist as much as I enjoy discovering new world seeds and doing… stuff.  Sometimes I’ll create a world and in creative mode so I can work out new structures, like the one world I’ve been trying to build up and my latest creation, watchtowers.

Not only am I using specific types of materials in this world, jeez, I dunno, I have a bit of a vision of how I want this world to look and the watchtowers – there are five of them so far – are designed to look out over the area with a bird’s eye view as well as being a safe haven for when I switch from creative mode to survival and need to hide from the mobs and, hopefully, I’ve provided enough light inside to keep bad guys from spawning inside a watchtower.

The towers are easy to build and they all top out around level 98 or so – they’re rather high – and the top is enclosed with glass, providing a 360 degree view and outfitted with a crafting block, furnace, and a couple of chests.  As I move further out of the area that contains my original spawn point, the watchtowers will hopefully stand out so when a visitor to this world is out and about, they’ll at least have a safe place to chill out while waiting for the sun to rise again.

This world also has some interesting building designs.  One building in particular started out in my head as a kind of stadium design where one enters it above ground but everything is below ground… except, it didn’t turn out how I envisioned it – but it looks really nice.

There are mines here and there but I’ve recently been playing with how I dig a new mine and my recent project was instead of digging straight down until I hit bedrock, make levels between the starting point, usually and strangely between levels 64 and 68; about every ten levels, I’ve crafted those levels in the same way that I usually do when I go to bedrock so that the area gets carved out.  The thought here is that, normally, when you just start at the top and go right to the bottom, you can miss a lot of stuff like iron and coal, two commodities one must seriously stockpile.

True enough, during a straight-down dig, I can find myself breaking into caverns or looking down into a seriously deep ravine; running into water and/or lava is always possible but, surprisingly, when I did this “new” multi-level mine, I didn’t encounter anything until I hit bedrock – and then, as I was carving out the “mining room,” got swept away a little by some water I really didn’t expect to see all the way down at level 5.

This multi-level mine branches off in different directions – except for the last two and that’s because I actually screwed it up but, okay, should I dig another one, I’ll remember my mistake and not do it again.  The thought, again, is being able to mine and find more interesting things that could be missed by digging in one direction only.  This is still a work-in-progress but I like the concept of it and the only thing is for the levels that are above bedrock, um, don’t dig up the floors unless falling and getting injured or killed is your idea of fun.

Minecraft continues to be a fascinating game and once you get the basics down pat, it’s just limited to your imagination when it comes to things to do when interacting with your world.

Now, the game that has been giving me fits is one called “Just Cause 3” – and, no, I didn’t know there were two other versions of this game and, perhaps, it was good that I didn’t know.  “Just Cause 4” is due to be released soon and from what I’ve seen, it’s gonna be even more interesting and intense than “Just Cause 3” is.  In this game, the hero – Rico Rodriguez – is a freedom fighter taking on a dictator’s army as he frees provinces from the dictator’s oppression and the thing I like about the game is that I get to kill bad guys and blow shit up – and fly helicopters.

The game is an open world type of game and is beautifully done and while it’s kind task driven, you can move through this world and in any way you want to while wreaking havoc wherever you find it.  The game also has little “side tasks,” like hijacking limos, freeing prisoners being transferred somewhere, and challenges like getting a high score via machine gun practice and unlock other features in the game.  However, like most games of this nature, the further you progress in the game, the harder it gets; the good thing is that you can amass an amazing array of weaponry – although you can only carry four weapons at any one time.  You can call in supply drops that can include several types of guns and vehicles from various types of cars, trucks, tanks, boats and, my favorite, helicopters.

One of the DLCs (Down-Loadable Content) I got enhances Rico’s wing suit with a booster pack which allowed me to set a personal record of flying around the place for like thirty minutes which is pretty cool… except in those moments when I’ve gotten shot out of the sky… or screw up and just fall out of the sky while fumbling to deploy my parachute.

Some of the main tasks have gotten me repeatedly and consistently killed and in some cases, I’ve died multiple times just trying to “free” one location – you just can’t charge into some of these places without a plan or, as I’ve learned, multiple plans; there’s nothing more fun than facing three or four bad guys and trying to off them… then have a tank or a helicopter sneak up on you and kill you.  Or to be in a helicopter and, oops, a bunch of SAM batteries suddenly light up and throwing a shitload of missile at you that you’re just not gonna avoid.

The game, at least for me, gets a little confusing at times; main objectives appear on the map… but not everything shows up on the map so there are provinces and other such places that you have to go looking for or some that don’t show up until certain other tasks have been taken care of.  There are some places you can’t approach without getting spectacularly killed, like the weather control station where, if the guys in the boats and helicopters don’t get you, the lightning strikes will.  Or the one “central command” place I recently defeated after destroying its ability to throw nukes at me… but to knock out that ability, I had to find the task that made that happen… and not before having to do something else to make the task I needed to appear.

It can be frustrating to look at the map and find that there are some places I haven’t liberated… but where are they?  Why can’t I find them even though I’ve been flying around and checking out anything on the map that might look like something that needs liberating?  I get to this point and, again, I get frustrated and say, “Fuck this game!” and with the intent of just leaving it alone and maybe even uninstalling it… but I keep coming back to it, determined to beat the game and, um, I can still blow up shit which just never gets old.  The bad guys usually don’t mess with you unless mess with them – and outside attacking one of their bases – and sometimes I’ll come across some and just pick a fight with them… and because they’re there and I still haven’t found what I’m running around looking for.

The game I’ve been waiting for is Crackdown 3 and a game Microsoft has been promising for a couple of years now and, supposedly, it’ll finally be released in February next year.  The original game, Crackdown, was a surprise Game of the Year and set the stage for open world gaming as we know it today.  Sadly, Crackdown 2 sucked – it was just a shitty game and a sorry shadow of the original but Crackdown 3 is supposed to be the shit and it’s been highly anticipated by many Crackdown fans… except, the game has missed at least three delivery dates over the last couple of years and not counting the intervening years it took to build the game.

So even though Microsoft has promised this game will be released in February 2019, well, they’ve said that before so I’ll believe it when I visit my Xbox Game Pass and see it available for downloading and playing…

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Posted by on 4 December 2018 in Life, Living and Loving


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The Gaming Doldrums

I’m an avid gamer and while I don’t have a ton of games (compared to my son-in-law who has hundreds of games for his Xbox), I guess you reach a saturation point and while I have close to 100 games, there’s not a one of them I feel really hyped to play.  I’m still playing – I added Dead Space 3 and Forza Horizon 2 yesterday and took them out for a spin, played a little Minecraft and State of Decay 2 and even played an older game, Watch Dogs which I’ve finished several times already.  And I realized I was just playing them to have something to do and not necessarily because a game is very exciting to play.

I will admit that I was having a lot of fun playing Minecraft and putting a new theme through its paces… then Minecraft updated and the theme broke so its creator has been rushing to fix it and it took the fun right out of the game, well, at least until the theme has been updated so it won’t break any time soon.  One of the goals of State of Decay 2 is to destroy all of the plague hearts and enter into what’s call a legacy period; your leader has some special tasks to do and, upon completion of those tasks, you can go to the next phase of the game and you can select two other people from your community to go with you.  Sound really cool… but, in actuality, you’re just restarting the game in a new location and the only real perk is that whatever your selected characters are carrying, they get to keep it.

Otherwise, you’re starting over from scratch, which is a bummer given that throughout the first part of the game, you’ve been scrounging and scavenging for loads of stuff, building facilities and creating outposts to support your community – the one I had before the transition was nine characters strong and our home base was pretty secure and tricked out.  Only to find that in this legacy mode, I’m right back at the same place I started the game from (which was probably picked at random by the game).  The only good thing about this was I was already familiar with the area so I didn’t have to do a lot of thinking about where I could find supplies and other things and when the game told me to look for another place for us to live, I knew exactly where I was going, well, after I had to pick up two new recruits first.  And, oh, by the way – the plague hearts are back and after all I went through to destroy the originals – and the many characters who died in order to make that happen, yuck, I’m not messing with those damned plague hearts any time soon.

I have two gaming profiles on my Xbox One so that means that whatever games I have, I can play them with either profile.  Sounds redundant but for me this is a good thing because, at least in theory, I can play a game under my main profile, find all kinds of ways to fuck things up, then go to the game in my second profile and not make those mistakes.  So under my second profile, I’ve destroyed all of the plague hearts and started doing the legacy quests until I ran into one I don’t know what to do with:  I have to build a sniper tower to protect the base… and I don’t have anywhere to build it.   What it means is that I’m gonna have to tear down one of the facilities already in place and I’m not sure which one to tear down because I don’t know how many legacy tasks the game is going to throw at me and if I tear down the wrong one, my community might be in deep doo-doo.

But given what I know about this part of the game, I’d also say that it probably doesn’t – and won’t – matter which facility goes away because when the tasks are all completed, they’re gonna be left behind unless – and I just thought of this – I break them down, recoup the materials, and then move on to the next level of the game.  I might do this – not sure at this moment but I still feel like I don’t wanna be bothered with starting over from scratch again… and I already know there are two other areas of the game that I’m not particular fond of as a starting point.

Sure, I have two new games I can mess with but, again and overall, I’m not feeling it a whole lot.  I’ve played the other games in the Dead Space collection and they’re a bit insane; racing games can be fun and more so since I tend to crash a lot and even though I think of myself as being a seasoned video game car driver.  While giving Forza a test drive, um, my Lamborghini got airborne, flipped over about three times, and landed on its wheels and facing in the right direction; then with a BMW, I was passing one of the cars the game throws in your way, got a tire onto the dirt a little, and went for a crazy, spinning ride through a field.  Loads of fun if not a bit aggravating at times; I know it’s gonna take me a bit of time to get used to how the controller interacts with the cars and develop the right touch to go fast and not be a crash test dummy.  Normally, I’d look forward to the challenge… just not while I’m in the gaming doldrums.

Sometimes, you just don’t feel like playing your favorite games and while a new game will present an interesting challenge to learn it, bleh, sometimes that’s just too much like work.  The bad thing is that there doesn’t seem to be a time limit to the doldrums so it’s not like I can say that my gaming will be back to normal in a couple of days; maybe it will, maybe it won’t.  In Minecraft, I’m restoring yet another ocean monument using a theme that, in truth, I don’t use a lot – and just because I don’t use the theme a lot.  A couple of days ago, I ran into something I’ve never seen in the game:  A landlocked ocean monument.  Oh, sure, there was some water on the side but these things are usually totally submerged under water… and this one wasn’t.  It was, except for the very top of the monument, buried in debris and in such a way that I had to get creative in digging it out.  It got a little frustrating and I was on the verge of abandoning the project because I’m used to these things being underwater so I kinda messed up the boundary that had to be created between what water was there – as well as dam the various waterfalls that could cause a problem and, well, digging it out wasn’t easy… and then I discovered that the monument’s support columns were very different!  The top part of the monument was exactly as I expected to see and I actually stopped what digging I was doing so I could take a really good look at these “new” columns and figure out how they were constructed.

Did I mention this thing was landlocked in a swampy area and that even with a Potion of Night Vision, you can’t see underwater all that well?

And while I found this unexpected find to be challenging, I wasn’t exactly excited to do it… but since I started it, I had to finish it and the doldrums were urging me to just give up the restoration.  I kinda hate this because it takes the fun out of playing any game and I can’t wait to get out of this gaming funk…

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Posted by on 2 August 2018 in Life, Living and Loving


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The Ocean Monument

The picture you see is the inside of an ocean monument in Minecraft.  The thing to note is the interior of the monument didn’t look like this when I found it; take away the patterns in the floor and all the lights that you see… then imagine, if you can, this entire space filled with “debris,” for lack of a better word.  Let me set the stage for ya…

Those of you who play Minecraft probably know about ocean monuments and, if so, you also know how hard they are to find and how hard they are to get to since they’re sitting at the bottom of the ocean and, in Survival mode, patrolled by guardians who pretty much kill anything that gets close to the monument.  I can’t say for certain but I know that when you create a new world, you can count on at least one of these things being present somewhere and I’ve seen up to three of them in one world.  In Creative mode, you can easily find the one closest to you – just invoke the /locate monument command and it’ll provide you the coordinates and you can teleport yourself there or, since you’re in Creative mode, fly to the coordinates.

The monument has a distinctive look and even if you happen to stumble across one while rowing a boat in the ocean or, gasp, bouncing along the water on your way to dry land, you can, at the least, see the sea lanterns at the very top of the monument.  Getting down to it is gonna be a problem if you don’t have the right stuff on you to prevent yourself from drowning – special potions and enchantments – and don’t forget that unless you’re in Survival/Peaceful mode, those guardians are waiting to fry you with… lasers.  Yeah, Minecraft is pretty much a low-tech kind of game except for the guardians’ weapon of choice.

The monuments, externally, are all the same; texture packs can change the way they look and, here lately, there’s a room at the top of the monument that seems to change its configuration and depending on the texture or world pack you’re using.  What’s the big deal?  Well, I’m glad you asked!  One of the monumental tasks (and, yes, the pun is intended) you can undertake is to make the interior of the ocean monument look like the picture I’ve provided but there are some things you gotta do, oh, like get rid of all of the water surrounding the monument, uncovering the monument to free it from all the debris it contains and is surrounding it, then restoring it to its former glory; what you do with it after you’ve done all of this is up to you and the picture tells you what I’ve been doing with them.  Other players have done some pretty cool things with the interior of these things and even I’ve thought of a few things I wanna try somewhere down the road.

“Okay, I see what you’re saying… what’s the problem?”

It’s simple:  In Survival mode (and not Peaceful), chances are that you’re going to drown, die, and wind up respawning again before you can erect a wall of some kind around the monument.  Some who tackle this use glass, glowstone lights, or sea lanterns and even whatever stones they can find… but whatever you use to build the containment wall, you’re going to need a lot of stuff to accomplish this while avoiding guardians and drowning which is why I’ve never attempted to drain one in Survival mode.  Minecraft purists would say that tackling an ocean monument in Creative mode is taking the easy way out but I can tell you that even in Creative mode and having access to every material the game has to offer, it’s not easy to do this and takes a lot of time to finish.  As an example, some folks that are on the game’s Facebook forum report that it takes them months to expose the monument to air; since I’m retired, I can spend a lot of time doing this (and provided I don’t have something else I need to do) and it takes me days to get the monument looking like the picture you see.

The first time I did this, I found myself overwhelmed by the task at hand; it looked “easy” but proved to be otherwise and even though I eventually finished the task, there were many times when I wanted to abandon it.  One of the things needed to do this is patience and another is perseverance.  Every time I decide to do this – and after I initially said I wasn’t gonna ever do this again, mind you – I take a deep breath and say to myself, “Okay, let’s get to work…” and begin the arduous task at hand.

First, I gotta examine the monument to see what kind of shape it’s in, particularly its support columns.  I recently discovered that those columns are 16 rows long from the bottom of the interior “ceiling” to the “floor”, completely trashing my thoughts that the columns were only six rows long.  So, the first thing is to dig down at every column until I’ve exposed the 16 rows and while I’m at it, restoring where the columns are missing its prismarine blocks.  As I dig down, I’m also digging out away from the monument to establish both a walkway and the point where I’ll start building the containment wall, which will go from the bottom of the monument to just above the surface of the water.  I recently expanded the walkway from two blocks wide to three, starting the containment wall at the fourth position; I have an idea for this extra space but actually haven’t worked it all out and compared to what’s next in this process, it’s insignificant at this point.

Building the containment wall literally takes thousands of whatever I’m using to create it – and maybe now you understand why I do this in Creative mode and not in Survival; there’s no way I can carry all that material and, in most cases, the monument is located in the “middle of nowhere” and without any land nearby.  I could use the material I’ve dug out to make the wall but even doing this initial work generates more material than I can carry; the good thing about Creative mode is that I can dig for days and not pile up material in my inventory.  The lights you see in the picture are sea lanterns and along with becoming the containment wall, they also provide light; again, Creative mode lets me use a potion that will “light up” things and they are needed because, as you might expect, without light, it’s pretty damned dark down there.  Every time I do this, I’m always trying to work out a more efficient way to create the wall but it’s still time consuming just the same.  Once I’ve located all of the columns and restored their outline on this one side (four across, sixteen down) as well as exposing the walkway and where I’ll start the wall, I’ll start laying down the sea lanterns on all four sides until the wall is level with the area just above where the columns begin.  Once I’ve built the wall to this point, I will fly around the monument and use sponges to seal off any gaps that lead to the interior of the monument; by doing this, it makes it “easy” to contain whatever water is inside the monument and, here lately, that’s not been a whole lot of water because it seems since the latest updates to the game, every monument I’ve come across has been filled to the top with garbage (I’ll get to this part in a moment).

So… the containment wall has been built to a certain point and gaps closed with sponges; the next step is to close the gap between the containment wall and the monument with sponges which seals off the bottom of the monument from the rest of the water.  Once this is done, I remove a corner sponge and “dive down” into this space, replacing the sponge I took out… and now it’s time to get rid of the water that’s been trapped in this space.  Using sponges makes this easy but it’s still a bit of work to keep flying around the monument and sponging up the water; the game’s creators have improved the physics the game employs, i.e., the water has currents and it “moves” and this alone can make getting rid of the water interesting because it keeps pushing me out of the way and other annoying things.  It might take me, oh, maybe twenty minutes to soak up all the water in this space but once it’s done, I now have a dry space to work in and it’s on to the next step: Cleaning out the interior of the monument.

This can take days for me to do and more so since, as I mentioned, all the monuments seem to be be filled to the brim with junk and there’s no easy or simple way to get rid of it outside of maybe a command you can use; I know it exists but I don’t know how to use it.  That means clearing out whatever’s inside the monument the hard way – one row of junk at a time.  It is monotonous work; not only do I have to clear out all of the junk inside, but I also have to remove all of the junk that’s in the five rows between each column to expose them on all four sides.  At one point, I though about using TNT to get rid of as much of the junk possible… except, um, I have a tendency to use more TNT than I need and the last thing I wanna do is do any more damage to the monument than already exists.  To keep from putting myself to sleep with this repetitive work, I’ll section off areas, cutting a huge area of junk into more manageable areas and whittling them down until there’s nothing but clear floor and all columns are fully exposed.  Next, restore all of the columns.

This is kinda/sorta easy since they’re all made out of the same material – those prismarine bricks I mentioned but it’s time consuming to fly around each column and replacing whatever’s there with the bricks; while I’m doing this, I’m thinking about the floor and what I want to do with it.  My latest thing is the pattern you see in the picture but once the floor has been fully exposed, you’re only limited by your imagination when it comes to how you want it to look.  As I restore each column, I’m also adding the lights you see on each column, as well as lights along the ceiling; the “see in the dark” potion only lasts eight minutes (and I usually go through about 100 of potions just doing this part) so the lights become a necessity.  Once the columns have been restored and lights placed, it’s time to work on the floor and in whatever way that’s come to my mind; compared to everything else I’ve done to this point, doing the floor is quite easy… but there’s still a lot of work to do.

After the interior has been done to my liking, it’s time to leave this dry and lighted space and go swimming to finish the containment wall – but taking a moment to go to one area of the monument and seal it off with sponges.  To break the monotony, I’ll actually seal myself inside this rather large and maze-like space so I can sponge up all of the water inside; that can take an hour or more and employ the use of thousands of sponges.  Getting rid of all the water in this interior space is a pain in the ass… but not even as bad as the next step:

Getting rid of all of the water trapped within the containment area.  Some of the other players who tackle this use sand to sop up all the water in this space and I even thought about using sand myself… except what you’re really doing is replacing all of the water with blocks of sand that, eventually, will also have to be removed.  It’s too much of a pain for me to calculate the volume of water to be removed; oh, I can do it and I know the math involved… it makes my head hurt so I try not to think about it.  By using sponges, I don’t have to fill the whole space with them (and like I stupidly did the first time I did this) and I keep working on more efficient ways to use the sponges so that I get rid of all the water but makes removing used sponges not so much of a chore.  My latest thing is to quarter off the top area of the monument by creating walls of sponges; from there, it’s a matter of laying down rows of sponges in an area, slowly but surely lowering the water level and removing used sponges – it’s easy to get rid of them as I go along than to leave all of those sponges in place and cleaning them up later.  It’s almost painfully time consuming and the water isn’t making it easy to move around as it buffets me here and there, making flying around underwater not so easy.  To remove all of the water from the four sections can take hours as well but the way I do it, for now, seems easier and less painful that filling this huge space with blocks of sand.  Now, in Creative mode, I’d never run out of sand… but if you can, try to imagine how much sand you’d need to fill this space that’s maybe sixty rows high on all four sides and maybe fifty rows high and above where I’d already sealed off the bottom of the monument.  Do the math – I refuse to but trust me when I say this is a lot of space to fill and even more sand that has to be used, recovered, and reused until all of the water is gone.

As much as I want to see exactly how much sand is needed to do this, nope, no frigging way I’m doing that; it just makes a hard thing to do even harder in my opinion.

It takes me days to do this in Creative mode; in Survival mode I don’t know – or want to know – how long it would take me but, like I said, some Facebook forum members report that it takes them months doing this because, of course, they don’t have the time to constantly work at this due to work, school, and other things.  The bad and maybe even funny part is that every time I do this, I tell myself that this will be the last time I work a monument and, indeed, as I explore the world, I might run across another monument; I’ll see it, remember what I just went through doing the other one, and just pass it by.  Even when I create new worlds I don’t go looking for them any more but, um, sheesh, if I happen to stumble across one, fuck, why not – let’s work this one anyway; maybe I can think of better ways to uncover one that won’t take three or four days to complete.

Other than making oceans of lava disappear, I think this is one of the hardest things one can undertake in the game and especially in Survival mode.  It makes battling the mobs of bad guys look easy and carefree and the only places in the game that I think could be a lot worse are the Nether and the End World.  Getting to the Nether is easy – just build a portal… and then hope that once you step through it, you don’t find yourself plummeting to your death, which has happened to me more times than I want to admit to.  The End World isn’t so easy to get to; first you have to find a stronghold – which may be under a village or not; you have to navigate the stronghold and it’s a maze and even when you find the End Portal, you need certain items to activate it and those items aren’t easy to come across in Survival mode.

But those last two places are for another discussion.  Why go through the hassle of exposing an ocean monument to air and doing other stuff with it?  Because it’s there.  It will test your patience and your ability to stick to the job once you’ve started it and while there’s no Xbox achievement for doing this, I tend to get a great sense of accomplishment doing this.  I currently have 44 worlds I’ve created and have messed around in and I’ve not bothered to work at least one monument in every world because, um, I’m not that patient and, really, if you’ve done one of them, you’ve pretty much done all of them outside of whatever additions you might make, like as you see in the picture.  I actually have a video of one monument I completed with the help of my son-in-law; while I was working the inside parts, he was building additions to the monument that, honestly,  I never thought about doing.  Sadly, WordPress won’t let me include the MP4 video in this post, which is a damned shame because the completed and modified monument is, in my opinion, spectacularly pretty thanks to my son-in-law’s work.

Still, as much as doing this can be a major pain in the ass, I actually find it relaxing as I methodically do the work; I’ve done this so many times now that I’m not really thinking about what I’m doing outside of the logistics of getting it done and, yeah, a downside is that it can be so monotonous that I’ve found myself starting to nod off from time to time.  As I work, I do think about some stuff, like, how many blocks really make up the containment wall and, at the least, thinking about the math required to compute the exact volume of space inside the containment wall; I think about how many bricks actually make up the columns including the blocks on the inside; the columns are actually “solid” blocks of prismarine bricks; each row contains 16 blocks and there are 16 rows down to the floor and, if memory serves me, there are 25 columns – again, if you wanna do the math, be my guest.  But as I’m thinking about stuff like this (and refusing to do the math), I’m methodically getting it done and I always seem to surprise myself to find that I’m done doing something.

Those of you who play Minecraft and have done this know what I’m talking about; those of you who don’t play the game, well, um, if you ever choose to play it – and I’m not saying that you shouldn’t play Minecraft (it’s actually pretty addictive), if you ever come across an ocean monument, ya might think twice about tackling one and more so if you don’t have the time or the patience to do so but, then again, if you need to work on being focused and being more patient, this’ll be the thing you wanna try to accomplish…

Provided you don’t drown first or get killed by guardians, of course – I did mention this earlier, didn’t I?


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Posted by on 25 July 2018 in Life, Living and Loving


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More Gaming!

As some of you may know or remember, I play Minecraft and I’ve been playing for a while now; those of you who also play this game knows that when you create a new world, there are some basic things you need to do (unless you’re in Creative mode, which makes doing this easier) and in no particular order:

    If you started with a bonus chest, destroy the chest and pick up everything including any torches set around the chest.
    Find some trees and start chopping them down to make wooden tools, a crafting block, and charcoal (I’ve denuded whole areas doing this part)
    Think about a shelter and especially in Survival mode (unless you’ve chosen to start in Peaceful mode so you can do all of this without getting attacked when night comes); my daughter and her hubby have taught me a few tricks about this part, including start digging a mine shaft – then, once you go a few levels down, dig into the side of the shaft and carve out enough space to, at the least, put down your crafting block, a furnace (if you have enough cobblestone), a large chest or two, and space for a bed.
    Begin or continue your mining efforts to collect coal and iron – lots of coal and iron.
    Hunt for food while exploring the area.

Well, after getting the Norse Mythology World pack, most of this was easy since it set me down inside a fortress or keep, filled with buildings and villagers so it was all about raiding the houses for the chest most of them contained – I wound up with more food than I’ve ever had starting a game.I left the fortress/keep and wound up in another village and a really nice house at the coordinates 118, 68, -131; those of you who don’t play won’t understand this and those who do, just wait to see why I mentioned this – it’ll become clear shortly.After chopping down more trees and exploring the houses for more loot, it was time to go looking for coal and iron which means exploring the area. One of the common sense things about this moment in the game – and more so when you won’t have a compass – is to put down torches along the route you’re taking so that you can find your way back to where you began your exploration, which I did and was able to find a little coal and a bit of iron.This Norse pack has some beautiful constructs and I can’t imagine the effort it took to create them so I went to check them out to see what hidden goodies could be found and since one such area was along the path where I’d already laid down torches, not a problem.One of the things I’ve learned to do playing this game is to use the Notes app on my iPad to write down stuff about the world I’m in, like, what I named it, the seed that generates the world and, importantly, the coordinates of my home base and, sometimes, other stuff like villages, etc.. it helps to do this when my son-in-law or daughter drops into my world and they like it enough to create one of their own – hence my noting the seed number.Guess what I didn’t do? Right, just wait for it. At this point, I knew where I was in the area and it was fascinating enough exploring it that I didn’t need to write this stuff down because I could see my house from where I was… right up until I was in the water checking out a wharf that had a chest – in the dark – and fell over the edge of a waterfall.And wound up getting lost for several hours and all because I never bothered to write down the coordinates of my home base; this is what I consider to be a rookie mistake of the highest order. I found a lot of other structures included in the world pack, found a lot of chests and loot I could use – oh, and did I mention that the world opened in Survival/Easy mode so when it got dark, I was getting attacked at every turn? I’d been wandering around the damned place for almost two hours before it dawned on me to set the game level to Survival/Peaceful – yep, that’s how bent out of shape I’d gotten about getting lost.I’m almost out of the food I had on me (that’s when I changed the game mode – duh) but was still nearly hopelessly lost. I could have set up shop in many of the places I found but I was determined to get back to where I started and finally, three and a half hours after I started out, I finally found my way back to my home base.After emptying my inventory (which was full) and writing down the information I should have written down before I started exploring, my first act was to kill all of the villagers where I’d set up my base… that’s how pissed off I was and, besides, they were in my way. Before I got back to base, I saw the entrance to a cavern that had torches in it – and I knew I hadn’t placed them. Once I killed the villagers, I wanted to find this place again so I could see where the torches led, that and when I took a moment to peek in the cavern, there was a lot of iron to be collected.Now, what I should have done was explored that place when I stumbled across it but, no, I figured I could find it again easily enough… yeah, right. I ran around the whole damned area looking for this spot (and, no, it never occurred to me to write down the coordinates when I found it) for at least another hour, talking to myself so much in the process that Linda thought I’d lost my mind or something, which wasn’t far from the truth at this point.What I wound up doing is another thing I’ve learned to do – copy the world I’m in and put it in Creative mode – my son-in-law taught me this one and you do this to prospect the world for things to do in your Survival world. It seems redundant but this actually helps and especially when digging mine shafts. I duplicated the world and flew around for another hour before I found the cavern entrance again; I wrote down the coordinates, went back to the Survival game, and explored the cavern and it had a large chest with some nice stuff in it as well as lots of iron and gold – and was a good place to dig my mine shaft.Oh, and I murdered a nosy villager who kept getting in my way while I was digging down to bedrock in my mine shaft. Once I got down to bedrock, I carved out the area, finding iron, redstone – and I needed both to make my compass – as well as more coal and the reason why mining can be fun, diamonds. Luckily, this time, I didn’t run into any lava while digging, which is what usually happens to me and I don’t even wanna talk about how many hours I’ve spent getting rid of lava so that, when my mine is ready, I won’t encounter it again.Those of you who play the game and like to mine knows exactly what I’m talking about, right? There’s never enough gravel when you need it!By the time I returned to my home base, I was exhausted and still miffed at myself for the rookie mistakes I made in this world.

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Posted by on 6 July 2018 in Life, Living and Loving


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Let the Games Begin!

I thought I’d take a few moments to remind everyone that I’m a gamer and have been for a long time and these days, I’ve been playing a lot of Minecraft, which has been getting updated to include more features, better graphics and even more bad guys who are more than willing to make you respawn and lose everything you’re carrying in your inventory. I’ve managed to acquire three add-ons – an Egyptian theme, a Norse theme, and one called Chroma HD that has some amazing graphics that makes the deliberately designed 8-bit game look a lot more realistic and, most notably, the chickens – which are everywhere in Minecraft – look more like chicken than ducks.My biggest pain in the ass is a game called “State of Decay 2,” a game where the world has gone to shit and zombies are everywhere and the object of the game is to have people in your collective, establish a home base and other useful outposts, gather much needed things like food and fuel… and while avoiding or eliminating the zombies that are in endless supply. This is another game when going out at night isn’t a smart thing to do and I recently told my son-in-law, I feel safer playing Minecraft at night and on the hard level than I do playing this game.The game, since it’s release, is not without problems that have required a few updates, which is to be expected but the thing that really bugs me is the kind and number of tasks that are to be done while you’re trying to maintain adequate levels of supplies so that the members of your collective do’t get pissed off and leave or starve to death. Doing these tasks can get you killed and turned into a zombie and unlike some games, if the character you’re playing with dies, that character stays dead and gone.It’s kinda hard to develop any real strategy and in a way, the game has a same beginning requirement that Minecraft has: Ya need a place to live and you have to gather supplies and, via mining, establish a source for critical items like coal and iron. State of Decay 2 isn’t very different in this regard but with zombies running in hoards – including one called a juggernaut that you do not want to tangle with (unless you wanna get ripped in half) – maintaining a happy and healthy collective can be rather frustrating.Oh, did I mention the plague hearts? Taking out a plague heart isn’t that difficult… once you can take out the hoard of zombies that gather around one then, if you can accomplish this, beat and band on the plague heart and hope that another batch of zombies don’t overwhelm you and make you dead.For any task – from scavenging for supplies to helping other “communities” with their survival efforts – you can take a member of your collective with you and, at the least, they’ll take on the attacking zombies while you focus on the task at hand. The downside is that the person you take with you can’t help you gather up the supplies that can be at any location; at most, you can have a pack that carries a max of eight items that also includes the stuff you need to keep your ass alive, like meds and weapons. Now, there are vehicles all over the place, some immediately drivable, some that can be repaired enough to drive and those vehicles have a trunk that can store some items – I’ve seen up to six spaces in the trunk but it’s not enough space at times and you wind up leaving stuff behind and, hopefully, you can go back for them if you can.The game has a multiplayer mode where you can invite up to four of your friends to join your quest for survival; they can fight with you, pick up and carry the stuff that you’re unable to, and even share stuff that they have. I play with my son-in-law and that dude is crazy in that we can jump in a car to do a task… and he’s hip deep in zombies and tends to dive right in without carrying any meds, not having enough ammo for whatever gun he’s carrying, or having his melee weapon break. He throws caution to the wind while I’m a lot more conservative about this; if I can avoid fighting off a hoard of zombies, I’m good with that – I just wanna do the task and get the hell out of dodge.At some point you have to grow your collective, which starts out with four survivors; some of them have necessary skills like medicine, gardening, and mechanical already… but some don’t so on top of doing all the other stuff you need to do to survive, you have to search for manuals that teach a skill and those aren’t easy to find. I’ve found that there’s nothing worse than having seven vehicles in desperate need of repair and you don’t have a mechanic in your collective who can go to the workshop you have to build and create repair kits; without them, you’re walking to wherever you gotta go and even though you can sneak past some zombies, ya can’t sneak past all of them and you’ll wind up having to fight them and get injured.It is a fun game to play but it frustrates me to the point where sometimes I have no idea what I need to do or the tasks I do have aren’t so doable under the community’s current state, like, in one community, all seven of my people were sick or injured and in no shape to do anything and I had to gather and use supplies to update my infirmary to a level where I could, with one click, get them all healed.This isn’t one of those games that keeps playing even when you’re not playing it; if you exited out of the game while in the middle of getting swarmed by zombies, when you go back to it, you’re gonna be right back in the situation you left which is very bad, of course. On the other side, if you update one of your facilities – and some updates can take up to thirty minutes – if you leave the game, that update wont keep happening “in the background;” nope – you return to the game and you’re still waiting for that update to finish.One of the goals is to eliminate all of the plague hearts but doing so doesn’t get rid of the zombies and does, in fact, makes even more aggressive zombies to appear and attack you at every turn – and even inside your home base. You’d think that getting rid of all of the plague hearts would end the game but I’ve been told that it doesn’t – it just gets worse, if you can imagine that.In fact, in one community, I got rid of all the plague hearts but at the expense of having my seven member community reduced to three people in short, grisly order. I’ve often found myself at a location and my vehicle destroyed and now I have to return to base on foot and my base can be 2000 meters (1.24 miles) away. In one such situation, I trashed my truck killing zombies – you can run them over and it’s rather messy – managed to avoid the roaming hoards, and I was literally a few feet away from the safety of my base… when a juggernaut (and a hoard) appeared out of nowhere, killing my character and the one following me before I had a chance to react to the attack.At that point, I was ready to quit playing this game and if getting decimated in this fashion wasn’t bad enough, when I told my son-in-law what happened, he thought it was funny.So there you have it. I do have other games that I play, thanks to my Xbox Live and Xbox Game Pass memberships; one gives me free games to play and the other lets me play games without having to pay for them and for as long as I want; if I don’t like a game, I just uninstall it and look for something else.I currently have 12 active games and 72 games I can install and play so it’s not as if I don’t have games I can play that aren’t so frustrating… so why am I playing the ones that gives me fits?Because it’s something to do – why else would you play a game? It is to note that one of the 72 games I can install is the first version of State of Decay and believe me when I tell you that I have better success playing the second game than I have the first! In the original game, every time I go out on my first mission, my character gets killed! I’ve installed the original game six times… and have uninstalled it six times.Sheesh…

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Posted by on 5 July 2018 in Life, Living and Loving


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I actually didn’t think I’d have anything else to write about this game… until the new “better together” version of Minecraft was released yesterday… and it was a disaster.  The gaming industry has been talking about this upgrade to the game because since Minecraft has been around, there are millions of people playing the game across the different platforms – iOS, Android, PC, and the consoles – but unless you were on the same platform with someone you wanted to play with, I couldn’t play with someone who might be playing on their Android tablet due to a mismatch in the protocols that were specifically written for a given device.  Well, they finally solved the riddle and figured out a way for everyone to play Minecraft with everyone else and regardless to their device of choice; as I recall, the only exception is the Java version of the game and that’s because most modern devices other than PCs won’t run Java (or aren’t allowed to).

The beta version came out on Xbox One and to mixed reviews from those who gave it a try and one of the things I know many tried – and because I did it – is taking a world from the Xbox One version and converting it over to the beta version and it worked perfectly for me and many others.  Admittedly, the world I converted wasn’t a big one in terms of file size but there were others who had already built worlds that were not only grandly elaborate but in terms of file size, they were massive.  Still, the beta performed the conversion to my satisfaction even if I wasn’t fond of how they changed things like the game’s menus from what I’d painstakingly gotten used to playing the Xbox One version and I wasn’t the only one as evidenced by the riffing folks were doing on Facebook’s Minecraft Xbox One group page.

So now it was just a matter of the beta running its course and many people were waiting for it to go live.  I don’t know about the other console versions but Microsoft assured everyone that once the new game went live, we could still play the original version – it just wasn’t going to be updated going forward.  Additionally, anyone who had either the game disc or had purchased the digital copy and had played the game for five hours or more would receive the new game free of charge; it was also announced that any add-on packs purchased would be applied to the new game and work as expected but with the understandable caveat that some packs would take a bit of time to be included.

I fired up my Xbox to see if the new version was available there and only because I saw where my iOS version, Minecraft Personal Edition (or PE) had updated and I took a deep breath and proceeded to update my Xbox game and in a note to my son-in-law, I told him that I was afraid to open it but did so anyway.  Now things get interesting.  First, before I could do a thing with the new game, it locked up and eventually crashed my console and had to be reset.  Once that was done, I reopened the game and just like everyone else was probably doing, when to convert my current world into the new game; when it got done, I opened it… and discovered that literally half of my world was missing!  I found myself hovering in mid-air – and that’s because it was what I was doing when I closed that version of the world when I last played it – and then I turned around toward my “headquarters,” only to find that except for a few things, it was gone – all I could see was water where there was never any water.  Even better, I moved to where my headquarters used to be and discovered that the mountain that sits behind my place was literally bisected and to the point where one of my mines was exposed!  That’s about the time I started laughing because I knew if I was seeing something like this, there would be others who’d see it as well and as evidenced by hearing my son-in-law suddenly curse when he did the same thing I did and found parts of his converted world missing.

Several attempts to re-convert my world resulted in more of it being done but one of the things I noticed was that the world I was trying to convert was 257.5 MB in size… but only 170 MB had been converted.  I thought that perhaps the missing megabyte were tied up in the add-on pack attached to the original game so I went to apply it.  The size of the add-on is 8.4 MB… but the process kept getting to 8,1 MB downloaded and just stopped… then the game crashed and took my console along for the ride.  I told my fellow Facebook group members what I’d experienced and even provided pictures of the “carnage” and, yup, a lot of people were having similar problems.  But wait… this gets better!

If you had created a world in the beta, it would open up without a problem… but if you had an add-on applied, well, you could go to it in the menu and download it… except it wouldn’t download.  On the Facebook group, many people were reporting that they could open their worlds from the beta… but there were some things that weren’t working anymore that were working before this thing went live.  But wait… it gets even better from here!  Remember when I said that we were told that if we already had the game either in disc form or digital download we’d get the new game free?  Well, some people who had the game already discovered that when it was time to download and launch the new game, um, it was gonna cost them $349.00… and I had to laugh as I wondered how many people actually re-purchased the game at this price and while hoping that no one did.

I went to to check system status one to see what they knew and, two, because this thing had crashed my console three times already and, indeed, Microsoft was aware that something was very wrong – and that’s about all they said; something’s wrong and we’re working on it so check back to see if/when we get it fixed.  I had another good laugh thinking about how Mojang – the creators of Minecraft – and Microsoft were getting bombed and slammed by millions of players and pretty much all at the same time.  I know some shit about moving stuff from a test/beta environment to going live so I know that you can test things until you get them working the way you need them to work but once in production mode, um, things don’t always go smoothly.  Talking to my son-in-law, he managed to get in touch with someone on the Mojang team who told him that they were having problems because they didn’t expect four million people to start playing the game pretty much all at once and because that’s what happened, everything was crashing and burning around them.  Now, you know, being experienced in such things, I said, “Really?  They should have expected it and should have planned on this happening!”  Whether those involved really did take this into consideration or not doesn’t change the fact that the much ballyhooed and anticipated new edition of Minecraft just blew up and now tech teams were – and are still – scrambling to fix it.

I’ve yet to check Xbox system status or fire up my console to see if things got fixed but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s still broken.  And, yes, I am very glad and happy that I can still play the original Xbox version that has my world very much intact and functioning properly.

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Posted by on 21 September 2017 in Life, Living and Loving


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More Minecraft

At this point, I’m not 100% sure of how long I’ve been playing Minecraft – maybe a week or a bit longer.  I could find out easily enough but the real point here is how it’s quite possible to get totally lost playing this game.  Then again, whenever I play a new game I like, getting lost in the moment isn’t all that unusual, as my recent experiences with Watch Dogs and Watch Dogs 2 would indicate and, knowing myself, once the novelty of Minecraft starts to wear off I’ll spend less time playing it – just don’t ask me when I think that will happen.

Some folks seem to play this game for the thrill of the hunt, coming to “life” when the sun goes down and the scary monsters come out; some seem to be explorers in that once they establish a home base, it’s time to gear up and explore everything they can get to, both above and below ground.  Some are creators/builders and I’ve seen plenty of examples of the work of some of these folks… and to say mind blowing doesn’t come close, as a YouTube video I watched yesterday illustrated:  Some guy built an underground world inside of his Minecraft seed and, wow – just wow.  I can’t imagine the amount of time this guy spent with his creation and I’ll admit to having my brain lock up for a moment when my son-in-law suggested that taking on a similar project would be fun; I told him that at the moment, I couldn’t even imagine what such a project on my part would look like.

It seems I like building things; with my son-in-law’s help, I built a four-story “apartment building,” built a kind of covered archway that leads to the apartment building; constructed some simple bridges between where my main “home” is and this little islet – and then between the islet and another part of my location… so that I could build another “standard” place.  I kinda have a goal to build something in the varying locations in my seed (there’s an achievement for this in Xbox) so gearing up and exploring possible building locations just seems like a logical thing to do.  What strikes me as being funny is that I’m finding that I’m building things without any real purpose other than seeing a shape in my head and start stacking blocks.  Like, with the apartment building, I told my son-in-law, as we drew close to finishing it, that I had no idea what I was gonna do with this place once it was finished.  Indeed, everything I’ve built outside of my main base has no pre-determined purpose; however. the apartment building is the most complicated structure so far.  The last place I built has me thinking about dividing the space into rooms… as soon as I figure out (or I’m taught) how to build interior walls because, um, this game doesn’t seem to have anything like sheet rock…

Now, if I didn’t have enough to do in my main seed, I decided to duplicate this seed and start a new game in Creator mode (as opposed to the default Survivor mode) and, wow, talk about a different animal!  In Survivor mode you have to do shit to get the stuff you need to do whatever it is you wanna do; Creator mode gives you everything you need to do this so once I got into my duplicated seed, it was hard for me to resist the urge to start cutting down trees and burrowing down deed to get the stuff I needed.  I just went into my inventory, tossed down a crafting block and furnace – and two items I actually don’t need, by the way – and started clearing a huge-ass space to build a place to, at the very least, place a bed.  I’m finding that I’m gonna need a lot of chests to store excess stuff in because they don’t run out like they do in Survivor mode, like, I can use all the cobblestone blocks I want and not have to stop to go mine more of them… but when I change materials, um, I’m finding that I’m gonna need those chests to stash the stuff I’m not using so that the inventory I carry with me doesn’t get overloaded.

This is kinda daunting since my crafting skills aren’t all that great at this point and, again, I’ve not gotten used to having everything I could possibly want or need to do something so what I think I should be doing is thinking about what I want to build, like, um, I have this idea for a tower-like structure that if I can pull it off, will end above the clouds…

I like mining; there’s something rather soothing about taking pickax and shovel in hand and just hacking at the various materials; whenever I hit a dead end – like one of those gigantic rivers of lava I seem to have a knack for falling into – I feel… frustrated.  Yesterday, Brian and I started taking apart a mountain of sand – and this sucker is huge – so he can collect the hidden sandstone to build a pyramid.  I sat for a good long time hacking at the sand, only stopping to convert the sand I’d been collecting into more sandstone… which seems kinda silly since this mountain we’re deconstructing probably has more sandstone than he’s gonna need to complete this project he has.  Even though he has his own seeds/worlds to play in, he seems to be having a grand time doing stuff in my world… and I’m not complaining one bit.  But…

I went to his world, one so he could show me the latest texture pack he got called steampunk – it’s pretty cool looking, especially the trees that have piping and moving gears in them and, two, so he could show me how close he was to a base camp he created that’s close to a Mansion he found.  Now, if I often feel lost roaming around in my world, following him around in his really amplifies this feeling because, of course, he knows where he’s going (for the most part) and I’m clueless as to the lay of the land.  And while I managed not to fall into a deep hole or otherwise get killed, it gets annoying to be running around at night and getting shot up by skeletons and having creepers and zombies chasing you all over the place.  You have the instinct to put and keep your head on a swivel when not in Peaceful mode… except there’s really no way to do this and, at one point when we were battling and dodging a clutch of creepers, I found myself wishing that I could create a shotgun which would be better than relying on a sword; I’d rather have the advantage of killing these things from a distance instead of having to always engage in close quarter combat with things that like to literally blow up in your face.

A bad guy alarm would also be a very nice thing to have, just like having a flashlight or even a torch that stays lit as you carry it in your hand… except if you have a lit torch and you run into a zombie, um, well, you see the problem here, don’t you?  Oh, and since the skeletons are archers, they can stand off at a distance and pepper you with arrows until you escape or get killed.  Now, one can arm themselves with a bow and arrows as well but I haven’t graduated to this point even though in my world, I do have the stuff I need to make one so this is gonna be on my list of things to do.


Posted by on 22 August 2017 in Life, Living and Loving


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