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Xbox One Gaming: Minecraft Moments

A few thoughts about Minecraft first, like, it’s not as much a game you play as one you do; while a lot of players are all into fighting off the mobs and all that, some are builders, some are miners and, as such, fighting off the various mobs is just one of those things you gotta deal with while trying to finish a building or digging your mine.

Then there’s lava and anyone who’s gone digging around underground will encounter lava and learn what it’s like to have the game declare that you tried to swim in lava. You then learn how to navigate the lava and, importantly, how to use sand and gravel to “soak up” the lava so it won’t give you any more problems as you explore and dig in your world seed’s underground.

I like playing with the lava. It presents a challenge to be overcome while looking for diamonds (in particular) and stuff like coal, iron, gold, redstone and lapis lazuli – this is needed to enchant your weapons, armor, and a couple of other items. In Survival mode, it’s about finding and obtaining as much gravel or sand that you can carry; sixty-four blocks of gravel might seem like a lot but it really isn’t and I’ve run into lakes of lava so “vast” that even attacking it with as many as ten blocks of sixty-four sees me running out of gravel and having to go back and recover the blocks already placed.

It’s time consuming and can be so repetitive that, sometimes, I get sleepy while monotonously dropping block after block into the hot, seething, and dangerous lava. But it’s also rather relaxing, I think, and I can spend hours on lava eradication and allow my mind to think of other things and to keep my mind off of my 24/7 neuropathic pain.

Recently, though, I’ve noticed that the game’s world generator, along with various updates to the game, seems to be putting more lava in the mix than I’ve seen in the past. Instead of isolated lakes of lava, I’ve been seeing oceans of it – and that’s just the lava I can see and doesn’t account for the lava that hides under blocks of stone or whatever but once you can identify such things, now it’s just a matter of getting to it.

In my most recent world – and one I started in Creative mode – I wanted to build some places and set them up so when someone comes to visit me in this world, they can get the basic stuff they need and have a place to sleep at night and in those moments when I switch from Creative to Survival mode. Once I got the building built and outfitted, I dug a few mineshafts to expose more stuff… and to look for lava and dispose of it.

The advantage of going after the lava in Creative mode is that, for one, I’m not gonna run out of blocks of sand; I use red sand specifically because, well, you’re not going to find red sand deep underground and I use it an an indicator – if I see it somewhere, I know I’ve been there already. The other thing is that when you break up blocks of gravel, you don’t always get gravel – you get flint and it’s a pain in the ass and more so when flint, to my knowledge, only has one use and that’s to make a flint and steel that can be used to activate a Nether Gate or to set fire to something you want to burn up.

I’d usually spend, oh, a couple of hours removing lava in those underground areas – almost consistently around level 11 but you can run into some above this level and it’s more prevalent in the many ravines you can come across. But here lately? I’ve run into lava that’s taken me real-time days to get rid of. Every time I think I’ve gotten it all – or all that I can get to – I look somewhere and, shit, there’s not only more lava but a whole lot of it! that one spot that, at first glance, looks easy to get rid of winds up revealing that, nope, not a small spot but the beginning of a huge ocean of lava.

I’ve thought, “Fuck this shit – I ain’t fucking with this anymore!” and with the thought also in mind to leave it for other players to deal with… but I can’t leave it alone and especially when the lava will make digging out a mine a very hazardous thing to do once I turn on Survival mode… so it’s got to go… and I’m not all that happy about it.

I can see one world seed with way too much lava… but I’ve run into this in multiple world seeds and one’s I thought that I got rid of all the lava, only to go back to those areas previous visited and dealt with… and there’s more lava and lava that wasn’t there before.

Shit. As I labored through my most recent lava removal project, I began to think that the Minecraft programmers decided that there’s not enough lava in the game so let’s put even more lava in there – and while and because they’ve been indulging in a lot of recreational drugs and emptying many bottles of their favorite hair of the dog.

Before this recent turn of events, I’d go into an area and get rid of all the lava I can see and/or get to, including all the lava hiding under block of obsidian. Now, I leave the lava that lives under the obsidian right where it is, not because I’ve gotten lazy but it occurred to me that if someone comes into my world and they need obsidian for something – and especially if I’ve neglected to build a Nether Gate, well, they can break out their diamond pick axes (the only tool that can handle obsidian) and get it… and they can deal with the lava – I got enough of the damned stuff to deal with already.

But, yeah, it’s just part of Minecrafting. Dealing with the lava in Creative mode, well, sure – some would consider it cheating but given the huge amounts of lava I’ve been seeing, I don’t have a problem with it. Now, I do and will attack it in Survival mode only because it’s the real challenge and it’s kinda fun to be desperate for more gravel or sand and, fuck, you can’t ever seem to find it when you need it… but when you don’t, there’s more gravel than you know what to do with staring you in the face.

Figures, huh? Anyway, I just wanted to share this with you!

 
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Posted by on 12 July 2019 in Xbox One Gaming

 

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XBox One Gaming: The Definition of Insanity

I have now played Prey 11 times and currently in the middle of my 12th go-round and while the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, eh, I keep doing the same thing over and over… and keep screwing stuff up.

Worse, I’m not even sure how I keep managing to do that since it’s not like I haven’t played the game and, 11 previous times, realized some of the same mistakes I’ve been making. When I play a game like this, I wanna get through it quickly to learn how to play it and then use subsequent plays to really get into the game’s nuances while being mindful of the stuff I deliberately – or sometimes unknowingly – passed up for the sake of getting the feel of the game.

So as I keep plying Prey, is with the intention of doing everything that can be done before ending the game and, crap, I just keep missing stuff or not paying attention to something until it’s really too late to go back and do it. Like yesterday, for example: I was supposed to take a space walk to fix a breach in the station which would get me some goodies after I fixed it. Instead of doing it when I was supposed to, I forgot about it until the station was surrounded and getting outside impossible.

Of course, I uttered those famous last words: “I can still do this!” And got instantly killed when trying to complete the task.

There’s one room in the whole game that I’ve not been able to get into. It needs a keycard… and I have no idea who has it or where it might be. I had the brilliant idea to locate the person who works in this room, find his body, get the keycard and I located his body.

It’s inside the room I can’t get into. I looked at the Prey walkthrough and, how about that: The room I’m trying to get into isn’t mentioned anywhere in the walkthrough but clearly, it’s a one of the many, similar rooms that can be entered and usually has some goodies in them. For some rooms, you can hack your way in or, if you found the code, use it… except for this one room and, ironically, it’s the IT supply closet and having been a career IT guy, well, it figures that some IT rookie went into the supply closet, locked the door behind him, and died while having the key still on him.

Still, I, having fun playing it and, um, I like it now – well, except the part where those damned Mimics keep surprising me and making me jump. It’s kinda embarrassing, after playing the game as many times as I have now, to walk into a room, my equipment isn’t telling me there’s a Mimic present… and one leaps on me and more so when I can walk into a room and know where the Mimic is hiding, sneak up on it and blow it away with my trusty shotgun.

Or I just shot the shit out of something not a Mimic. Oops.

Sometimes I have to save the game, quit, and go back in because I’m trying to complete a task, have everything I need to finish it… and can’t; the game just chirps at me and as if to say, “What are you waiting for?” Well, if ya don’t give me the thingy to execute the task, how am I supposed to execute it? Like, right now, I’m trying to complete a task in the Water Treatment Room… and I can’t finish it. The machine I need to interact with just keeps chirping at me like it’s my fault I can’t finish the task.

I am now very familiar with the layout of the Talos I Space station; I know where I have to go and how to get there but yesterday, I found myself running around and taking the long way or going I the wrong direction when I didn’t have to and, needless to say, I wasn’t happy with myself about it because I should know better by now.

I needed to go outside for something and I knew where I had to go… and ran right past the airlock that would have put me almost exactly where I needed to be. And, of course, I didn’t realize that until I had traveled to the next sector of the station, something that’s made annoying given how long the game takes to do this.

Yeah, apparently when it comes to Prey, I’m insane… but happily so.

Sheesh.

 
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Posted by on 23 May 2019 in Xbox One Gaming

 

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XBox One Gaming: Prey

When I saw this game on GamePass, I watched the little video that sometimes accompanies games and I thought, okay, this looks interesting and since it’s free, I’ll download it and give it a try.

I didn’t get past the beginning moments of the game – once my day reset itself and I had to escape my “apartment” – before I felt that I wasn’t going to like this game because of the sneaky aliens called mimics and their ability to look like everything in the game. Prey is a FPS (first person shooter) that’s a bit of a horror story, set on what is obviously a deserted and really messed up space station and as evidenced by the many times I found myself jumping every time a mimic pounced on me out of nowhere and, oh, yeah, at this point, I’m only armed with a wrench.

By the time I fight my way through Phantoms and mimics to get to my office, I’m of a mind that I’m not gonna like this game – and I started this game as I do many games: I started on easy so I can learn the game better. I make it to my office and I can feel how tense I am for real; in the few minutes it took to get there, I’m asking myself, “What the fuck is going on?” and so much that before I set off for the next mission, I’m already thinking about uninstalling this game…

But.

I gotta see what happens next and I thought that since I went through the “trouble” of downloading the game, I owed it to myself to play more of it and with the sense that I was probably gonna regret it.

A couple of nerve-wracking hours later, I am seriously regretting my decision. The game had me running around all over the place with a combination of main story items as well as a lot of optional items which you really shouldn’t ignore; I did while running and fighting for my life and wound up missing some important items the optional tasks gives you to be able to move past a certain point in the game.

I fucked up so I did the only thing I could do: Started a new game with the second available character so I could go back and do the things I ignored with my first character. Make no mistake at this point: Going back and starting over did not make getting to the point where I stopped with my first character any easier; I knew what was going to happen and still got jacked up and even more than I did the first time.

I really do not like this game… but.

Two kinds of mimics. Three kinds of Phantoms. A bad thingy called a Telepath, one called a Weaver and the worst of them all, Nightmare, a creature that shows up once you upgrade your character’s abilities via thingies called Neuromods, which gives you special abilities and some of those abilities are related to the monsters chasing you throughout the game. When Nightmare shows up you have 2:30 to evade and hide from it or to kill it or, well, get ready to start over again from the last autosave.

While dodging all the baddies, you’re also gathering stuff to be recycled along with food, ammo for the weapons you wind up collecting along the way and I found myself being very aware of where the Recyclers and Fabricators were… well, most of the time. Too often I found myself with no food or medkits to restore my health, no ammo for my weapons and you just haven’t lived until you try to beat down Nightmare with your wrench; it killed me like six times before I pulled that one off.

The story is… convoluted but like all game stories, it makes sense eventually; I’m running around all over this huge place, trying to survive and while trying to pay attention to the snippets of story that various characters are telling about these Typhoid critters, how they wound up on the Talos 1 space station and what the hell is really going on. I decided that, no, I really and seriously do not like this game; it’s making me edgy and frustrated me at certain points so much I just saved the game wherever I was standing and got out of the game just so I could decompress.

I’m trying to tell my son-in-law about the game and I couldn’t even get the words out of my mouth… but I did talk my grandson into playing it because he likes games like this – he’s a fan of the Dead Space games so this one is right up his alley and I’m reminded to check with him to see how he’s doing with it.

Sixty-four game hours later, I finish the game with my second character and now I know what’s really going on and, no, I’m not gonna tell you; go on GamePass and get the game if it’s still available and find out the real deal. Of interest is that there are a couple of ways to end the game. The overall task you’re set on is to blow up the station and the Typhoid infestation before it spreads to Earth. The other is to set off a special weapon that keeps the station – and yourself – intact but destroys the infestation that, at this point, has really taken over things. You can choose to blow up the station and have a seat on the station’s bridge and get destroyed or you can opt to haul ass to the only working escape pod. Likewise, you can destroy the infestation, keep the station in one piece but escape via the pod.

Or, as I found out, you can destroy the infestation, blow up the station anyway, and still escape in the pod. Game over, right?

Nope. There’s one more thing you gotta do and, nope, not gonna tell you what it is but if/when you see it, the whole game makes sense. I still don’t like this game and I dislike it so much that on my primary Xbox profile, I’m into replaying the game with the provided third instance… as well as playing it using my secondary Xbox profile. There’s something addictive about the game that I cannot put into words.

The game’s graphics and physics engine are outstanding, especially during those times when you have to go EVA to accomplish a few tasks. This, by far, is my favorite part of the game because there’s no up or down in space and jetting around outside the station requires a lot of deft controller work to move about and do your best to stay oriented. The only thing the physics engine gets wrong is when you’re firing a weapon outside of the station – you don’t wind up flying off in the opposite direction and like you would for real. The thing that got my attention about this specifically is one mission where I had to leave the general area of the station to do something and, on my way back, I found myself chasing the station as it moved in its orbit – and that’s something you can see throughout the entire game.

You can come to a complete “stop” but you’re still kinda falling because nothing really stays perfectly still in space and even when you’ve stopped for some reason, you can see that the station is still moving. It is just the coolest part of the whole game.

Get the game. Play the game. See if you dislike it as much as I do and as you keep playing it.

 
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Posted by on 12 May 2019 in Xbox One Gaming

 

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A Gaming Update

Years ago, some little known gaming company, in association with Microsoft, came up with a game called Crackdown; the gist of the game was you, as the player, ran around the city dispatching the criminal element in spectacular fashion and as you went about cleaning up the various sectors, the game creators added in a need to collect two different types of orbs; green ones that enhanced your agility and blue ones that added to all of your growing powers. Along with this, the more you shot, blew up, and beat up the bad guys, the more your powers grew until you could literally leap tall buildings.

I remember the demo that Microsoft released for the game and thinking, “Eh, I’ll check it out… probably not that good of a game.” Man, was I wrong about that! The demo was fucking amazing and so much that I called my son-in-law and told him he had to get this demo and he did… and we both wound up waiting with bated breath for the full release of the game that had plenty of stuff to do and keep you occupied but was the first real “sandbox” or open world game and gained “Game of the Year” status.

A lot of people anxiously awaited news for the follow-up game, which had whispers of including a lot of stuff that the players around the world wanted to see in the game… and that didn’t happen. Well, not in the way Crackdown players were thinking. The original game studio dropped the game’s sequel and some other studio produced Crackdown 2; some people liked it while others, like me, thought the game was pretty shitty. The only thing the new studio did was take the original game, changed the tone of the graphics, changed a few of them, and added some stupid monsters along with the bad guys. It was okay… but not really all that.

Rumors began to appear as word of a third release of this game floated around and it was a few years before Microsoft kinda/sorta confirmed that, yes, there will be a Crackdown 3 and it’s gonna be unlike anything anyone has ever seen before. But the game suffered some major setbacks and a lot of shit got changed, more promises that the game was coming and at least three release dates were missed until everyone got their shit together and Microsoft said that come hell or high water, Crackdown 3 was going to release – and especially on Xbox’s Game Pass – on February 15, 2019.

Myself and others I know who have been waiting for this game and after hearing this before took the news as “I’ll believe it when I see it.” The team working the game was Tweeting like crazy and doing their best to keep everyone following @Crackdown 3 as up to date with release progress. My son-in-law called me and told me to be on the lookout for two Crackdown 3 updates that were gonna show up or I could go on Game Pass and download them myself, which I did – it made sense that since the game was really gonna be released, putting some of the pieces in place before the fact made sense given that there are millions of Xbox gamers who subscribe to Game Pass and since the game was going to be free for subscribers (with an option to buy if ya wanted to), the Microsoft servers would be swamped trying to handle everyone who wanted to play the game trying to download it at 12:01am on the 15th and wherever in the world they lived.

And it went live as promised… and the game is amazing. It has the feel of the original game, features actor Terry Crews as Commander Jaxton – and Terry is funny as hell right from the game’s opening sequences. I was up for quite a while getting a feel for the game and dealing with the new aspects and while I’ve been reading where some gamers are praising the game and some are bashing it, I really don’t have anything bad to say about the game other than it takes a bit of time to get used to the game play.

One of the amazing things about the original game that my son-in-law and I – and maybe other players – noticed was that you could climb to the top of the tallest buildings in the game and as you did so, you had this sense of… danger as well as having a real-life “fear of heights” and I kid you not about this… and I’m not afraid of heights. And the new game gives me that same sense of “dread” as some of the buildings in the new game are really up their and precarious, like the new “Propaganda Towers” that one must climb and navigate… and those fuckers ain’t all easy to deal with.

Another thing I remember from the original game is when jumping with your character of choice, damn, getting him to jump the way you needed him to – and sticking the landing – wasn’t easy… and it’s not easy now and I’ve found myself either happily frustrated – or pissed off frustrated – as I jump and leap for ledges or platforms and my character either fails to grab on to something or just fucking leaps over whatever I’m trying to land upon and, often, causing me to fall from tall places and, not a few times, “dying” and having to respawn. But I kinda expected it just as I expected to be spending a lot of time trying to do things while yelling at the TV for a lot of reasons.

And it’s just so much fun! I’m now at the point where I’m taking on the game’s big boss and, as I also expected, she’s kicking my ass but that’s because she’s got so much help attacking me while I’m trying to waste her that it’s kinda hard to keep your attention on wiping her out while her minions are shooting the shit out of you. The good part is that I can decide, after she kills me again, to walk away from the battle with her and go do some of the other things in the game, like finding all the orbs scattered throughout the world as well as trying to win gold medal status on the various driving and agility challenges that are similar to the original game.

And I haven’t even talked about the part of the game where you and a bunch of other players can go in and literally destroy the city – and that’s because I haven’t played in that part yet. Originally, the ability to destroy the city while ridding it of the bad guys was supposed to be part of the game as a whole… but there were some technical problems and the biggest one I heard of was when they tested it, the cloud computers all crashed and burned because they overloaded. So one of the changes was to take out the destruction and put it in a separate “game” and when I get a chance, I’m most certainly going to go into this part and blow some shit up because, um, that’s a lot of fun all by itself.

What makes games like this so much fun to play is that you have a wide selection of characters to play with – well, after you recover their DNA which got scattered all over the city when their ship got destroyed; there are four levels of game play available, from Rookie (easy) to Legendary (which has to be a motherfucker to play) and this allows and lends itself to what gamers call replay value; is the game good enough to keep playing even after you beat it? The original game had good replay value… and I’m already seeing that this one will have good value and more so since the other characters you can play with all have their own unique abilities and talents, like being more agile, good at shooting or driving, being stronger, etc..

I started on Rookie because it makes sense to me to start out easy, get a feel for the game and all that before starting all over again in the next mode and even with different characters; I even started a couple of other campaigns already with two other characters just to see how they operate in the world and, um, because they were there and here’s the thing: Even though I’m almost finished the game with my main character and I’m getting familiar with the city and all that has to be done, it doesn’t make playing with another character any easier other than I know what to expect when I attack a factory or another bad guy facility; knowing what’s gonna happen and what you have to do is good… ya still gotta do it.

Eventually, I’ll accomplish my goal of defeating the game at all four levels of play and that’ll keep me plenty occupied for quite some time.

 
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Posted by on 19 February 2019 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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Another Gaming Update

Yep, it’s that time again! Still working away in Minecraft and the thing that got me thinking that it’s time for an update was something I spent four days doing:

Getting rid of oceans of lava. Some folks play this game to battle the mobs of bad guys who like to come out at night and wreak havoc on the unwary and with updates to the game, there are some mobs that’ll get after you during the day so, yeah, the thrill of the hunt makes playing this game fun for many.

Some folks are amazing builders and spend their time transforming a world in some pretty spectacular ways, from original designs to fairly accurate replications of real world structures up to and including entire cities. Some folks take on this task solo or create/join a realm where other players around the world can come in and add their distinctiveness.

Some folks are miners, always on the hunt for the things they’ll go through a lot of like iron and coal while constantly on the hunt for lapis lazuli, gold, redstone, emeralds and the king of materials, diamond. Nothing makes you feel safer in a world than to be encased in diamond armor and packing diamond weapons and tools. Some miners are builders in that they will create amazing mines, complete with minecars and creating devices that can sort things out and put them in chests; I’ve seen some that are just amazing.

When you mine, chances are good that you’re going to encounter lava at some point so it’s always good to learn how to get rid of it, that and where there’s lava, there can be diamonds along with iron, coal, etc.. Getting rid of lava is easy: All you need is some sand and/or gravel… and lots of it because while the method of lava removal is simple, working at removing it is anything but and as evidenced by the fact that it took me four real-time days to get rid of what even I thought was a stupid amount of lava.

As a kind of recap, the way I dig a mine is, I guess, simple: Pick a direction to dig in and start by hacking out steps that are, usually, four wide – why this works for me is kinda hard to explain except to say that you want to expose more stuff as you dig down and four wide just makes sense to me although I’ve dug shafts with steps that are three and five wide.

Then it’s just a matter of hacking out the steps, removing 16 blocks of stuff for each step down toward bedrock which tends to be around y-axis 5 or so; then I literally carve out a room that’ll reveal all kinds of good stuff… and lava. What makes this fun, interesting, and challenging is that you don’t know where the lava is going to be and you can encounter it before getting close to bedrock.

Of course, one must be careful doing this while playing in one of the Survival modes that isn’t Peaceful; fall in the lava, get burned to a crisp and have to respawn without all the stuff you were carrying because the lava’s burned it to a crisp as well. You can die in the Peaceful setting but, man, you’d have to fall into a very deep pool of lava and be in there for a little while and even if you manage to escape, you’re still on fire and could die so, duh, you learn real fast to be careful around lava because even if you don’t fall in it, it spits “embers” all the time and one can land on you – and now you’re literally running around like your hair’s on fire.

For me, lava disposal is not only necessary for my mining but I find it to be relaxing as I methodically get rid of it… but four days ago – and in a world as well as a mine where I thought I had gotten rid of the lava I had encountered, I discovered that I hadn’t. No biggie – I’ve got plenty of gravel and it’s probably just an isolated pocket that I just didn’t run into.

Yeah, right… sure it was. What I found was more lava than I’ve ever seen in any of my 41 other worlds and spread out over such a large area that not only did I realize it was going to take a lot of time exposing and eliminating it, because I was finding it in huge quantities and along all three axises, I had to keep very firmly in my mind how to get out of the mess I’d gotten myself into – it is oh, so easy to get lost and find yourself spending hours trying to get back to the point where you first encountered the lava.

Oceans of it. From being one block deep to as much as fifteen blocks deep in some places. It’s not just the lava you can easily see – it’s also the lava that’s hiding behind and under blocks and there’s a way to tell by looking for blocks of material that doesn’t have a block immediately under it which, really, doesn’t mean a whole lot at times because under the second block could be lava.

I started out attacking the lava that was, from my perspective standing at bedrock (y-axis 5), sourced at y-axis 14 – I had to carefully dig upward and creating detours around more lava until I found the source of the lava… and everything went to shit after that. I’ve done this so much playing Minecraft that I’ve learned there a pattern to hacking out the blocks and uncovering more lava so I can put my mind on autopilot and get to hacking. Now, usually, when I run into a good-sized lake of lava, eh, it’ll take me a couple of hours to make it go away – longer if I have to recover the gravel – but this isn’t something to worry about when doing this in Creative mode – you’ll never run out of gravel or sand and to avoid confusing myself, I use red sand.

For one, the only place you find red sand in the game is in the desert so deep underground, nah, not gonna run into it when you’re not working a desert biome. The red sand is also a marker for me; if I hack into an area and see red sand, I’ve been there already. Now I’m gonna tell you what was really fucked up about this.

When I find a really cool world seed, I’ll create two worlds – one Survival, one Creative; my son-in-law taught me the value of doing this because you can use the Creative world to do some prospecting for the Survival world which, duh, makes sense since the two worlds are identical… or they should be.

Doesn’t seem to be the case for me this time. You see, I was working the exact same area that I had done in the Survival version but, somehow, the Creative version of the same world had more lava. I thought I had missed something in the Survival version and went back to it and to the coordinates where, in the Creative version, I had dug up my own version of Hell… and there was no lava there.

What the fuck…? Okay, don’t know what’s going on here but I’ve got some work to do and that lava ain’t gonna go away by itself. So I get to work, shifting my mind into lava removal mode while working on how I’m going to section things off instead of stupidly wandering all over the lava field. As I tossed in block after block of red sand – and while uncovering yet even more lava, I thought about something my daughter was saying the last time I played the game with her and her husband – she hates lava and doesn’t want to deal with it and will leave it to her hubby to fuss over.

We were laughing at her because she knows, just as we do, that when you’re digging the place up, you’re gonna run into lava so it just makes sense to learn how to deal with it… but just a couple of hours into my task, yeah, I can understand why she hates lava so much.

There was so much lava that I kept getting frustrated; everywhere I dug, there was more lava and at one point – and the point where I said, “Fuck this – I need a break!” I had dug up so much lava that it was everywhere within my field of view and a lot of it below bedrock, too. It was above me, below me, all around me; in one spot alone, I dropped twenty blocks of red sand – twenty! – and throughout all of this, I was wondering how many blocks of sand I’d used; I know the game actually keeps track of that… in Survival mode; how many blocks of stuff you’ve dug up and how many you’ve used.

I guesstimated that in the four days it took me to get rid of all that lava, I used millions of blocks of red sand. I got to the point where I had decided that, fuck it – I’m not gonna keep going after every damned drop of lava – just fill it in, move on to the next area… but, you see, there’s something I learned about this and as it applies to how I dig my mine caverns: At some point, I’m gonna run into this lava anyway so, shit, it’s best to just man-up and get rid of it.

And I make this harder than it has to be because it’s not enough to just make the lava go away; no, I gotta fill in every damned place until the area I’ve dug up is consistently level so that when I finally get out, it’s all quite nice and neat. Nothing rubs me the wrong way faster than having unfilled holes especially in the floor and, yeah, I know, it’s just a fucked up way my brain works and something my daughter and son-in-law tend to laugh at me over. It’s just that in Survival mode (but not Peaceful), you can wind up with some very deep holes in the floor of whatever level you’re working on – and you can die and lose all your stuff… and you only have five minutes to hustle from wherever you respawned back to the place you died so you can get as much of your stuff as you can.

Good luck with that. But that’s also why I dig my first mine very close to my respawning point and, here lately, I’ve taken to creating my dwelling around the initial spawn point – the point where you enter a brand new world and that initial mine shaft is inside the dwelling so if I fuck around and get killed, I’ll respawn inside my house and now it’s just a matter of running back into the mine or the cavern I unearthed and to the spot where I foolishly met my demise.

So, late yesterday afternoon, I’d finally placed my last blocks of red sand; I’d spent so much time and focus being determined to rid this place of all lava that after the last block was placed, I hadn’t realized that I was back at the starting point of the mess I had created for myself, which was a good thing – it meant I didn’t get lost in my own mine but even for this, there’s a method to my self-induced madness: You expose all the lava you can and work backward and similar to how you’d go about mopping a floor – start at the farthest point and work back toward the room’s entrance.

The trick is always keeping your starting point in your head and even being smart enough to leave something at certain areas that will take you back toward the beginning – no matter what mode I’m playing in, I’ll use a series of torches or other light sources to mark such places and in a way that there’s no mistaking that this is the area I need to work backward to – usually three light sources that won’t be confused with the many other light sources that’ll wind up all over the place.

What I don’t know is why the Creative version of the Survival version had much more lava but, if nothing else, it teaches me something about how the world generator does its job and even to the point where using the same seed number can still generate a lot of randomness, oh, like a hell of a lot more lava that the Survival version didn’t have, for instance.

In between kicking my own ass over the lava situation, I started playing “We Happy Few,” a game that’s gotten some rave reviews since it’s release… and this game is, well, crazy and more so since you really gotta figure out how to play it… while you’re trying to play it and, at least for me, there’s nothing more frustrating than trying to figure out what the hell you’re supposed to be doing; playing this game made my lava removal project look easy – I know how to get rid of lava.

I’m getting the hang of it… but it’s a wacky game and I can see why it’s so popular and the best part of this? I get to play the game for free instead of having to buy it thanks to my Game Pass membership.

 
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Posted by on 20 January 2019 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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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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