Tag Archives: Gaming

Xbox One Gaming: No Man’s Sky (Hello Games)

Holy shit! When I saw this game on GamePass – and while looking for something new to play – I said, “Let’s check it out!” Watched the little video which, actually, doesn’t tell you a lot about the game but it’s free to me and if I don’t like it, I can uninstall it.

I love this game. I’m hooked on it. I hate this fucking game. The first thing the game does is put you on a planet that’s trying to kill you and, yeah, that’s exactly what happened to me. Oh, the game told me what I had to do – find some sodium (more about this stuff later) and use it to beef up my protection or to get inside a cave or other structure but for me, there wasn’t anything around… so I died.

Lesson learned and, I found out, almost everyone who first plays the game gets killed right out of the gate. The game is mission-driven with both primary and secondary missions to be completed and there’s a lot of shit you gotta do… that you don’t know you have to do unless you happen to pick up the game because someone you know is already playing it and can help you. I’ll add that there are a ton of YouTube videos about how to go about playing the game and there’s a Facebook group for it but what I wound up equating the game to is also a sentiment I’ve seen expressed by other players:

This is Minecraft for adults. Once I could wrap my head around this concept, some things became… clearer. Load up on essential stuff, which is a kind of backhanded science lesson: Carbon, Ferrite Dust, Oxygen, Sodium, Di-hydrogen crystals. Claim a place and build a shelter. Sounds kinda easy… except most of the planets the in the game – and there are an untold number of them – are inhospitable and will kill you pretty quick if you’re not on your game and if the planet doesn’t try to kill you there are other things that will try.

You have to fix your gear which, of course, isn’t working the way it’s supposed to. Once you get it fixed, then you have to find a crashed ship and follow the instructions on how to fix it and get it flying… all while the planet is trying to kill you. By this point, you know that some crazy assed storm of some kind is gonna pop up and unless you were lucky enough to find a lot of sodium, well, you’re on your own unless, again, you can find a cave or some other shelter to hide in until the storm passes.

Then you leave the planet you started out on (but you can come back to it if ya want to) but one of the things I learned via YouTube is that before you leave the planet, scrounge around for these items: Cobalt, which is found in caves, and Marrow Bulbs – also found in caves. Oddly, that first planet and where the crashed ship is, there’s always a cave so you go in there and ransack it for all the Cobalt and Marrow Bulbs your backpack can hold (but watch your ass because there are things in the cave that will try to kill you, too, like “Hazardous Plants” which, when you off them with your newly repaired Multi-tool – gives Oxygen or Sodium. With the Cobalt, you wind up making a Refiner; you take the Cobalt and refine it into Ionized Cobalt… because it’s worth a lot of money.

You load up on this stuff ASAP because at one point, you’re gonna have to visit a space station and that’s where you can sell the Ionized Cobalt and all those Marrow Bulbs you collected because, trust me – you’re gonna need all the units (money) you can get your hands on. Here’s the thing that might fuck with you.

While the game is mission-driven, it’s probably best to ignore some of the missions and just roam around the place you’ll eventually call home. Scan everything you can scan (your efforts are rewarded), scrounge for the essentials and work on building your base, powering it, and a lot of other things that drove me crazy trying to do… and still does because, as I found out, you can come across something that you’re gonna need later in the game – but you don’t know that you’re gonna need it… until you need it.

Did I mention the pirates? Okay… flying the ship you repaired might take some doing to get the hang of but you could be attacked by pirates and the thing that made me insane was that, bleh, I didn’t want to fight them – I just wanted to get to where I was going – but when you have them to deal with, um, your pulse engine – it makes you go really fast and warping is something else you’ll find out about – gets temporarily disabled and your ability to boost your speed is limited.

Try keeping track of the pirates, who are zipping around you like flies on shit and you pretty much can’t move a whole lot. Early on, wiping out the pirates is pretty easy… so you know that ain’t gonna always be the case.

There is so much… shit you have to do. A lot of shit you gotta get in order to do things. I am actually playing this game on all three of my Xbox profiles – and I just recently reactivated the third one I had just to use some of the YouTube knowledge I gained and, yep, from all the mistakes I made that I didn’t know I shouldn’t have made. You get to certain points where you can’t really do something but the game keeps nagging you to do something and I finally figured out that this is the time to just roam around the planet and collect stuff to turn into units and to be able to buy stuff you will absolutely need. Here’s the real kicker:

Between my three profiles, I have about, oh, maybe close to 100 hours of game time… and I’m not even close to really getting into the heart of the game and nowhere near being able to do some of the stuff that you can do in the game. Like with Minecraft, shit… I’m looking at players on the Facebook group and all of the wonderful things they’ve built, the ships they’ve collected and some have thousands of hours playing the game – and I failed to mention that this game came out about four years ago and is available for PC, Xbox One, and PS4. So it’s been around for a while and a lot of people have been playing it for all this time.

I told my son-in-law – who’s been playing with me – “Every time I think I’ve done something outstanding, I find out that I ain’t did shit compared to what other players are doing!”

The game throws handicaps at you and at every turn. I spend more time refueling my ship and Multi-tool items than I do anything else. I have one mission in particular – to learn how to build a Circuit Board – and I have no fucking idea what I’m supposed to be doing; the game says to help the Scientist so he can show you how to make one… except, when I talk to him, there’s nothing to do for him.

So I’ve been running around looking for stuff that’s gonna get me some units. I’ve been finding broken ships and trying to fix them – and some of them need items to repair them that it’s not time for me to even know how to get them at the point in the game I am. I can get them flying… and that’s about it. I’ve bought some ships. You find out quickly that you are gonna need a bigger and better Multi-tool and those things ain’t cheap. For them, you start out with a Class C Multi-tool but you learn there are Class B and Class A devices… and they can cost a grip or two.

There is so much to this game, like the Space Anomaly, Freighters, black holes and the list goes on. Most games have a wiki that includes a walkthrough that you can reference to, at the least, figure out what you’re supposed to be doing. This game has one… and it’s completely worthless… and I know why it is.

Methinks it’s impossible for someone or a bunch of someones to come together and write a definitive and complete walkthrough for a game that is so wide open and diverse. Even the IGN wiki – and their wikis/walkthroughs are usually very good – sucks. It’s outdated and incomplete.

So like Minecraft, you just gotta figure out what you can do, when you can do, and all while staying alive. This game is easy… and not even. I love it… and I fucking hate it. There hasn’t been a day since I first started playing that I haven’t told myself, “I’m not playing this fucking game today!” – and I wind up playing it anyway. I am learning – and you will, too, if you decide you wanna try it – that every day, I need to have a plan on what I’m gonna do and stick to it. Yeah, a mission will pop up that has to be done but right now, I’m pretty much ignoring the primary missions, trying to take care of the backlog of secondary missions if/when I can… but I’ve just been stockpiling the necessities and trying to make enough units as I can.

It’s almost boring and tedious work. You always have to be mindful of how much space you have in your backpack. You can get more space but that means trying to locate Drop Pods – which ain’t easy – or being able to buy one extra space from every space station you wind up visiting; once you get a space from a space station, you cannot get any more spaces from that station.

I know this is sounding confusing and I apologize for that… but the game has, again, a lot of shit going on and so much that even as I play it, I’m confused because I just do not know how to do some of the shit I have to do or I get to a point where I just don’t want to do anything except sit in my shelter or my ship… and just be there.

It’s an amazing game and graphically beautiful… and there’s no real end to it. I read that it’s impossible for a player to visit every system and world the game can throw at you… and I believe it. I am trying to establish a base on every planet in every system I’ve visited so far… and it’s a daunting task given what you wind up having to do to build the most minimum base: You need a big enough wooden shelter; a base computer; a teleporter and the means to power it, like the Biofuel Reactor you wind up building early on in the game. You wind up running around and scavenging for the materials you need, oh, like using your scanner to find Copper deposits and then figuring out how you’re gonna get to it without something bad happening to you along the way. Most planets, again, try to kill you with hellacious storms. There are “bad critters” who’ll attack you and there are even plants – and one looks just like a Venus Flytrap – that try to kill you.

Fall into a hole that’s too deep and you’re dead unless you can save yourself. You can get lost in a cave – and just like you can get lost in a mine in Minecraft. The game is… frustrating at times but I can’t stop playing it but, yeah, if you have an Xbox and you have GamePass, go get this game while it’s still free and find out for yourself.

And try to survive. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve died in this game. There is so much about this game that I don’t know about – yet. Members of the Facebook group are always talking about stuff they’ve come across and/or have done… and I’m nowhere near being able to have a clue. With some games, if I’ve been playing for over one hundred hours, yeah – I know some shit about playing that game.

Not this one. Like I said in the beginning: This is Minecraft for adults and in spaceships and I am happy that I know how to play Minecraft even if I still can’t do all that’s possible in that worthy game. I’ll find my groove in No Man’s Sky – I just don’t know when that’s gonna happen or if it’s gonna happen at all.

Loving this game… and I’d wish it on my worse enemy in a flat, skinny second because that’s just how much the game pisses me off.

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Posted by on 29 June 2020 in Xbox One Gaming


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Xbox One Gaming: Journey to the Savage Planet

At first glance, this looks like a game for, um, younger gamers. My son-in-law told me that he was playing the PS4 version and told me that the game was available on GamePass (for Xbox). After he said a few things about the game, I said I’d download it and check it out.

This isn’t a “kiddie” game. Oh, there’s a lot of “cuteness” to some of the wildlife and the gaming environment is very colorful, varied, and looks outstanding in 4K.

So you’ve kinda crash-landed on the planet you were sent to explore and determine its suitability for exploitation by Kindred, the company who sent you there and there’s not supposed to be any intelligent life on the planet. Sounds easy, right? Nope. Well, the initial part of the game – examining your busted spaceship and exploring the first three areas is easy and gets you used to the controls for moving, jumping, shooting, and a weird combo of punching and kicking. You collect enough minerals – carbon and silicone – to build a gun and having the task to scan everything that can be scanned, you’re off to explore the planet which seems not to be as devoid of intelligent life as you were led to believe.

This is one of those games where as you proceed, you need to gain skills and other updates. As you move into the first big area to be explored, there are some things you won’t be able to do until you acquire other skills – and all of the areas to be explored are like that. There’s stuff you need to collect – like orange goop that you both locate and eat to level your character up, giving him more health and stamina. Every time I find some goop and eat it, I have to laugh – the character sounds like a sick dog and is kinda gagging on the goop. Fall off of something that’s high enough and the character sounds like a dog that just got kicked or something (no real animals are harmed in this game, by the way). I was expecting to hear my character say stuff like, “Yuck, ew!” when eating the goop and saying “Ow!” when he falls from too high a place.

Lots of falling in this game. Lots of plants and animals who are trying to do you in. Hidden items all over the place and some that require special items to get to and then special skills are needed to handle the special items. You have to locate transportation devices and activate them to move around the planet easier especially after leaving the Landing Zone – that’s the first part of the planet you explore and it’s connected enough so that you can go through that area without using a transporter… but you still have to find and activate them… and you’ll be glad that you did.

There are primary tasks you have to do as well as secondary tasks but, for shits and giggles and to make the game more interesting, there are “scientific experiments” you should complete to move to a higher level of explorer and to open up more tools and stuff you’re gonna need.

In the first, oh, day or so that I played this game, I died more than I have playing any of the Borderlands games and Minecraft combined. The good thing, if ya can call it that, is that when you die – and you will most certainly get offed – you can go back to the area you died in and recover any items you had or, gulp, bury your body and collect some stuff. I’ve fallen off of stuff, jumped for places and just flat out missed them or screwed up the landing and by the time I shut down the game – and out of sheer frustration over a boss battle I’ll get to in a moment, I decided that I didn’t like my son-in-law all that much for introducing me to this game.

But I like it. The first boss you have to defeat is a crab-like monstrosity you have to battle while he throws stuff at you; you either have to duck, jump, or move to another platform of rock while doing your best to, at first, shoot three glowing thingies on its body. While there’s a pattern to the boss’s attacks, it’s still not easy to shoot what needs shooting and, in the final phase of defeating this boss, you get five things that have to be shot.

It took me getting killed like 20 times even after I saw the pattern to realize that I was already carrying something that would, temporarily, stop the boss’s attacks… and I was kicking my own ass for not thinking about hitting it with the sticky stuff I’d collected way back in the first part of the game. He was literally blowing me up, burning me with fireballs he’d launch in the second battle phase; knocking me off the rocky platforms into the lava at the bottom, which had me wishing I had some Minecraft sand or gravel to get rid of.

Yeah… it was that bad. Killing some of the bad creatures isn’t as easy as shooting them and many of them shoot back; some you have to hit with an “acid bomb” to dissolve their protective coating before you can shoot them, some you have to use a plant bomb on and some, when you shoot them, well, you don’t want to be up close when you do because they explode like an atom bomb and if the blast doesn’t kill you, you might die when you hit the ground after being tossed high into the air. There’s this one critter that’s a big plant with an eyeball; it scans the area and if it sees you, it starts dropping bombs on you so you have to sneak up on it and poke it in the eye to kill it so you can move on. The bad part about these is that if you linger too long, it’ll be back and will have to poke it again to get out of the area.

I’m running around the planet, collecting stuff, doing the tasks and as with many of the games I play, I got to a point where I said, “Fuck the missions – I need to collect more stuff and get to the next level of explorer!” This is one of the things I both love and hate about playing a new game – figuring out the best way to go about playing it. It’s for this reason that I have a second Xbox profile that can play the same games my main profile can play…

So I can replay the game and, hopefully, not make the same mistakes I did the first times. If you don’t have your Xbox set up to do this, you might want to consider doing it and no matter what kind of games you play. It doesn’t cost anything – you just need a Microsoft email address to set up the second gaming profile.

The second boss is even worse than the first one. This one looks like a giant, one-eyed worm and there are a lot of smaller one-eyed critters that pop in, whack you with a long tongue, then disappear and it is fucking annoying and distracting because the bigger version is also whacking you with tongues that pop out all over its body… and while you’re jumping from platform to platform trying to shoot the glowing spots on its body.

That fucker killed me more than the crab boss did. I finally realized that I had to ignore the little versions, pay attention to where the plants that renews your energy are, and just worry about hitting the glowing spots. But in the second phase, some of those spots are covered with “amber” which means you need to throw acid bombs at the spot first then shoot it. There’s plenty of acid bomb plants… but you gotta be quick to get to them and sometimes, it’s a bitch finding them all and you’re running and jumping around trying to find them while being constantly under attack.

The final phase is worse. The attacks really step up on you, but if you stay calm and focused you can make it through this part although there were a few times when I got to having one last place to shoot… and I died and had to start all over again. Once, I almost threw my controller because I finally killed the thing… then mysteriously died… and had to start over again.

Did I mention how much I don’t like my son-in-law?

But I finally defeated it and to put it into perspective a bit, when I faced this boss on my second profile, I only died twice before defeating it and one of them was my fault – didn’t get to the energy-renewing plant in time.

Now, once you get past this boss, the rest of the game isn’t that bad although there are a lot of challenges and bad beasties you have to deal with because you have to power up the mysterious tower, get inside, and find whatever’s in there and bring it back to Kindred. I kept dying – trust me, you actually get used to it and even expect it – but it was mostly by falling when the grappler – which you earn along the way – just fails to connect or you do a double jump… and fail to stick the landing. The critters are bad enough and there’s one that looks like a frog built like The Hulk that’s a real bitch to kill but a bit of concentrated work gets rid of him but I didn’t think being in the third part of the planet was that bad…

Until I got into the tower. Well, wait a moment… unlocking the other two power sources wasn’t easy and especially the second one. The first was easier – break through a cover that takes you down and remove some things that puts the device in motion… then you gotta leap from moving platform to other platforms to get to the top… while lava fills up the chamber so you can finally activate it. Yep… died a lot in there, too.

The second one is worse because all manner of critters are attacking you as the area you’re standing on moves upwards and even when you manage to survive that, the stupid thing lets loose some bubble-like things you gotta avoid or you’re gonna do it all over again.

You get through all of this and can get into the tower – finally. Oh, I wanted in there badly! And once I got inside, I wished I hadn’t. It was pretty rough moving through multiple levels inside the tower, all kinds of stuff trying to kill you while you’re trying to find and destroy items that will allow you to get to the next level. I died a few times – but not as much as I did prior to getting to this point – and finally made it to the final boss.

That’s when I realized that I hadn’t done enough stuff in the early phases of the game to be able to defeat the final boss. There was a lot of stuff I didn’t do that would have fully leveled me up and given me more stuff to fight with so I abandoned the final boss fight so I could go back to the beginning of the game to do the stuff I should have done.

Oh, and I started a new game on my first profile, too. I used what I had learned putzing around on my first profile on my second one and that’s going better… much better. So, hopefully, by the time I get to the final boss via my second profile, I will be better armed to do battle. Maybe.

Why? Because I don’t have anything better to do, you know, being quarantined and all that. I like this game… and I hate it. My son-in-law, when I tell him how I’m doing with the game, laughs a lot and of course he thinks it’s funny because he’s not playing the game. We did play it together at first – he showed me some stuff he’d already learned but as far as I know, he hasn’t been back to play although if he’s been playing on his PS4, I wouldn’t know it. He should be very glad we don’t live close to each other… extremely glad.

Would I recommend this game? Sure – it’ll keep you busy and it is challenging and, for now, if you have GamePass, the game is free – doesn’t get any better than that.

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Posted by on 25 April 2020 in Xbox One Gaming


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Xbox One Gaming: What I Built

I figured it out but I still have to get in touch with the OneDrive support group and get them to answer some questions for me but, here’s a top-down view of the structure I tried to describe yesterday! For reference, the front of the building is to the right. This picture doesn’t really show the details so much, not like you could see it being in the game.

Man… I do so love the roof on this place and especially the middle section which, again – and in the first version of this structure – it took me a while to figure out how to close it up. Imagine, if you can, if that middle section wasn’t there and the four side “extensions” weren’t there and the structure is just a straight “line” kind of thing. Without them, closing the roof was easy but when I added the middle section and created the four side extensions, yeah – I was racking my brain trying to figure out how to make it work.

I had taken a screenshot of the interior and uploaded it to OneDrive… and it’s not there even though my Xbox said it was uploaded. I’ll try it again later and show it to you but, yesterday, I was standing inside the place and wondering what else I could do with it and added some “arches” that appear to support the crossbeams I’d put in – they look pretty cool, I think.

As I stood there, I found myself being kinda awed at what I’d created. I’m no master Minecraft builder by any stretch of the imagination but I realized that this was the largest structure I’d ever built and the most detailed one. Now, the first big structure I built was supposed to be a castle of sorts… and it turned into something other than that (I’ll try to screen print it and show you that one); it took several iterations before it got to it’s final form and I can build one in about an hour and compared to the three days it took me to build the first one.

It took that long because I had to make a mountain disappear. Anyway, I’m on the inside, taking in the latest change I had made and I was “reliving” how I was flying around all over the place to build the roof, adding the crossbeams and the “chandeliers” needed to light the inside as much as I could without it looking overdone.

And I thought, “I built this…” and, without getting a big head about it, well, I was impressed over how a dream about a column turned into what you see in the picture. But I’ll let you in on something. When I built the first iteration of the structure you see, it pretty much wore me out because, again, I not only built the place but I had to landscape the ground it sat on. If you look at the above picture, I can tell you that it wasn’t as flat as it looks and you can see, along the top edge of the area, where it looks like I cut out a section like a piece of cake. There were huge holes in the ground, many filled with water that I not only had to cover up but fill in with sand first.

Learned a lesson about that in the last build of this. If you look at the edges where the water is, much of the ground you see had to be added and filled in with sand so that accidentally digging up a block of the ground wouldn’t send you on a swim so the outside edges along the water were made to be solid. So after building that last iteration – it required much more landscaping than in the one you see above – I told myself I wasn’t going to build another one.

And then I built the one you see here… and I started building another one in a different world but in a different texture pack. Those who Minecraft knows about the many texture packs available; the one you see is called “ChromaHills” and is now my favorite pack. The one I started is built in a texture pack called “BD Craft” which I found works very well with building one of these things.

As I started laying out the base for the new structure, I asked myself, “What are you doing?” and more so since I have to remove a huge – hill? – that’s blocking what I want to see when I look out of the front door. I got one side of the structure set down but there’s a lot of ground I have to fill in to level things out and set the borders and it’s going to take me hours to get this done. It is painstaking work and to answer my own question, I’m building another one because I don’t really have anything else to do but it also tests my patience and focus; going through all of this serves the purpose of not allowing me to think about the neuropathic pain I have left over by my stroke that still lives with me.

It’s also a memory test since I can’t go back and look at the last one as a reference. Well, I could – but that means exiting that world and opening the last one – and I’d still have to remember what I went there to look at but to me, eh, that would be too easy – the challenge is to remember how I built the last one without having to look at the last one.

Some method to my apparent madness… and it is madness in a way given the way I’m going about reshaping the land and doing things that I really don’t have to do… but if I’m gonna do it, I feel compelled to make it as perfect as I can. As I set to work on the new place, I was already thinking about the roof which, admittedly, is the hardest part to construct and, just as I did with the structure you see here, I started to abandon it; you’d have to try to build it in order to get an idea how much of a pain in the ass it really is.

Oh, yeah… I tried to write down how I built this place and that proved to be more difficult than actually building the place. My son-in-law suggested maybe creating a video of myself building it and putting it on YouTube and it’s a good idea albeit one that made my brain shut down since I have no idea how to do that and understanding that anyone who’d be crazy enough to watch it would spend a lot of time watching it given how long it takes to build it. I could do a video capture on my Xbox… and I’m sure it would exceed the limits imposed and such a file would be stupid big.

Still, I will try to write it down but I can feel my mind balking at this just to think about doing that. I’m pretty sure my lady thinks – or continues to believe – that I’ve lost my mind because I’m sure she can hear me talking to myself as I go about the build and even when I have nothing to say to myself, I’m sure she can hear the controller clicking away as I’m doing stuff.

Shit… I keep scrolling up and looking at that top-down shot… and I’m so in love with the roof and its pattern – and I still wish you could see it from the inside (damn you, OneDrive). Compared to my first big build, this structure is easily twice as big if not bigger.

My next trick, if I decide to do it, is to build this structure in Survival mode which will call for acquiring a shitload of materials and creating many, many more. I haven’t figured out how to build the middle section of the roof without falling off and dying and I’m thinking that even if I figure it out, it’s going to take a very long time to do it. I have nothing but time on my hands but there is a limit to my patience. I haven’t bothered to do the math for how many blocks it actually takes to build the base and the twenty fully built columns.

In my head, I know it starts on the left and, again with a nine-block square and as I write this I know it’s a repeating pattern of nine, four, eight – just for one column. Then 23, 9, 4, 8, 11, 11, 23 and continuing this pattern until all twenty columns have been placed. The math is easy – I just don’t fucking feel like doing it. I couldn’t begin to tell you how many total blocks it takes to build thing and, as an aside, if there was a change to the base game I’d recommend to Microsoft and Mojang, it would be to have the ability to see how many blocks used to build something… and I wouldn’t want to be the one who’d try to code this.

Cobblestone, two types of glass, granite, stripped wood. In Survival mode, I would be scavenging a lot of materials, which would call for a lot of mining and cutting down a shitload of whatever trees to get the wood I’d have to strip for the crossbeams alone… and then replanting the trees since in some locations, there aren’t that many trees starting out or, as I’ve seen, the kind of wood I’m looking for just isn’t in the immediate area. The only saving grace is that I’d do this in Peaceful mode – there is no way in hell I’d do this in any other mode and find myself fighting for my life while trying to do all of this.

Minecraft purists might say I’m a pussy for using Creative mode… and I’m just gonna be a pussy and besides, it’s my game and I’ll play it the way I want to.

So there you have it. I’m now going to crank up the Xbox and get back to work on the new structure that I really don’t need to build – but I’m gonna do it just because I can. While this structure pales in comparison to those I’ve seen other people – including my son-in-law – build, I am unashamedly proud of what I’ve built.

Oh, here’s a link to a view of the structure from the front and from above:

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Posted by on 22 March 2020 in Xbox One Gaming


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Xbox One Gaming: Minecrafting

I wish y’all could see what I’ve been working on in Minecraft; for some reason, my console allows me to send screen captures to my OneDrive accounts but when I do that, the capture isn’t there so I don’t know what’s going on with that. But, let me start from the beginning…

I had a dream about a new structure – no, seriously, I did – that came about after I was messing around with an underwater temple and, in particular, doing something with its support columns. I’ve already built one of these things on dry land but the columns got my attention so I went about designing and building something based on the support columns and how I had modified them.

The first iteration actually turned out well even though I really had no idea what I was building. I created the column I dreamt of – and just one – and from there I spent the next several hours building something from that one column and, wow, it turned out pretty good if I may say so myself. After I got it finished, I started thinking about how I could not only do it faster but improve upon it as well as making it a good place to live when playing in Survival mode – and the first version was built in Survival mode and, to my credit, I managed to build it without falling off of it and killing myself.

Lemme see if I can put the build into words. The column starts with a nine-block square at the base; I then added four blocks to the center of the nine-block square, then at the third block from the bottom, added a nine-block top to the column. Going from left to right, I laid down 11 blocks and put another column at the end of it and repeated this process until I got back to where I started. I then climbed on top of the first column and at the fourth block I had placed, ran a line of blocks across the entire top until, again, I got back to where I started. Now to put a roof on it.

I wasn’t going to settle for a flat roof so I climbed up on the top row of blocks and began to essentially build a giant triangle shape to form the front side of the roof. Got down, went to the back side of the structure and did the same thing and, wow, they were pretty high up and to the point where had I fallen from the top, I would have died and have to respawn. Next came a crossbeam to connect the front and back sides of the roof’s frame.

Hitting the B button to crouch down – and so I wouldn’t fall off – I laid a line of blocks from one end to the other which was slow going. I then went to the middle section and using the B button again, created a bunch of blocks as steps to make a connection to the main crossbeam, then repeated it on the other side. I got done with this, took a huge drink of water and asked myself, “Okay… now what?”

To complete the roof – and starting at the top of the structure, I started to lay down blocks of glass across the entire top; the next row was all cobblestone and I continued this pattern until the roof was completed. Now it was about filling in the sides in a way to create windows that formed a pattern – and that was the easiest thing I did. Once that was done, now it was time to replace the grass and dirt with a “real” floor so using granite and stripped birch wood blocks, I laid down a geometric pattern which took quite a while to visualize and lay down and – voila – my newest creation was complete… and immediately not good enough.

I have since gone through four iterations of this building. I changed the basic shape of it by adding a middle section because, when looking at it, it just made sense and it would expand the building sideways as well as lengthwise. Now, I did this both in Creative and Survival modes; the challenge was to be able to build it in Survival because doing it in Creative is way easier since you can float around up high. It took longer than the original building, of course, but once I had the basic concept in mind, it wasn’t that bad where time was concerned.

I wound up doing something different with the flooring which, again, took me a bit longer to visualize and execute but, in the end, I was very happy with the results… and not so much. Looking at the new structure, I saw that it could be bigger overall and more so when, by creating a middle to it, well, bigger just made sense. At this point, I had been thinking about making it a storied structure with two or three floors but I thought that in Survival mode, I was gonna die and I hate dying in that game so instead of building up, I used the middle section to dig downward; added steps and dug out rooms on both sides. Other versions of this version had me digging out multiple rooms to serve as bedrooms since, occasionally, the family will pop into my game and needs a place to sleep so outfitting the place with some necessities also made sense.

I was extremely happy with the new configuration and especially the different geometric patterns I could make with the floor… but it could be bigger and better. Which led to the first “supersized” structures… and now things get funny. Building things in Minecraft seems to work best when using an uneven number of blocks, like, a 10x10x10x10 base doesn’t lend itself to symmetry like a 11x11x11x11 base does. So for the supersized version, I thought about some sections having 11 blocks and some having 22 blocks, the thought here being to make the structure twice as big… and making a very rookie mistake.

In order to build the bigger versions, I needed a large, flat space which found me literally spending hours landscaping shit until it was as flat as I needed, from tearing down huge hills to filling in deep holes. My daughter has a things about cutting down trees and not replacing them so I had a good time laughing about the fact that I was mowing down trees left and right and not bothering to replace them since the world I was creating the building in weren’t going to be used to play in Survival mode.

Yeah… I told her about that and she wasn’t happy… but back to the mistake.

I’d spent a few hours landscaping the shit out of a world I could work with, laid down the base by doing 11 blocks between some columns and 22 blocks between others but when I went to put on the roof which, by the way, went from the original simple version to something a lot more complicated due to the middle section, I spend long minutes trying to figure out why the “triangle” wasn’t ending in a single block and as it should.

Um, it was because I used 22 blocks at both ends… instead of 23. I’m not even gonna say a whole lot of the several supersized versions I screwed up because I miscounted blocks, okay? But with the structure I was now working on – with the base already completed, shit – I wasn’t going to start over in a new world, not after it took me three hours to sculpt the land they way I needed it, leaving the only real choice to pretty much tear it all down and put in the right number of blocks for the long sections – 23 instead of 22… while all the while kicking myself in the ass for making such a stupid mistake in the first place.

But I got it done and checked my work by flying up and looking down on the frame and seeing that all 20 columns – yeah, 20 of them – were lined up properly. Now to get to work on the roof. The original roof design was easy; the expanded version with the middle section had me confused because with the way the roof is constructed, the middle section doesn’t match up with, say, the front and back sections although they are the same height. So I had to figure out how to make the roof work… and that took at least two hours for me to figure out.

Oh, I wish you could see the completed roof! It is absolutely beautiful and it’s geometric shape is so comforting to the eye. Still – and this is where it gets even funnier – I had a big issue with the supersized version of the large roof; for some reason, I couldn’t figure out how to get it connected so that it looked like its predecessors. Well, I figured it out; the earlier versions of this roof were built from the bottom up – this roof had to be built from the top down and once I realized this, the rest of the roof went quickly.

With the 23-block areas, I wanted to turn them into rooms so I could use the middle section for storage and an enchantment room and doing that wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. Every iteration of this building has a lower crossbeam and I use it to connect it to the top of the building with fenceposts – it really looks cool – and I could then hang lanterns under the crossbeams to provide lighting… but the supersized building present a problem at this point – not enough light so I had to come up with an additional way to light the place with lanterns and not resorting to torches. Additionally, and keeping with the original design, that lower crossbeam has stripped wood blocks in between the cobblestone blocks that are used to support and connect the lower crossbeam to the roof.

Yeah… this place is getting very complicated now but I’ve committed to finishing it even while questioning my sanity in building it in the first place. So to put things into perspective, I started this supersized version two days ago… and I’m still not completely finished with it. I got the inside done including yet another design for the floor. I chose to surround the building with leaf blocks… then frame whole areas with a double row of leaf blocks to keep the frigging animals out, which is a waste of time since the game just spawns them every- and anywhere, like the four horses I had roaming around inside the building. I replaced all the grass on the outside with green cement powder; those damned sheep really piss me off eating the grass and leaving brown spots behind… but I realized that using the cement powder tends to cause sea turtles to show up. Oh, well.

I had to do some additional landscaping since I more or less want all sides of the enclosed area to be equal. I had to add outside lighting; I had to create a more textured area for the flat sides that support the roof by using steps – then, into the face of each flat side, carve out a space using a 1-3-5-7-9 thingy to put in windows at the top, which is pretty cool since looking through those windows – and you can only do it in Creative mode – you can see the lower crossbeam and the “chandeliers” I constructed on each of the “beams” that connects the lower crossbeam to the roof itself.

I wound up creating eight rooms in this structure and after I kill the chickens that are squatting in them, I have to put in beds and stuff as well as create a floor pattern for each room. I know it’s probably hard to envision this so I’m gonna invite anyone who has Minecraft to friend me on Xbox Live – my gamertag is Smartkdaddy (and I hate that tag, by the way) and come take a look at what I think is the best thing I’ve ever built in Minecraft since the system doesn’t seem to want to let me share the screen prints I made. I tried taking a picture of it with my phone and iPad… but it’s not a good picture so if you want to see it, come pay me a visit.

And I’m online right now and will be finishing my work on the supersized place.

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Posted by on 20 March 2020 in Xbox One Gaming


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Xbox One Gaming: A Letter to the Children of the Vault

Dear Children of the Vault:

Allow me to take this moment to introduce myself. I am a Vault Hunter and I am among you at this point in time to do my job, which is to hunt, discover and loot Eridian vaults for fame, glory, and riches. However, I understand that your job is to not only cause chaos and disorder among the natives of your respective planets, but it’s also your job to stop me from doing my job which, as you might imagine, is going to put us at odds with each other.

So, I’m taking this moment to inform you that given the nature of our respective jobs, anything you do to stop me from doing what I have to do will be met with extreme prejudice and violence; it would be in your best interest to avoid me as I find that I do not like killing you:

I love killing you. Having said that, I am not without compassion and, as such – and whenever possible – I will end your life by the careful placement of a shot from my sniper rifle into your head; it will be quick, painless, and you’ll never hear the shot that killed you. However, seeing as how there might not be such an opportunity to dispatch you with this level of kindness, I will have no choice but to systematically, efficiently, dispassionately, and ruthlessly dispatch you and force you to respawn at a later time.

It’s not personal and I need you to understand this. It’s just business but because I know what kind of vermin you are, you will make this personal by doing your level best to kill me and make me respawn and at great cost to my person. I understand the inevitability of my temporary demise but I want you to know that once I respawn, I will visit upon you devastating violence.

I will, at my discretion or as the situation calls for, burn you to ash with the appropriate incendiary weapon; I will – or may – feel some sympathy for you as I watch the corrosive weapon I’ve employed against you dissolve you into a puddle of goo or I just might smile wryly – and with a bit of glee – when my shock weapon makes your puny brain pop out of your skull. Or, if pressed for time, I will just blow you up with every explosive in my arsenal.

By addressing you today, I am hoping that we can avoid any entanglements which will prove to be detrimental to everyone involved. Still – and sadly – I do not think this will be possible so please take this moment to be advised that I am, with much pride if I may say so, very good at what I do.

I am a killer of bandits; a dispassionate taker of lives such as your own and I do very much enjoy my work. Let it not be said that I have not attempted to avoid unnecessary violence and death but given your limited intelligence and destructive mindset, prepare yourselves because I will stop at nothing to accomplish my goals and it would be in your best interests not to get between myself and what I must do.

I know that you will interfere because your creator, Gearbox, has programmed you to behave in this fashion and you’re at the mercy of your creator’s whims and desires and while I do feel a measure of regret in this, by and large, I will take great enjoyment plying my skills against you even though I will be greatly outnumbered. You may think this favors you but I can assure you that it does not.

Therefore, while I would prefer that there be peace between us, I am afraid there will and can be no peace… so prepare yourselves for I am your death and I will come for you and as will others who are exactly like me.


One of millions of Vault Hunters

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Posted by on 16 November 2019 in Xbox One Gaming


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Xbox One Gaming: Crybabies – Borderlands 3

I’ve been playing this game pretty much since it came out and, just like most games, there are some things I don’t like about it, for instance, they still haven’t fixed that annoying glitch where your character is standing still… but drifting to the right and it seems to have gotten worse because you could nudge your left joystick and stop the drifting but now that ain’t working well at all.

I don’t like the game’s targeting parameters when you have to approach another character and talk to them; you’re moving around all over the place trying to get the “Talk” thingy to appear while the character you’re trying to interact with is giving you grief about not doing something you were sent there to do.

I don’t like aiming at bad guys; the aiming reticles on the weapons just do not settle down and stay steady even after applying “Guardian points” to the recoil and accuracy parameters. Now, in the other games, it wasn’t unusual for aiming to be shaky until you used bonus points to refine your aim and when you did, your aim would eventually get to be rock solid but, nah, not so much with this game.

I don’t complain to Gearbox about this because I’m sure there are a million or more players already blowing up the support forum with these complaints and a lot more but what got my attention was how many players I’ve seen whining, bitching, and crying over not being able to find or acquire specific weapons and still having pity parties over their not being able to find legendary weapons in huge quantities even though Gearbox tweaked the code so that legendaries appear more often.

But weapon drops have always been very random and even Gearbox doesn’t know when a bad guy is going to drop a weapon of any kind or what that weapon is going to be. Given that, with the release of the original game, they figured out how to generate millions of weapons, it stood to reason that they’d figure out how to randomly generate even more weapons as the franchise moved forward so we get to Borderlands 3 and Gearbox said that this game will generate more weapons than the previous games.

I still wanna see the code they created for this. Still, while Gearbox can tweak the algorithms and change the percentages of how likely it is that a bad guy, chest, vending machine, etc., will produce a weapon, um, chances are good that if you’re looking for a particular weapon, it’s not going to present itself just because you think it should or when it should.

Yet, there are a lot of players still moaning and groaning over this. Let me set the stage for you about legendary weapons. These are kick-ass weapons and they are very coveted and desired. In the first game, I was miffed because my daughter’s family, who taught me how to play, were scooping up legendary weapons every time they played… but I didn’t get my first legendary weapon until a few months – months – of playing.

Gearbox had tweaked the code but while other players were getting them more often, I had, through the many replays of the game, only found three of them. But, okay, as a programmer, I understood the basics of the code used to generate the weapons so they redefined what “random” meant but it’s also one of the allures of the game because you never know when you’re gonna get a kick-ass weapon – you just keep playing until you come across them.

However, the legendaries became like collector’s items across all of the games and, as mentioned, Gearbox was doing all it could to make more legendaries appear but given how I think they wrote the code to ensure randomness, it didn’t make sense for them to lock down the code just to “guarantee” that legendaries would “always” be dropped or found.

And it still doesn’t. Um, that’s why they this game is about shooting and looting. To me, it’s again the allure and fun of the game because you just don’t know when a kick-ass weapon will be found or where it will be. Now, in Borderlands 3, I have an interesting problem: I have more legendary weapons than I do regular-type weapons. I played last night and in my fight with one of the bosses, when I offed it, it dropped three legendary weapons. Throughout my gameplay, even “regular” bandits were dropping legendaries and, once, I opened an ammo box and heard that distinctive ping noting the presence of a legendary weapon.

My son-in-law, who’s been playing a bit longer than I’ve been, tells me he hasn’t found that many legendary weapons. My grandson, who also plays, however, is finding them pretty much in great numbers like I am. On the Facebook group for all things Borderlands, a guy posted a “come and get them” thing and provided a screen shot of more legendary weapons I’ve ever seen in one place and across all of the games.

How did this guy get all of these cherished weapons? Easy – he kept shooting and looting. But I get it: For those players who aren’t seeing that many legendary or other fantastic weapons, this must be horrifically frustrating and they’re demanding that looting generates more and more high quality weapons…

But that defeats the purpose of playing the game in that sense, I think. For myself, eh, I don’t fret over legendaries even though I have more of them than I need. If I “complain” about anything, it’s all the weapons I come across that always manages to not help me when I need a more powerful weapon but, again, that’s just how the game goes and I really don’t have a problem with that aspect of it.

If the game was that easy, there wouldn’t really be a point in playing it but, hmm, maybe I’m the only player who looks at it like that. Most of the time, I have the wrong tool for the job at hand and the game is deliberately designed to make you do more with less and, yes, indeed, in Borderlands 3, it’s one hell of a challenge. I don’t know how many times I’ve come close to throwing my controller because I’m carrying 30+ weapons… and none of them are killing shit like I would like them to – and I’m consistently seeing this behavior having played all four characters on my main profile and two on my second profile and, believe me, between the two profiles, the game plays differently.

And I expect it to. Then again, I know programming so the game’s algorithms makes sense to me and, in a way, it’s not me against the many bad guys in the game – it’s me against Gearbox’s programmers and, as expected, the programmers are winning more than I am even though I’ve finished the game five times and working on finishing it for the sixth time.

So while I have no need or reason to be a crybaby over how weapons appear or don’t, a lot of players seem to have one and, to be honest, it doesn’t make any sense. The game is designed to make you play it and replay it; one of the values of any game is it’s replay value and with the lure of legendaries galore and other very lethal items, yeah, sure – it’s worth replaying time and time again if, by chance, you’re a weapons collector and many players are.

Me? I just wanna kill shit and blow shit up and I’m not unappreciative when a regular bad guy drops two legendaries or, when I need a better grenade or shield, one just happens to drop at the right time which, again, doesn’t always happen… because it’s not supposed to.

The bitching and moaning has gotten so bad on the Facebook group that the moderators have threatened to ban folks and quite a few arguments have broken out. The moderators correctly say that if you’re having a problem with the game, Gearbox is the people to complain to and being a crybaby on the Facebook group about your “issues” isn’t what the group is for.

And all because the game is doing what it was designed to do. Legendaries and other kick-ass weapons do show up but, like I said, even Gearbox doesn’t know when they will or what kind – they just know they programmed the game to do it. The algorithm they created can generate billions of weapons in different configurations, effects, stuff like that and it is fucking impressive. It’s a game of luck as much as it is a game of skill and you either get lucky like I’ve gotten and wind up with so many legendaries that even I’m thinking about having a giveaway – or you aren’t so lucky but if you keep playing, eh, maybe you will get that lucky.

Maybe you find that killer weapon that all of your friends have found, maybe you never will. It’s frustrating but being a crybaby about it ain’t gonna make shit happen the way you think it should happen. Still, for Borderlands 3, Gearbox again tweaked the weapons code so that main bosses were more likely to drop a legendary… but it’s still so random that it boggles the mind. They want you to keep playing the game even after you beat it so ensuring that legendaries, in particular, aren’t as common as, say, frag grenades, just makes sense. Should a main boss always drop a legendary? Well, they do… sometimes… but never when you think it should.

If they made every bad guy, weapons and ammo box, and vending machine produce legendaries, what would be the point in playing the game?

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Posted by on 15 November 2019 in Xbox One Gaming


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Xbox One Gaming: Borderlands 3 Characters

One of the decisions you have to make when starting the game is which of the four characters you’re gonna use to start shooting and looting: Zane, the Operative; Amara, the Siren; FL4K, the Beastmaster; Moze, the Soldier.

Gearbox stayed faithfully true to the mind-numbing and sometimes confusing things that makes each Vault Hunter very, very different and with weapons, skill trees, and other items that are unique to each one and unless you were doggedly reading everything Gearbox had to say about the game before it was released, eh, you really don’t know what they’re capable of.

So, starting out, I picked Zane, the Operative… because our cat’s name is Zane. Working with his skill tree wasn’t what I’d call bad or tough although trying to figure out how to use the new skill tree interface still has me shaking my head a lot because you want to get the right skills for the way you’re going to play the game. I found what might be the best configuration except, bleh, that configuration doesn’t allow me to use grenades the way I wanna use them, like, sometimes, I wanna make it rain grenades and I mean throwing every last one I’m carrying… except the configuration I’m using kinda randomly tosses a grenade – a pain in my ass but I worked with it enough to finish the game with Zane and get him to Level 50.

Then I started a new game with Amara, the Siren… and realized that maybe I should have started with her instead of Zane because I’m having a lot of fun with her skills and to the point where I finished the game twice with her and after boosting her to Level 50 as well.

Gearbox is taking way too long to put in that piece that will allow all characters to go beyond Level 50 and True Vault Hunter Mode although, if they stay true to form, I should be careful what I wish for.

In between kicking ass and taking names with Zane and Amara, I started a new game with FL4K, the Beastmaster… and I am not happy with this guy at all – well, I’m not happy with the various beastly sidekicks you can pick to work with him because, uh, they’re not as helpful like one situation I got into: I activated FL4K’s skill to help me thin out the swarm of bandits looking to make me respawn in a hurry… and the damned thing just stood next to me doing nothing at all.

Initially, this behavior was identified to Gearbox and they made some adjustments… but I’m still not happy playing with this character who is presently only at Level 13. At this point, the gaming landscape has become familiar – I don’t have to really think about where I’m going or what’s gonna happen but, yeah, I’m probably gonna have to do some serious tweaking of FL4K’s skill trees to find something I can work with.

Now it’s Moze’s turn in the crucible. Her mech is… effective but when activated, it doesn’t hang around for what I’d call a “long time” and the mech’s weapon selection – and as I currently have it configured – is more of a problem than it is helpful. The railgun is devastating and powerful but doesn’t fire quickly enough (at least not now) and the chaingun on the other side overheats way too quickly for my taste and use – again, at least for now. It is to note, however, that my Moze character has passed my FL4K character level-wise at this stage of things and I’m finding that I don’t have to summon Moze’s mech all that often and as opposed to how many times I’ve summoned FL4K’s beasty buddies to little effect.

Frustrating, confusing, and sometimes not the right tool for the job at hand… but this is still Borderlands and if you’ve played the other games in the franchise, you know this is gonna happen – you just don’t know how good or bad your character choice is gonna be until you really get into the thick of things… and then be prepared to look at the characters’ skill trees and do your best to suss out the right combination of things that will make your character of choice kick ass and take names in the way you like doing that.

One of the things that bummed me out when I first started playing was how ineffectual using a snipe rifle was with Zane; in the earlier games – and even in the early stages of gameplay, you put a bandit’s head in the crosshairs, squeeze the trigger, and – poof – one dead bandit minus his head… not so much with Zane in this incarnation of the game. Sure, the bandits are harder to kill and it makes sense that when a bad guy is shielded, you gotta make that go away but there were a few times when I emptied my sniper rifle just trying to behead one bandit.

Enter Moze. First time I ran into a shielded bandit – and the best weapon I had at the time was a sniper rifle, I lined homey’s head up in the crosshairs, squeezed the trigger… and his head vanished.

What. The. Fuck? Oh, yeah – Borderlands. You kinda forget that each character has weapons that they’re really good and effective with and, to be honest, one can’t be blamed for forgetting this because you’re really and seriously busy trying not to get killed. Or you have one of those moments where, say, a good pistol you’ve been using just stops doing the job it was formerly very capable of doing… and in the space of going from one area to the next. I was… mystified to find myself at Level 50 with Zane – or was it Amara? – and mowing down Level 51 bad guys with a Level 38 machine gun with ease.

Okay, that particular gun was a Legendary but if you know Borderlands, you also know that not all Legendary weapons retain their awesome killing power. I’m killing the shit out of bandits with a gun that, on the face of things, should have been unequal to the task long before it actually did become useless. Or finding out that Amara, for some reason, is a shotgun specialist and many bandits – and a few bosses – met their grisly demise via shotgun.

Moze’s gun seems to be the sniper rifle but FL4K? Not sure which weapon is his “thing” yet – I’m not really all that inspired to play with him but I will and I’ll eventually find out what weapon type he’s good with. But, next, something that has me asking WTF…

I have a second profile set up on my Xbox One and it’s there for one reason: So I can play any of my installed games in almost a sandbox kind of mode and test different gameplay methods or whatever while not impacting what I’m playing on my main profile. I started a game under my second profile and started with Amara, a character I know is more than equal to the job at hand…

And I’m getting my head handed to me big time and I’ve struggled to get this version of Amara past Level 10. Yeah, you read that right. What I don’t know is why this is so different. Same character. Same configuration. Not the same results and not even close. I could understand this if I hadn’t already played with Amara and I didn’t know what to expect in the area “Amara Jr.” is currently stuck in. On my main profile with Amara, I didn’t exactly breeze through things but it wasn’t a hardship doing so… but on my second profile, shit, you’d think that I was playing the game with zero knowledge about how to play it.

I know what to do… can’t get it done. Granted, Amara Jr. doesn’t have the exact same weaponry as Amara Sr. had in this specific situation – but Junior’s weapons aren’t anything to sneeze at and I’m talking about how those worthy weapons went from being very effective in one area to not being effective at all in the very next area.

And I’ll be damned if I know why. It’s presenting a damned interesting challenge and one that, really, I didn’t expect to be facing… and maybe I should have but it only serves to prove that even when you know what you’re supposed to be doing, that doesn’t mean it’s gonna work the way you think it should. On a first playthrough, sure – you have no real idea what you’re gonna be facing but you learn it so if/when you start a new game with a new character, if nothing else, you know what you’re going to be facing and you know what you did the first time to deal with each situation with some “minor” differences of course.

On my second profile, it’s like I’ve never played this game with this character before. And I can’t explain it. My mission today is to play with my second profile, figure out what the hell’s going on, and kick ass and take names.

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Posted by on 23 October 2019 in Xbox One Gaming


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Xbox One Gaming: Catching Up on Borderlands 3

Since getting the game for my birthday, I’ve completed the game twice with two different characters; I started a third game with yet another character and with one character left to begin a game with.

While it’s taken a bit of effort to get the feel of this long-awaited game – and working through the various glitches that continue to manifest themselves – despite the new storyline and other new stuff, it’s still Borderlands, still shooting and looting, blowing shit up, and killing bandits… a whole lot of bandits, as it turns out.

See, with the other games in the franchise, once you monstered into an area and devastated everything moving (and a few things that unavoidably get shot by accident), you were clear to run around the area, opening boxes and chests, and picking up any loot that was dropped before moving on to the next thing to do – and this game doesn’t really deviate from this… except, when you think you’ve secured the area, you haven’t because it seems like the moment I clear it and take a breath because the action gets pretty intense, more bandits show up and, at first, I thought they were respawning faster than in any of the previous games.

Nope – those fuckers showed up on a fleet of buses to chase you down and making you kinda reset from “collection mode” to “saving your ass mode” and it keeps you on your toes and there’s no help for ya if you’re low on ammo, which happens a lot.

Like last night, for example. I was playing with my Siren character in True Vault Hunter Mode as well as having Mayhem Mode, a new aspect of the game, in effect. For reasons I don’t pretend to understand, well, wait – let me back up a moment and explain something that might make sense in a bit.

“Historically,” Borderlands is a multi-modal kind of game; there’s Normal, True Vault Hunter Mode, and Ultimate Vault Hunter Mode… plus an extra mode called OP and as you might guess, each successive mode is harder so when you play this game, you just expect that when you start off in Normal mode, TVHM is going to be a bitch and a half.

Not with this game. My first playthrough with my first character, Zane, left me feeling drained, frazzled, and feeling some kind of way; along the way, my hands were getting mugged from working the controller as much as I was and to the point where a few times, I had to stop playing and change batteries in the controller. Honestly, it was hard… and more so when I’m trying to learn the game as I was playing it.

I get to TVHM and I’m expecting the difficulty to increase big time because that’s how the other games played… so imagine my surprise when, in both of my second playthroughs, I’m having an easier time defeating bad guys than I did the first time. At first, I chalked it up to my now being familiar with the game play but, no, that’s not quite right. One of the first real Vault Monsters you encounter, “The Ravager,” killed me so many times in both first playthroughs that I was pissed and close to that throwing the controller moment which, of course, I didn’t do since they cost $60 to replace them.

So my Siren and I walk into The Ravager’s lair and I’m still expecting – and don’t ask me why – to have one hell of a fight on my hands. My first experience with this monster? Took me almost an hour, thousands of game dollars and a lot of deaths/respawns before I defeated it. Second time? Took me five minutes at the most. No deaths/respawns. Just killed the shit out of it but, just like in the first playthroughs, I used every gun I had and damned near all of the ammo I had for them.

To put this into perspective, my Siren was a level 43 and you find out quickly in the first playthrough that whenever you go back to Sanctuary – the ship that’s your base of operations, you visit that crook Marcus and buy all the ammo upgrades you can afford for all weapon types and, yes, even the ones you don’t really use because you just might wind up using them.

I defeated The Ravager in “record time…” and when the dust cleared – and I mean that literally – I had four rounds of ammo left in my shotgun to finish it off. Four. Out of the thousands of rounds of ammo I had loaded up on before going in there. The only weapon I didn’t shoot dry was the rocket launcher – because I’m not carrying one and I’m not carrying one because they just suck as an effective weapon.

Four. This aspect of the game continues to bother me but I get it: All of the bad guys are just harder to kill than ever before and they soak up bullets like you have a limitless supply of them

I thought – and just as I did with my past encounters, that if that fucker hadn’t died when it did, I would have found myself running around trying to pick up any ammo that might have been lying around (and there wasn’t much of it, not like the first playthrough) or, shit, just letting it kill me so I could respawn near the ammo machine, reload everything, and start all over again.

But it was easier than the first time and, indeed, as I’m working through the next series of things to do – and playing by myself – I’m committing acts of bandit murder with ridiculous ease… which ain’t how it went the first time… and I’m kinda wondering why this is.

My first character has reached the milestone of Level 50 but, wait – there’s something wrong and I asked my son-in-law about it – for some reason, he knows shit about this game that I couldn’t even guess about (and that’s a good thing) and my question was, “How come I’m stuck at Level 50?”

He explained that Gearbox hasn’t put in the piece that allows characters to go beyond Level 50 – yet. And, really, I should have remembered that because they did this in all of the other games but that also serves as a reminder of how frazzled I get when playing this game.

Believe me, you haven’t “lived” until you take your best and most devastating sniper rifle, line up a bandit’s head in the scope, squeeze the trigger… and the bandit’s head doesn’t disappear in a grisly red mist… even after four direct head shots.

The next hard bad guy is that fool who runs Maliwan Heavy Industries – they make guns. What makes this guy hard is that he splits into four at times, attacks you from a distance but will suddenly be all up in your face and he doesn’t stay put in one place very long for you to get any real sustained action against him. First playthroughs? Killed me so much it wasn’t funny. Ran me out of ammo like four times and while there are a few chests in the fighting area, good luck getting to them without getting your ass shot off.

Second playthroughs? Wiped him out the first time in. No respawns. Didn’t go through every piece of ammo for the weapons I brought with me. Easy as fuck… and I’m feeling like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Those of you who have played any of these games – and this one – might know how I’m feeling and why I’m asking myself, “Why is this easier the second time through… even with Mayhem Mode engaged?”

I don’t know… but this is still Borderlands and a game where you will eventually wind up battling bad guys and whatever weapons you have are going to be ineffective against them, which is where I am with my first character… and why I’m not playing with him at this time. See, for this game, Gearbox said that there were going to be a gazillion weapons in this game… what they didn’t say was there were going to be weapons that would always be effective when you needed them to be.

They said there will be more Legendary weapon drops than ever before and they were true to their word: I have more Legendaries in this game than I’ve gotten in any of the previous games combined. My first character is carrying nothing but Legendary weapons and a Legendary shield… and I might as well be toting Level 1 stuff for all the good they’re doing me as my first character is going up against bad guys who are five levels higher than the character is allowed to go at this point.

Talk about efforts in futility? Yeah… this is Borderlands. But as much as this game confuses and frustrates me at times, the one thing that is annoying the shit out of me is a glitch that makes my characters move to the right… when I’m not making it move to the right; you quickly learn not to, say, sit your controller down for a moment to give your hands some relief without pausing the game because you just might, as what happened to me, wind up “walking” off a cliff and falling into an out of bounds area that will kill you. I’ve found myself missing parts of the game dialog because I’m nudging the left joystick a lot just to keep my character from wandering off.

And it’s such an obvious glitch that I’m wondering why Gearbox, when it issued the first update (that I’ve seen) for the game, that one didn’t get fixed right away. But get this: They learned from players that some of the bad guys were too hard to kill in the first playthrough and in Easy mode (no, really?) and they made some adjustments… but didn’t fix this very annoying glitch.

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Posted by on 16 October 2019 in Xbox One Gaming


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Xbox One Gaming: Borderlands 3

First, I want to publicly thank my daughter and her family for getting me this game for my birthday; it was unexpected and very much appreciated!

Fans of the Borderlands franchise have been waiting seven long years for this game to appear and now that it’s out – and given what I’ve been seeing on the Facebook group for Borderlands, the reviews so far are mixed and there’s a lot of griping, whining, and complaining about problems with the game that would better be presented to Gearbox than to start a bunch of squabbling among the group membership. Anyway…

It’s Borderlands with all its shooting and looting and there’s a lot to learn about playing this game and even playing it in Easy mode isn’t so easy. The bad guys are tougher and harder to kill; the storyline tasks are… complicated and mixed in with a lot of side tasks. Some of them are easy, many of them aren’t. Sometimes, getting from one place to another isn’t all that easy, something that didn’t take long for me to run into.

I had to get my daughter to show me how to get from point A to point B, something I wouldn’t have discovered on my own. Along with working the various tasks, there’s the game’s story line to take into consideration and there are familiar characters from the other games, and new ones, including the very bad twins who are determined to open the Great Vault and use its contents to take over the universe.

Sometimes, navigating in the various areas isn’t easy; too many times, I found myself asking, “How am I supposed to get there from here?” and in one instance, it took me a hour to figure out how to get to the place I had to be… all while dealing with bad guys who are, again, not easy to dispose of and are respawning faster than they did in the other games.

One of the new aspects of the game is how weapons are classified. In past games, the main thing you had to pay attention to was what your level was compared to the level of the weapon in your backpack and inventory… but they added this… scoring thing that, right now, doesn’t make sense to me because you can have a high scoring weapon… but that might not be the more powerful weapon you have. It makes it difficult to decide what stuff to carry and what stuff you need to get rid of and even the “rule” my daughter and son-in-law taught me years ago is difficult to put into effect, that being, if you’re level 30 but still carrying weapons that are five levels or less than your current level, get rid of them by selling them or, if you could, store them so that, if you start a new game with a new character, a really good weapon can be reused.

Well, Borderlands 3 makes applying this rule hard and more so when, now, you can buy more space in your backpack, more ammo for guns, and more storage space… and “Marcus” is just ripping you off with the growing prices, like, right now, I’m at level 41 and if I want more space in my storage area, it’s gonna cost me $81,000 at this point.

True to all of the games, there’s no such thing as too much money.

So I found myself just going from task to task, shooting and looting – and dying a lot – until I got to the game’s endgame and two epic fights with the evil twins I mentioned that are the main bad guys in the story. I beat the game and, according to my stats, I did it in just over seven days. I ran around for a while doing the side tasks I didn’t do when I came across them (that doesn’t make my daughter happy but it’s the way I play the game) and, well, that’s been as interesting as playing the main story items and there’s this one side task I can see that needs my attention on the map… but I can’t physically find it for some reason but eventually I’ll find it.

As I sat and watched the credits roll after beating the game, I decided that this game was worth waiting seven years for… but there’s still a lot to learn about it and the trick is to learn this stuff without going out and looking for the many walkthroughs that are out there and I always gives props to the people who write them because they took the time to find out every little nitpicking thing about the game. My only “beef” with this are those walkthroughs that are YouTube videos; not saying they’re not helpful but I’d rather have a walkthrough that tells me what the deal is instead of a video that shows it to me… and assumes that I could do it that way.

Maybe I’m just old-fashioned like that.

I’ve already started my second playthrough in True Vault Hunter Mode and if it’s like all the other games, if I thought the first playthrough was rough, this will be even more so. I will alternate between TVHM and Normal so I can complete the side tasks I left hanging out there – at least I’ll be able to tell my daughter that I did do all of them… eventually.

The game has glitches which, really, is to be expected. Three times I’ve been playing right along and, shit, the game locks up and crashes, taking me back to my home screen. Then there’s one that’s really annoying: You can be standing still… and your character starts drifting to the right, making you nudge the left joystick to stand still. In one instance, I wound up falling off a cliff because of this drifting, that and I was doing something else and wasn’t looking at the screen until it was too late and wound up dying.

Hopefully, there’s more fixes coming to address the many glitches I’ve seen and those other players are bitching about.

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Posted by on 1 October 2019 in Xbox One Gaming


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Xbox One Gaming: At an Impasse

There are times when I get on a roll gaming; I’m working through whatever game I’m playing and, sometimes, “easily” so and while I do manage to screw up something or get myself killed, eh, I got this, no problem.

Until I get to a point where no matter the game I’m playing, nothing works or goes right. For instance, the last couple of times I played Minecraft, I made the rookie mistakes of getting lost – and getting lost in a cavern I had carefully marked to make sure I could get out – and, jeez, falling into lava although, admittedly, I don’t know how I wound up swimming in lava when I wasn’t standing where I could have fallen in. I even fell into a ravine and the only thing that saved me was nudging the joystick just enough that I landed in the water at the bottom of the ravine.

I don’t know if this is a loss of focus on my part or not. I do know that in playing both Borderlands 1 and 2, I’m at parts of the games that, let’s say, historically, tend to have me at an impasse because I’m trying to massacre the bad guys with weapons that wouldn’t even kill a fly at the levels I’m currently at. Yeah, focus could be a factor since, in both Borderlands games, I walked right into a messy situation that experience told me – um, after I got slaughtered – I should have been more careful about. In this, it’s not like I’ve never played these games and haven’t advanced through the multiple game-play levels these game provide.

I knew I should have been more careful… and I wasn’t.

Usually, all it takes to regain my resolve is to not play a game that’s giving me fits or if I have something else to do in a game that’s not gonna get me killed or hopelessly lost, then doing them usually settles things down so that when it’s time to do the “hard” stuff, I’m ready to kick ass, take names, and chew gum; I can navigate the deepest ravine or the most vast cavern and return to my entry point with spooky accuracy.

Uh, um, not recently, though. And to make things worse, all of the games that are currently active on my Xbox One are games that have elements of risk, like State of Decay 2, for example. I hadn’t played the game lately so I went in there to kick some zombie ass and to scrounge and scavenge to keep my community alive and well. Appeared in the game – and outside the compound and I don’t pretend to understand that one – looked around to get my bearings, got jumped on by a Juggernaut and barely escaped.

WTF? Okay… not doing this one today; at the stage I’m in with this game, I can’t afford to permanently lose a community member. Let’s try another game. Oops – death, destruction, all kinds of mayhem like playing Just Cause 4; somehow, I managed to materialize in the middle of a bunch of bad guys – and in a place where, when I left the game, was not only devoid of bad guys but wasn’t even the same place I left the game!

I got hideously slaughtered even though I instantly reacted to the threats around me, assessed the situation quickly, and tried to get the hell out of there but, nope, didn’t happen… when I’m usually pretty good getting out of these messes.

When you can get killed playing Minecraft and in Peaceful mode, you know you’re doing something wrong. It’s frustrating, winds up having me talking to myself and kicking my own ass for making so many stupid mistakes although, with Borderlands, I’m not really making any mistakes but I’m being victimized by the gameplay itself: I just don’t have the weaponry that’s powerful enough to do what I gotta do. Like, going after Krom – again – to get the piece of the vault I need, wow, no strategy I’ve come up with hasn’t resulted in him or his boys blowing me away but Borderlands 1, well, there’s some shit going on with that game – how the fuck did Krom blow me to bits with his rockets when I wasn’t even in his supposed line of sight?

Nothing ruins your gaming more than trying to figure out how you got killed when you shouldn’t have gotten killed…

It’s not like he has the guided rockets that can be found in the other Borderlands games; you can’t really hide from those things. Yeah… sometimes I know that it’s not really anything I’m doing or not doing but knowing this ain’t making me feel any better about how I’m playing the game.

Or failing to do so. It’s not really bothering me as much as this might sound because even when playing video games, shit happens or it doesn’t so, yeah, sometimes, just stepping away for a period of time makes sense. I’ll crank up the console, do a bit of housekeeping, look over the active games in my library while considering waking up one I’ve got on the shelf, sigh, pick a game, sigh some more and tell myself, “Okay… let’s do this and get it done.”

It’s just sometimes getting it done doesn’t work out all that well and the other thing is that if you don’t play, you don’t know how things are going to work out… and that’s what makes playing so much fun.

And not so much.

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Posted by on 22 August 2019 in Xbox One Gaming


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