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Minecraft…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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More Minecraft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Ah, Minecraft…

So after years of being told, “Dad, you gotta play Minecraft!” and a brief moment of attempting to play the iOS version of the game – and getting killed not even a minute into the game – I’ve finally stopped resisting and have immersed myself in the worlds of Minecraft.  First, I tried the version that can be played on Windows 10… and trying to navigate using the keyboard and mouse proved to be a pain; I can connect my Xbox controller to the computer but, eh, while that is kinda easier, the Windows 10 version doesn’t quite behave like the Xbox One version so I’ve opted to stick with the Xbox version and not subject my computer’s keyboard to any more abuse than I already give it.  My baby got me the Xbox One version of the game and I’m quite grateful that she did this for me; now when I wanna play, I don’t have to get up and go into another room and fire up my computer.

My Minecraft drill sergeants – my daughter and her husband, who were the same critters that taught me how to play Borderlands – have been cramming all sorts of arcane shit into my head about this game; it’s about the only time my daughter can yell at me and get away with it.  The one thing I like about having both of them in my game is listening to her giving her hubby the business about how he does things, like running into a pack of creepers and zombies and needing to eat quickly to avoid getting killed and having to respawn without all the stuff you’ve painstakingly gathered.  I hear a lot of, “You’re gonna die…” directed at him and I don’t know which thing is more fun – playing and learning the game… or listening to her jumping in his ass about stuff.

Still, I gotta give them props because without their help, I’d probably be running around the game without any real idea of what I’m supposed to do other than survive.  I’ve been in their worlds and, wow, they’ve both built some rather impressive and beautiful worlds for themselves.  They tell me that if you can think it, you can build it and so far, I’ve taken the place where I first decided to settle in and expanded it in a way where it’s all connected, well, except for the new place I recently built which is close by.  While I’ve yet to master crafting like they have, they say I’ve been doing well for a noob and even my grandchildren (who also play) seem to be impressed that Pop-Pop is throwing down with one of their favorite games.

I’ve got several mines dug and while there doesn’t seem to be a trick to digging one, um, after following behind my son-in-law as he got lost in his own mine, I’ve come up with a way to dig a mine and, hopefully, not have to suffer the indignity of getting lost in my own construction project.  As I dig, I place torches on the left side so that if I have to get out, the torches are now on my right and easily followed out of the dig.  I’ve learned to craft a compass and a map, both of which come in handy (I’ll get to that shortly) but the thing that bothers me about this game is that I’m used to playing games where a part of the HUD (heads-up display) is a kind of radar thingy that’s both a miniature version of a larger scale map but also lets me know where the bad guys are in relation to where I am.

Minecraft has no such animal, which is how I manage to get blown up by creepers and jumped by witches that sneak up on me from behind or I hustle around a tree and, shit, there’s a zombie… and chances are I don’t have my sword in my hand.  I’ve learned the hard way to not be outside a very well lit place after dark and if I’m inside, I gotta do the Minecraft version of turning on all the lights since some bad guys like to find a spot you forgot to light up inside your home or mine and blow it – and you – back to the spawn point.  And I learned all of this before I learned that there is a game mode where they only way you get killed is if you do something stupid – Peaceful mode.

My drill sergeant daughter gives me the business about playing in Peaceful mode but since I’m not experienced with all the nuances of this game, I’d rather not be bothered with trying to escape monsters and when trying to run away from them, fall into a deep cavern (and die) or find out I’ve fallen into a hidden pool of lava (and die) and, yes, I’ve done both of these things and have had my instructors laughing at my demise and being told to watch where I’m walking… which is hard to do because, apparently, in the Xbox One version, holding a torch in your hand does not provide you light to see by; you can make all sorts of shit in this game but the one thing you can’t make is a flashlight…

Being in Peaceful mode is good for exploring and having a compass is valuable because no matter where you are, it will always point to the place you first spawned into your world – and I make that point somewhere in my home.  Yesterday, I got a lesson on how hard it is to read a map, which uses a coordinate system of X, Y, and Z and while I understand this system, um, it takes some doing trying to figure out where you are in relation to where you want to go, as proved by a walkabout with my son-in-law yesterday – and in a mode that can get you killed – and we were wandering around all over the place… with my daughter in the background constantly saying, “Brian, you’re going the wrong way!”

These two are really funny.  I do my walkabouts in Peaceful mode because I’ve been told that if you don’t explore the world you’re in, you won’t be able to find different and essential things each biome has to offer so you also have to practice how to get out there and explore… and be able to find your way back home – and the compass as well as torches placed along the way, help a great deal.  Except, yesterday, ah, fuck, that didn’t help me very much.  I walked out of the upper level of my crib, turned to my left and asked, “What’s over there?” and headed off in that direction to explore but wound up stopping and turning back because upon seeing some torches in front of me, shit, that’s right – Brian and I had went this way the other day, damn it.  So I turn back and I’m hustling back, kinda got turned around the wrong way a few times but my own sense of direction is at work.

It’s very dark because the game is simulating a total eclipse during the day and night cycles and I guess to pay homage to the upcoming event tomorrow.  I’m running along, dodging nosy cows and the occasional wolf that shows up and I’m thinking that I’m getting close to home… when I fall into a pit there was no way I could have seen even in daylight and my last sight was falling down toward a huge pit of lava and, as the game dutifully mentioned, I died trying to swim in lava.  The good thing is that I respawned back home; the bad thing is that I lost everything I had been carrying.

Shit, fart, piss, fuck, and damn it all to hell.

One of the things I learned is that there are worlds, also known as seeds, that have been created for the game so when you create a new game, you can either let the game randomly pick a seed or, if you know it, enter the seed’s ID number or name and, voila!  You’re in a pre-constructed world that can offer a great many things that can either make it easy to get established… or test your ability to play the game and survive.  I’ve created four such worlds to play around in and I will admit that you really can spend a great deal of time getting yourself established since, every time you create a new game, you arrive in it with nothing – unless you select the option that will make a crate of goodies appear wherever you happen to enter that world.  Then it’s the first rule of survival – build a shelter and be able to make fire – but with little to help you even with the goody crate.  Chopping down trees, mining dirt and rocks, killing cows, sheep, chickens (which looks like a duck – go figure) and pigs so you can have food and other items.

And, yes, despite what my darling daughter says, doing this in Peaceful mode is way easier although in the one world/seed I used, I was chasing a sheep to get its wool so I can make a bed; it stopped at the top of the mountain and I felt a moment of triumph and even said to myself, “Yeah!  Got your ass!” – but the sheep ran off to my left at the last moment and I was still moving forward… and I’m glad that I took my thumb off the joystick because if I hadn’t, the next step taken would have had me falling into a very, very deep ravine and dying.  On the other hand, the view of that drop was breathtaking…

When I’m in the game without my teachers, I can’t help feeling that I’m truly alone in my world even though that’s not true; you’d have to scout around and find a village that might be populated with some “folks” you can trade with; they might have a garden you can grab necessary stuff you need like carrots and melons and, importantly, seeds that you can use to grow your own crops – y’all should see the garden my daughter built for me.  There are temples both on land and underwater and if you’re not in Peaceful mode, they are very dangerous places.  A Minecraft world is anything but a beautiful place to run around in; even in Peaceful mode, there are dangers all around you and I know my thoughts are always filled with thinking about the stuff I need to survive and not doing something dumb that will get me killed.

Now, the game does have a tutorial which I didn’t know about until my daughter asked me why I hadn’t done the tutorial… and the tutorial I didn’t know existed.  You can learn the basics there but what I’m learning is that the tutorial doesn’t even come close to teaching you everything there is to learn about this game, which explains why you can search the web and find all manner of “how to play Minecraft” stuff – and there’s a lot of it.  The game has, under Settings, a “how to play” kinda thing that, again, can teach you some very basic stuff but isn’t going to help you build a fortification to keep you and your collected stuff safe… and at night.  The game has weather and in one trip to my world, I almost got struck by lightning.  There are different biomes or environments, like jungle, mesa/desert, and even snow/ice but as I mentioned, if you don’t go exploring – or aren’t learning the game from someone who really knows how to play it – you just don’t know what might be around you.

I’m kinda hooked and I was even dreaming last night about how to go about building more elaborate buildings, like a multi-story apartment building… and just because I can build one.  Once I get a better feel of my world, I’ll get out of Peaceful mode and play with all the dangerous stuff.  If there are any Minecraft players out there and playing on Xbox One, you’re cordially invited to come see what I’ve built so far – my gamertag is SmartKDaddy.

 
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Posted by on 20 August 2017 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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Watch Dogs 2

So I got the game (thanks again, baby!) and after a few days of playing it, I’m a bit disappointed by it or I got spoiled playing the first game.  War Dogs 2 kinda/sorta takes up where Watch Dogs left off with DedSec, a notorious hacker group dedicated to expose the corruption of personal data and freedom by the Blume Corporation and its ctOS 2.0 system, the upgrade a necessary one after the hero in Watch Dogs did a number on ctOS 1.0.  Set in San Francisco, a small group of hackers and Marcus, our hero this time around, is still running around putting the screws to Blume and while I think the story line in Watch Dogs 2 is kinda weak, it’s at least a bit familiar.

The controls have been a bitch to relearn; the only similarities to the original game is driving (and destroying) cars along with aiming and shooting.  I’ve gotten killed several times just because I’m pushing buttons I got used to using in the original game and buttons that, in the second game, don’t do a damned thing.  There’s a distinct lack of deployable weapons; in the first game, I could pick up a weapon and it would go in my “pack” and could be selected easily enough; in this game, if I’m holding a weapon and pick up another, the one I”m holding gets discarded so all I have is two weapons and as far as weapons go, they’re pretty wimpy at this stage in the game.  I mean, I have a silenced pistol, which made me happy to see… except when I walked up behind a bad guy, sighted on the back of his head and pulled the trigger… and he turned around and killed me.

What the fuck…?

Two things I kinda like:  The cops, who were conspicuous by their absence in the first game, are seen patrolling the streets of San Francisco but they don’t mess with you as you’re breaking every traffic law that ever existed, well, until you fuck up and rear end one of them – then they’re on you like a very bad habit and they are damned persistent as in the first game; in fact, it’s harder to escape and evade these cops.  The other thing is the NPCs, which are roaming all over the place.  I turned a corner and scared one into falling down; she got up and instead of walking away, she stormed over to my car, dragged me out of it, and punched me in the face!  So I punched her in the face but then somebody came to her aid and started beating me with an umbrella… and I had to knock them out, too.  Later, during a mission, some chick was driving in front of me and just stopped in the middle of the road and I tapped her bumper… and she got out wanting to fight and, well, you can probably guess what happened.  What’s even funnier is watching the civilian NPCs actually starting fights with the cops when I have them arrest somebody because of information I planted about them; once, I guess the cop took offense to the man punching him in the face… because the cop shot him.

At this point in the game play, I’m not sure I really like this game as much as I did the first because, as previously mentioned, I don’t have the tools readily available to do things.  For instance, by my fifth mission in the original game, I had to ability to “distract” a pursuing helicopter and even shoot the sniper while the chopper pilot fought for control.  In the new game, I have to collect a whole lot of stuff – then activate a lot more stuff – before I can get this needed ability, which shows in the main mission I’ve yet to complete… because the sniper in the helicopter keeps killing me before I can make good my escape.  It’s frustrating because in this mission – I have to bust somebody out of Alcatraz – it’s a long, drawn out process to eliminate all the guards using stealthy methods; just going in there and shooting up the place isn’t an option.

It doesn’t help that I don’t have enough good camera angles; it also doesn’t help that there aren’t that many things I can use for booby traps and of those things that do exist, only one of them is lethal… and it’s nowhere near where the main body of guards are hanging out.  All of the other potential traps just put them to sleep and they eventually wake up again.  In one attempt to free the prisoner, it took me over an hour to clear out all the guards before I could actually go inside Alcatraz and spring the guy… only to have that fucking helicopter – which somehow seems to know exactly where I am in the prison even though they can’t see me – blow me away before I can get close to escaping.  It’s annoying and aggravating and that’s being nice about it so I wound up quitting the mission so I can do some other stuff so I can get some stuff so I can deal with the helicopter.  That didn’t make me happy having to do that; I can accept screwing up a mission because of a mistake I made but I just have a problem with failing a mission because I don’t have the tools available to deal with all possible threats – it’s like taking a knife to a gun fight.

This game has a couple of toys:  A drone and an RC (remote controlled) wheeled thingy call a Jumper… because it can really jump up onto things.  The Jumper is cool because I can use it to sneak into places and do the physical hacking that sometimes has to be done while I sit outside and away from guards and the cops.  Moving vehicles in this game is just as crazy as in the original game (you just do not want to know how many cars and motorcycles I’ve trashed and I wasn’t actually being chased) so controlling these toys is a bit iffy.  I use the Jumper a lot and I’m just now getting the hang of sending it into air ducts and sneaking past motion sensors, etc.; piloting the drone isn’t that bad but unlike the Jumper, it can’t interact with anything – I can spy on things, interact with a camera, even hack a NPC but I can’t use it to unlock anything that requires physically being able to plug something in.

Like I said, the story line leaves something to be desired and, just my opinion, I would have thought that for Watch Dogs 2, they would have recruited Aidan – our hero in Chicago for the first game – to help them get rid of Blume and ctOS 2.0 once and for all.  Instead, the only character they brought back from the original game is one that not only didn’t actually do anything in the first game, he’s not doing anything in this game except running his mouth, the video game version of an REMF – a rear echelon motherfucker – who’s good for sending me out on missions and getting me killed while staying nice and safe back at headquarters.  Don’t get me wrong – the game is fun and has a few surprises – like at least three gangs that I’ve identified so far and gangs you can sic on a target or even the police.  One mission had me stealing a car from them, something they weren’t happy about nor were they happy about my blowing up quite a few of their members prior to snatching the car so it wasn’t surprising that they chased me all over the Bay Area until I finally managed to ditch them… and the cops who got in on the act.

It took a little while for Watch Dogs to grow on me but it’s taking much longer for Watch Dogs 2 but I’ll keep hacking away at it and, who knows, maybe this game is really better than it appears at the moment!

 
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Posted by on 6 July 2017 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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Road Rage

If you’ve read about my playing Watch Dogs, you’ve seen where driving a vehicle in the game is a comedy of errors but I forgot to mention something about that:  When driving in this game, I have a major case of road rage.

Now, in real life driving, it’s not as if I’ve had some unkind things to say to some of my fellow motorists, you know, the folks who drive under the speed limit or when the light changes to green, they’re sitting there as if they’re waiting for another color and, yes, I’m sure I’ve given people reason to be a bit… miffed at me.  But this game makes me nuts when I gotta drive somewhere.

The folks who designed this game could have made it very interesting if they made you obey traffic laws or risk getting pulled over by the cops, a problem since you’re the main character in this game and the cops would very much like to have a very long talk with you about your vigilante behavior.  But since they didn’t, it get to run traffic lights and stop signs, drive on the wrong side of the road, cause accidents and, sometimes, when driving from one location to another, I will run vehicles off the road… because they’re slowing me down from getting to where I need to be.

Now, unless I’m doing something that has a time limit, I’m really not in a hurry to complete a main mission so, um, there’s no reason for me to be in a hurry and I can actually obey real-life traffic laws… and Lord knows that I’ve tried to drive like I’ve got some sense… and it’s just not working.  I drive along nicely and they drive so slowly that, um, I get impatient and the road rage commences along with breaking every traffic law in existence, oh, like driving on the sidewalk, for instance.

 
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Posted by on 2 July 2017 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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Watch Dogs Update

On 27 June, I finished the final act in Watch Dogs, technically beating the game even though there were many other activities – side missions – that could be done.  I did a few of them but the others, well, after the intensity of doing the story line missions, stuff like tailing someone seemed mundane and unexciting so there was only one thing to do:

Start over from the beginning.  As I clicked the “A” button on “New Game” I saw the warning that all my previous progress would be erased and, for a moment, I was reluctant to continue because I’d gotten a ton of money, had every weapon that could be had, even had a rather impressive stable of cars I’d hacked from NPCs and/or outright stolen as they sat empty at the curb or wherever they happened to be parked.  Not sure if I ever mentioned it but carjacking someone will guarantee those pesky, swarming cops will be all over you in a heartbeat if you don’t remember to activate a Jam Calls and cut off the call for help.  That was a lesson I learned when I first started playing the game… and I haven’t carjacked anyone since.  Anyway…

I figured that if I had accumulated all that stuff once, I could do it again; I also thought that now that I know what has to be done and could kinda/sorta easily remember how I did it (or eventually managed to do it), the second time around should go better… which is exactly what didn’t happen.  I still crack myself up trying to drive in the game and you should see the look on my face when I have to get into a car chase because I know for a fact that some T-boning and quite a few head-on crashes are gonna happen, right along with mowing down any hapless NPC who happens to be in my erratic path of travel.  What has amazed me is how I’m making mistakes that I didn’t make the first time I played, simple stuff like turning around so I can scan the area behind me (some of those bad guys are pretty damned sneaky) and stepping right off the edge of a building, killing myself and having to start the mission over again.

I don’t know if it’s me or it’s a gamer kind of thing but I find myself being more… careless even though I know good and damned well that some missions require a lot of patience and stealth and I’ve found that, on several occasions, how I finished a mission the first time doesn’t work the second time through – damn you, Ubisoft!  Some missions were easier the second time through while the ones that were easier the first time have proven to be anything but.  There’s one mission where I have to infiltrate the gang’s headquarters (and a place I’ve been to already in the game) but using a thug I’ve co-opted to do my leg work.  I have to get him to his boss’s server room unseen by the gang members roaming around all over the place and, of course, in the path I need to guide him and then only using and hacking the various cameras.  Well, folks, the first time I did this, my patsy only got busted (and got the shit shot out of him) once; the second time?  I was consistently getting him caught and shot and I realized, oh, around the third or fourth time failing the mission, that I couldn’t remember exactly how I did it before.  I realized that I did remember how I did it; it was just a thing that what I did the first time wasn’t working the second time but, yeah, I managed to get my patsy in place and accomplish the mission even though the fool got cold feet and eventually got busted by his boss (who is also his cousin) and, presumably, tossed out of a window.

I’ve gone into combat areas without making sure I had everything I needed, like an important tool called a ctOS Scan which, when activated, gives me a picture of where all the bad guys are located.  I learned that going in “blind” is really dumb and I got my ass shot off several times before I literally slapped myself in the head because I’d forgotten something important:  I could quit the mission, go load up on all the stuff I needed, and do the mission again.  Duh.  I’m still doing stupid shit, namely, blowing myself up with IEDs and grenades; the way you toss these items can be iffy especially when you’re hiding behind something.  An arrow-like thingy pops up and you have to point it to the area you want the device to land, but the targeting arrow thingy doesn’t always point where I think it’s going so I wind up tossing a grenade… right onto whatever I happen to be hiding behind.  Or, once, I tossed a grenade toward a cluster of bad guys and, my friends, I was kinda drooling over being able to take them all out at one time… until the grenade bounced off of something and landed in my lap.

I’ve learned a greater appreciation for the game’s physics engine, let me tell ya.  Now, it hasn’t all been a series of self-induced fuck ups; I’m still having fun playing the game the second time and I’ve developed a fondness for infiltrating Gang Hideouts.  For these you have to target and tag the person to be taken down without killing him but the bad guys around him are fair game.  Okay, okay, so a few times I accidentally killed the guy and had to start over and, um, okay, a few times, the damned fool walked close enough to a perfectly placed Proximity IED meant for someone else and blew himself up.  Those things aside, I arm myself with my silenced .45 or maybe the silenced SMG (sub machine gun) and have found myself giggling gleefully as everyone except the target gets a bullet to the head, leaving just me and the target who gets beat down with my trusty ASP baton.  Well, um, damn, one such mission didn’t go well and the target got away and I had to chase him down and take him out without killing him, which I did (after causing so much damage and civilian casualties that not only did my rating go down, I was feeling kinda bad about it) but not until he managed to call  his boys for back up and now, they’re chasing me and they are as relentless as those damned cops.

I wound up destroying my car and before it blew up and killed me – and make me restart the mission – I bail out into the river and start swimming… and the bad guys are on the other side following and shooting at me.  I’m thinking they should give up in a moment… but they don’t and I’m a sitting duck swimming around to find a place I can get out of the water – sadly, I can’t stop swimming, pull a weapon and shoot back.  Eventually, I get to dry land and the bad guys I didn’t managed to wipe out during the car chase are still getting into position to take me out.  Now, what I should have done was get out of the water and haul ass away from them… but, no; I arm myself with my M1017 – a “Barrett” .50 sniper rifle – and I’ll admit to having a Borderlands flashback.  I take out the guy “closest” to me – he’s hiding behind a wall directly in front of me on the other side of the river and I send a bullet through the wall and take him out.  Yeah, it was like that but, wait, the moment gets better.  One of the things I learned playing Borderlands (which has the most excellent sniper rifles) is perfectly leading a moving target and executing the perfect head shot.  No, it’s not as easy as it sounds (and I know that because I’ve actually had weapons training so I do know how to shoot) and thanks to the game’s physics engine, which perfectly simulates gun movement due to breathing and heartbeat – you can see the wavering when you aim.  Anyway, the last bad guy is running down the road and I pick a spot I know he’s gonna run through and pull the trigger…. now.

His head exploded – never saw that in the game the first time – and I actually started laughing my ass off because the shot was perfect even though the actual controller motions were anything but.  I said, “Thanks, Borderlands…” and walked out of the area and onto the next mission.

 
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Posted by on 1 July 2017 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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Watch Dogs

I came to this game “late,” meaning I didn’t get it when it first came out (whenever that was) and Watch Dogs 2 is already out there.  If you remember my last post about gaming, man, this game was making me nuts because I was learning what it was I had to do and driving the various vehicles.  Well, I finally figured out how to play the game and I’m on the last thing to do in story mode:  Find the guy I was partnered with in the beginning of the story and end him since he’s the reason why Aidan (our hero and sometimes villain) got into this mess in the first place.

I’m still wrecking vehicles as if I’ve never used an Xbox controller before, though…

There’s a sense of familiarity with the game now; as I roamed the city; instead of me asking myself, “Where the hell am I?” and other such question as I did so often early into the game, it feels like I’ve been playing this game for years instead of about a week or so.  As I was hurtling from one part of the city to another to do another task, I really noticed the quality of the graphics in the game and they’re beautiful and quite realistic, right down to the sound tires make when going across a drawbridge.  There are day cycles, night cycles and it even rains and the game’s physics engine is so good that while driving in the rain, I pressed the accelerator too hard… and spun out as if I’d hydroplaned.  I just wish that the people who created the game had provided an option to adjust the controller sensitivity; there are times in the game when I’ll react to something quickly – but Aidan doesn’t; sometimes it’s just annoying, sometimes it’s gotten me killed.  Still, my son-in-law (a fellow gamer) did warn me that the controls were hard to get used to when he said that I should check out this game.

This game, more than any other game I’ve played, reminds me of an older game called “Crackdown,” which took the gaming world by storm (and won all kinds of awards including the coveted Game of the Year award) with it’s amazing graphics and open world/sandbox platform which gave you a whole city to play in while being able to interact with the actual gaming environment in a way that hadn’t been done before, like being able to pick up a car or even one of the many non-playable characters (NPCs) and throw them.  Those of us who loved Crackdown are waiting with bated breath for Crackdown 3, which promises to turn sandbox-type games on their heads.

Watch Dogs, at least for me, has this same kind of feel as I roam this version of Chicago and interacting with the environment, from hacking people’s cell phones to being able to jam communications, cause area-wide blackouts and, one of my favorite “hacks” in the game, blow up guards by detonating any grenades they’re carrying.  This game has puzzles in the form of hacking computer system; some are easy, some are rather complicated and then made even more so by only giving you a few seconds to complete connections before the “intrusion” is detected and now you gotta start over again.

As when I play Borderlands, there are some moments when you’d better not even think about charging in the front door with your gun blazing; stealth and some kinda serious thinking are called for; it took me almost an hour to penetrate one facility simply because the direct approach kept getting me killed whenever I tried it from different approaches.  One hack, called a ctOS Scan, lets you see where all of the bad guys are in a target area; some patrol in fixed areas, some roam around a bit unpredictably and, as you might expect, as usually between you and the target you need to get to and hack… and then you have to escape.

I like the weaponry in the game, from IEDs to fragmentation grenades along with a slew of pistols, assault and sniper rifles.  So far, my favorite weapon is the Spec Ops silenced 1911 .45 pistol; when you’re skulking around a place and the cameras (which you can hack) aren’t providing enough views of the target, stealth is called for and since, um, I’ve come to love shooting bad guys, ah, man, there’s no better thrill than having one of those pesky guards approach where I’m hiding and I get to put a silenced round into his unsuspecting head… then cap the guy who finds his body in the same fashion.  I like the sniper rifles – I learned to really like them playing Borderlands – but aiming them can be… suspect to the point where they’re not as reliable as I’d like.  Then again, if the game designers made it too easy, the game wouldn’t be all that challenging, would it?

One task I had was to intercept a convoy of bad guys and take down two suspects… and the best weapon for this was the semi-automatic grenade launcher.  Admittedly, it took me a few times to complete this mission and for a couple of reasons; one, it was hard for me to tell the bad guys from the innocent civilians running around my kill zone and the bad guy I didn’t see would off me.  The other thing was it just took too long for me to switch from my grenade launcher to an assault rifle or maybe an SMG, although the game says there’s a quick switch toggle but, so far, I’ve not been able to get it to work.  But, yeah, that grenade launcher is sweet because as much as I like shooting bad guys, I also love blowing up shit!

Even though I’ve gotten used to the game, um, I still find myself doing dumb shit like, uh, hmm, blowing myself up with my own IEDs/frag grenades.  Or like the few times I was standing at the edge of a building and accidentally hit the “climb down” button, jumped off the building and died.  Or, as I did last night, turn a corner the wrong way and wind up getting wedged into a space I can’t get out of while the bad guy I was chasing got away.  I’m sure Linda gets a kick out of listening to me rant and rave at my own stupidity as I play the game as I either cuss something out or call myself an idiot or a dumb ass for making mistakes that, at this point in my ability to play the game, I shouldn’t be making.  But, sometimes, yeah, it’s my own fault; I got caught up in the moment of taking out five or six very bad guys and had totally forgotten about the half dozen Proximity IEDs I had sowed in the area and, um, especially the one I walked right past which, yup, exploded and took me out.  Even the cat looked at me funny as I kicked my own ass for such a stupid oversight.

The last mission is proving to be the bitch to end all bitches; I’ve attempted it five times now and, so far, nothing I’ve done has proven successful and the fact that the game designers gave the “Chicago PD” a swarm mentality, sheesh, well, it’s hard to get shit done when every damned cop in the city – along with a helicopter I can’t shoot down – is swarming all over me at almost every turn.  I need a plan… and I haven’t come up with one yet so I’ve been running around the city doing the side jobs, like tracking down burner cell phones, ammo dumps, and even preventing street crime to improve my reputation with the civilian population so that when they see me, they won’t drop a dime on me to those pain in the ass cops.  One really laughable moment came when the cops finally ID’d me and put a warrant out for my arrest; apparently video game cops aren’t fans of vigilantism as their real counterparts are.  I’m listening to the news talking about the warrant when a NPC standing in front of me pulls out her cell phone, says, “It’s him!  It’s The Vigilante!” waves at me, and takes my picture.  This is what I love about open world/sandbox type games – you just never know what the NPCs will do, like the one who was entertaining two ladies and beat-boxing for them, or the one guy hanging with his homies and spitting rhymes and, yeah, even four guys hanging on a corner and crooning in perfect harmony.

I’ve actually stopped what I was doing to just watch the NPCs and the shit they do.  I also get a kick out of how they do “normal” stuff, like get into car accidents (and without my help); some have road rage and if you bump into one, don’t be surprised if they cuss you out and threaten to whup your ass.

I really like this game and so much that I’ve started it over on my second Xbox One profile, the thought here is that, hopefully, I’ve learned from my mistakes made the first time so the second time should be better… and that’s not proving to be the case.  Oh, sure, I know what I have to do now but that doesn’t make it easier to do but, at least for this “do over” I already have the silenced .45 and, ya mon, it’s a game changer…

 
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Posted by on 25 June 2017 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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