Saturday, May 30, 2015

Tales from Minecraft: Going "To The Moon" Tinkering With Iguanas

The "Furry Gamers" group is still going at it with Minecraft, or "Minecrack" as Jasmine (or Jazicorn as she's calling herself now) calls it with tounge-in-cheek humor. This time we're going with a version of "Feed the Beast" called "Resonant Rise" with "Tinker's Construct with Iguana Tweaks." We still have the option of building some pretty powerful devices, and there's a lot more minerals and biodiversity. But it also means the process of building itself has become a little more complicated.

Before in Minecraft, you could just slap four boards together to make a workbench and that was all you needed. In this version of "Feed the Beast," I needed five things to start building tools. From left to right, crafting station, tool station, part builder, pattern chest, and a stencil table. For more info, Nydia offered us a wikipage and a couple youtubes (here) and (here) when we were starting out.

To make stencils, you need two sticks and two pieces of wood to make four. For the stencil table, you need a stencil and a piece of wood. Crafting stations are just workbenches remade (bring back in the four square building area in your inventory). Tool stations get a stencil on the regular workbench. The part builder needs a log and a stencil. The pattern chest needs a chest with a stencil.

Sounds complicated? "But wait, there's more." When you start out, you're limited to making tools out of flint. The good news is instead of just waiting for the occasional piece of it while digging gravel, you can combine three piles of it on a workbench or crafting table to make one. To make a flint pickaxe, you need two stencils, one for the head and one for the connector, which you make on the stencil table. Once you have those, you use the pickaxe  head stencil and a chunk of flint to make the flint pickaxe head, and the connector stencil and a piece of wood to make that part and a couple sticks. You then use the tool station, clicking on the pickaxe icon, and placing the head, connector, and stick in their places to make the pickaxe.

Depending on the version of "Tinkers with Iguana" you use, you might not be able make the old style tools on your workbench at all, or even use them if you pick them off clobbered mobs. I never figured out how to make bronze or iron tools with the new system. But you can repair the flint tools with more flint via the tool station.

 The good news, these tools improve with use. As I dug around with my flint pickaxe, it improved, gaining qualities such as resilience, taking longer to wear away, being quicker to use and so being able to dig holes and tunnels faster, and once in a while able to regenerate. The last ability the game announces as "your (tool) seems to have picked up a bit of moss." A pickaxe this happens to three or four times will not need repairs any longer, at least my flint pickaxe.

To complicate matters, there was the occasional "Blood Moon." Hostile mobs like zombies and skeletons came out at night like before, though some places were largely free of them and in some not as densely. But when the darkening sky turned dark red and the message "The Blood Moon is rising" flashed on the screen, that was the signal to hunker down and hide, dig yourself a hole and seal the opening if you were caught far from a building or cave. The mobs would come out in a massive horde that would quickly overwhelm you unless you could fight them from a doorway AND had a study weapon that could take a lot of hits.

Some monsters also had special abilities, such as the "Vampyric Zombie of the Eclipse" which could block out the sun where it was fighting you and drain more health than normal if it touched you. Often they had more hitpoints, so taking more hits before they dropped. Witches had potions that could really poison you, going down to half a health point. One of the more insidious was a kind of witch cat that seemed harmless at first, then would morph into a huge beast that could both pummel and poison you.

I didn't build much when the group first established their Resonant Rise server, just build two bases in a couple forested area in the middle of a desert. From there I would explore around a little, getting armor from fallen mobs, and fruits from the numerous saguaro cactus in the sands.

Besides horses, there were these chocobo, which could be tamed and ridden (insert Final Fantasy 7 victory music).

There was more biodiversity in the game, with some trees getting especially big.

And lots of new plants. Not sure what you can do with them, but the looked nice.

There were various builds already on the map at random places, such as this mausoleum near a spooky old castle. There was a crate with treasure inside, but looking triggered a lava trap.

There were also various villages, each with villagers, out there. A few had guards, which could take on zombies. There were also bandit camps, which would take on any player who entered.

Some players could build some pretty elaborate builds. As there were other realms in the game besides the Nether, and this included the Moon, Mars, and other planets, that got Jasmine's mental gears turning. So she got together with Nydia and Kryxia for their own Apollo project. They'd be making their own rocket to the Moon.

When everything was ready, they waited a few minutes for people to come over to watch. Then Jasmine got in the rocket and they counted down ...

And it was "rockets away" as she went up into the air.

Jasmine took some screenshots as she went up.

And further up.

And soon the ground was too far to see.

Jasmine's ride continued onward ...

And soon, she was in the cold black of space.

Soon the lunar lander was deployed. At this point, she could see the square Minecraft Earth.

It was soon time to start the landing sequence.

Closer, closer, putting on the rockets, not burning too much too soon so not to run out before she landed.

And touchdown!

The Eagle had landed!

The trouble with a trip to the Moon was once the initial thrill wore off, well, there wasn't much to explore but endless surfaces of dust. Fortunately, she brought enough materials to start work on a base. Eventually, she was able to build another rocket, and head back.

They talked about making another rocket to head to Mars. Then came trouble. Something went VERY wrong with one of Jasmine's builds, and the result was the server was "nuked." We had to start all over. This hit some players such as Valkyrie and Skylark hard as they had taken the time to make some pretty eleborate builds they were proud of, and now there was nothing left. The only thing that could be done was to start over, with a few flint tools to allow people to find a place and establish themselves.

I found a village some distance to the east and made a new base.

And tunneling away to make my G.U.E. (Great Underground Empire), linking places with tunnels, and making a few shelters in between them.

There's a little more to tell, but perhaps for another day as that darn Blood Moon is once again rising, and time to head back to the tunnels before the freaks come out at night.

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, May 18, 2015

What’s Happening In High Fidelity?

By DrFran Babcock

   If you haven’t yet heard, High Fidelity, or HiFi, is a virtual world that was started a little over a year ago by Philip Rosedale, creator of Second Life and Linden Lab. I have been an Alpha tester since about a month into the opening for Alpha, and in this time there has been a lot of change.

Why Another Virtual World?

There is an answer, in case you were asking yourself this very question. HiFi is Philip’s dream for creating a world that has few of the main problems that dogged SL. The first of these is scaling. I can recall, back in 2006, when SL was the darling of the media. I remember getting my Nissan car in world, and being courted by IBM. Coke, etc. Why aren’t all these companies still in SL? It seems as if it would be a good place to market. However, consider that one video of a cat singing gets more hits than SL could ever muster. You see, each sim in SL can only hold about 50 maximum before performance starts to dip, and that’s not the kind of numbers that attract business. With High Fidelity, each resident can manage their own domain—essentially, a server (it can be your own computer) that runs a world. The size of this world is enormous, and it doesn’t put a stress on any central space that is going to have to bear the stress. Each of us can be the masters of our own worlds, and the scaling is infinite.

   The second issue that has always been a goal for Philip Rosedale is to reduce latency. In SL, performers always have to deal with a lag if they are playing together, so that group work suffers timing problems. The goal of HiFi is to create a place where a resident in California can jam live with a resident in the UK…without any delay in the sound reaching the listener. 

   I have been to concerts in HiFi where this is happening, and it’s a completely jaw-dropping experience. In addition, the sound is spatial. As you move around the level changes based on where you are—just like in first life. There have been times when a few people jammed, and I felt as if I was in a concert hall.

But, Can I Look Pretty?

   When I try to “recruit” people for HiFi, my girlfriends often ask: “When can I look pretty?” The avatars at this point, are still quite primitive, as you can see in the picture of me here. However, what’s amazing, is that everything that is coming is being built to accommodate immersive movement. Facial expressions and body and hand movements all add to the feeling that “you are there.” As HiFi Alpha Tester @Judas says: “You haven’t experienced a virtual world until you have reached out and touched someone and they smiled back at you. It really, for me, is a game changer.” 

   The pretty is coming. It’s important to remember that this is still alpha.

Interested In Joining?

Come see what’s happening in High Fidelity Alpha. The sign up page can be found here:
  Some basic info:
·  There is no money system yet.
·  There is a marketplace, and everything is free.
·  The scripting is done in JavaScript.
·  It’s Alpha; it’s going to be crude.

·  I will keep letting you know about High Fidelity, and you can join when you are ready.

See you there.


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Gaming News: Steam Suddenly Ending Modder Payment System, WoW Numbers Drop, A Cheater's Public End

By Bixyl Shuftan

There were a couple notable stories this week in the world of Massive Multiplayer Games. The  news about World of Warcraft's numbers revealed that the boost provided by their latest expansion is now over. When "Warlords of Draenor" came out, the response was electric, subscriptions going from less than 7 million in June 2014 to more than ten in November. The latest statistics released show that by March 2015, numbers had plummeted as fast as they had risen, down to 7.1 million.

So why the plunge? Different players will give different answers. One heard more than once was that once a player reached Level 100, maxed out the Garrison, and witnessed Garosh Hellscream's end, there wasn't that much to do. But even with this drop, World of Warcraft remains the top MMO.

Links: MMO Champion, Gamespot, Nasdaq, IGN

In another MMO, a cheater was delt with in a very public way. Over a few weeks, players gathered evidence of a JT Darkside using exploits  to dominate other characters in Player versus player combat, teleporting away, dealing massive damage, etc., "with these programs running, the character could travel around the map at extraordinary speeds, teleport inside structures to take them from opposing factions, and apparently both hit hard as well as be hard to kill."

As youtube videos were the big evidence against him, in a fitting end to Darkside, his fate was shown in a youtube video on a post by security cheif Chris Cleary in the Guildwars forum. The video showed Darkside being stripped of his clothes down to his underwear, giving the viewer a friendly wave, then plummeting off a ledge to his death. The character, and one other belonging to the player, were deleted. When someone asked about his account, Clearly posted, "We don't need to see it (evidence) in-game. Sometimes good video evidence is good enough for me to track down who it was. In this case, the video was enough for me to findout who it was and take action. Thanks for the video, and to accompany your video, I give you this video of his account's last moments. Oh yah, he's also banned."

The response was a number of cheers from gamers, "Perfect way to embarrass these idiots who seem to find it fun cheating."

Links: Guild Wars 2 Forums, Eurogamer, BBC News, Massively OP,

Late last month was a move by Steam that got quite a bit of attention. They announced a new system that would allow the makers of game mods to sell them on Steam Workshop, starting with Skyrim, which has among the most mods of any game on the market. While the move excited some people whom felt this would encourage new content, others reacted badly, feeling they'd have to pay for what they were getting for free.

The system didn't remain up for long. After only four days, Steam announced the system was being taken down. In a statement, Steam explained than in the past their efforts to allow "community creators to receive a share of the rewards" had been "in the past, they've been received well. It's obvious now that this case is different." They had been taken off guard by the numbers of those complaining.

There was one other issue, though it didn't get as much buzz as people having to pay for mods. The question was also raised about how much the modders themselves would make. Only a 25% would go to the modder. The rest was split with Steam's owner Valve and Skyrim's owner Bethesda, 30-45 respectively. Hamlet Au blasted this decision to give modders such a small percentage, "it suggests that Bethesda looked at it's sales data, noticed the financial success of it's most talented, dedicated, grassroots developer fans, and decided that was a bad thing. I'm not even finished with how bad this is: It suggests that talented independent gamers do not deserve great success, despite countless hours of free work, risked on the great likelihood that they would earn little or no revenue for their plans. It suggests that only professional game developers deserve to be reasonable compensated for game development. It suggests that Bethesda thinks it puts more value into Skyrim than the hundreds of thousands of it's most passionate fans who make and use Skyrim mods."

Hamlet Au compared Bethesda's apparent attitude to modders to Linden Lab's feelings to content creators making more money than the Lindens themselves, "They brag about it." He brought up a speech by then CTO Cory Ondrejka in which he mentioned one businesswoman, " 'She makes more money than me,' said Cory. And he was proud of that."

Both Bethesda's attitude and the sudden removal of the mod sale system "has deeply hurt the long term value of Skyrim," Hamlet Au thought. He felt the game, now four years old, could have "easily thrived for a decade or more."

In the meantime, those modders hoping to get at least some money for Skyrim mods will have to look elsewhere. Perhaps some will hear about the successes of Second Life's content creators and come here.

Links: New World Notes, Steam CommunityArs Technia, Kotaku, Bethblog, Steamed,

Bixyl Shuftan