Here We Go Round the Grindberry Bush

You’d think I’d learn by now.

I don’t know why I even try to expect consistency from myself.

Not a few days after changing my blog layout to favor bigger pictures, in the expectation that I might be playing more simulation style games with lovely scenery like theHunter or new games where screenshots would help to illustrate the experience, I have suddenly decided that NOW is the perfect time to re-focus on the same old games and make a concentrated push for long term goal projects.

This mostly means that I’ve traded off staring nightly at stuff that looks like this:

lake_deer

To this:

legmedss

Well, in the case of Warframe, I know why.

At the end of April, they announced the Prime Vault was unsealing to make Loki Prime earnable once more, as well as Volt Prime.

I have neither of them and I’ve been enjoying the basic Loki’s invisibility for certain missions of late, so this was very motivating for me to declare “farm relics to get the unvaulted primes” as a long term goal until July 3 or done (Preferably done way before that final vault sealing date.)

The less fantastic news is that relic farming is always intentionally grindy.

So I thought I may as well stretch it into a long term project rather than burn out attempting to farm 12 hours without stopping the first few days. (Yeah, right, who has that kind of game time any more? Dang college students/unemployed/retirees.)

I guess these things come in cycles.

Having indulged the inner Explorer for a couple months, now the inner Achiever demanded to be let out to do its thing.

The problem with the inner Achiever (or at least with mine) is its intense desire to have whatever it’s aiming for -now-, stat, with very little clue about just precisely how it’s going to get there and very little tolerance for how long the whole process will take.

I get very very antsy.

In my befuddled brain that is the usual state of affairs, it tends to imagine that whatever it wants will somehow magically be presented to it, if it thinks about it hard enough, repeatedly enough, and keeps chasing after it like an overenthusiastic dog.

Project planning is a skill I seem to have largely missed the boat on.

Traditional project planning, much like traditional outlining, has never worked for me.

In the old days, it was pretty much do it that waterfall way or the highway, and I usually just opted for careening down the expressway flying by the seat of my pants and winging it by dealing with the loudest and most urgent thing and proceeding from there via subconscious guilt and nagging brain prompts.

In this enlightened Internet day and age, there are apparently more options than the two extremes, as consultants and professionals attempt to describe what the more average folks -actually- do to get by in their day to day lives, and then give it shiny new names and a marketing buff and polish to sell the technique back to us.

One such methodology that I randomly stumbled across is the Improvement Kata, something purportedly based on what Toyota’s management culture practices.

Beyond the business speak and filler for packaging into a format that can be sold as training to corporations, it seems to be based on a core common sense (which is never very common) concept of iteration.

  1. Have a direction that you want to head towards, and an idea of the challenge you’ll need to overcome
  2. Have an idea of where you currently are
  3. Define a reachable “next target”
  4. Experiment your way from 2 to 3
  5. Repeat 2-4 until you reach 1, if ever

Besides the useful and common concept of breaking down your goal into smaller realistically achievable parts, I really like what Improvement Kata brought to step 4, where it is explicitly diagrammed as not a straight linear path, but a series of winding experimental steps where the path zigzags

This helps to assuage my perfectionist mind that it is okay to have backward progress or sidetreks in the course of attaining the target.

That like Edison’s light bulb, you may have to try a whole bunch of different things, fail, realise and learn what -doesn’t- work, in order to finally hit upon something that -does-.

That chasing up side avenues is fine.

That whatever gets you motivated to just keep making starts is good, you’ll learn more as you experiment your way forward.

That it’s more important to just check in now and then on where you are, on what you’ve learned since the last check-in and to keep refining those plans based on what you know now until you get where you want to go.

I tried out the practice on the Relic Farming project.

1. Overall Big Picture Target – Own Loki Prime, Volt Prime and maybe Odonata Prime

2. Where Am I Now – originally nothing; now, see below

wf_relicgrind

I am almost there on Loki Prime, just missing the rarest and most annoying to obtain component. I got lucky cracking open relics, so I’m a little further along on Volt Prime than I’d dared to hope. No progress on Odonata, but that’s fine as it is the least priority.

3. Next Target – Loki Prime Systems

4. Experiment

Experiment-wise, I’d already conducted a bunch in the previous week to find out the best sources of relics and what tools I had at my disposal to obtain them, given my quirky limitations of preferring to solo, not wishing to buy stuff outright with platinum and being more limited than a max MR player

Several false starts and some time measurements later, it has boiled down to running through Void, Marduk – Sabotage with a Loki at my very average and not extremely fast pace of ~5min per mission to have a 6% chance of popping the correct Axi L4 relic.

I am collecting a great deal of other relics in the progress.

When bored of the former, the secondary fallback is that I can also do a Void, Mot – Survival up to 20 min for a 13% chance at the Axi L4 relic with a Nidus.

But survival with void enemies doing 4x more damage and needing to stay for an uninterrupted 20 minutes tends to be a little more nailbiting than running around mostly invisible.

So I wind up by preference going for 4 chances of 6%, as opposed to 1 chance of 13% to get what I want.

Is that better? If I remember my math classes more, I could probably figure it out.

(My hunch says: the combined probability of -not- getting the relic I want each time is 94%, multiplied by itself 4 times. So 0.94 x 0.94 x 0.94 x 0.94 = 0.78. So the chance I might have popped the relic after 4 goes is 1 – 0.78 = 22%?)

Dunno. I await someone better at math to correct me. Intuitively, it kinda feels better, so we’ll run with that for now.

You’d think that project is sufficient to keep me occupied for the present, but between ArenaNet’s slightly improved communication and the anticipated release of the final Living Story 4 episode, my attention has been somewhat drawn back to GW2.

charmingmug
Not to insinuate that the game is some sort of many-armed monster, but… maybe.

To be honest, my relationship with GW2 was in a very bad place at the beginning of the year.

Some of the words that easily came to mind were “frustrated” “bored out of my skull” “burnt out” and “pushed beyond tolerance at the change in community sentiment.”

(Call me paranoid, but I rather suspect that similar emotions were running through a number of ArenaNet staff pre-layoffs.)

I just hadn’t reached a “quitting” frame of mind yet.

I was just stuck in a weird limbo of “I still kinda like the game, but I don’t like where it is nor where it seems to be going.”

Eventually, I decided that I’d delay reacting to it and give ArenaNet sufficient time to get their last few story episodes out and reassess what I felt about GW2 in April-May.

I guess I’m finally getting a little smarter with age and figuring out that delaying decisions can sometimes be a way forward.

The ArenaNet layoffs seem to have been a wakeup boot for the company. Not a great thing to happen to anyone, but making lemonade out of lemons is about the best one can do with a bad situation. Communication has stepped up a little (possibly due to certain policy makers voluntarily leaving). It’s a fire under them that forces a re-focus on what they’re trying to achieve with GW2.

From a steadily dropping and close to zero percent confidence level in the future of GW2 pre-layoffs and pre-communication, it at least feels like there’s a 35% chance now that there might be somewhat interesting future things for GW2. (Note: I’m a cynical pessimistic person by nature, so these are pretty decent numbers for my skewed viewpoint.)

Pursuant to figuring out how I will feel about the whole GW2 franchise once Living Story 4 draws to a conclusion, it occurred to me that regardless of me quitting or continuing, I should finish some of the long term goals that I always wanted to complete.

The biggest bugbear on that Unfinished Tasks list was Legendary Medium armor.

It is with some irony that I note that the raids part of it was completed long ago and by no means a bottleneck.

It was more a lack of motivation due to it being ugly as sin (and that’s giving sin a bad name), and the eternal time-gated nuisance of faction provisioner tokens which requires serious organized diligence to remember to feed various NPCs daily with the required objects for weeks on end. 25 days if you’re rich and go for 12 tokens a day, and for cheapskates like me, 42 days going at a 7 token a day pace.

That and the crippling cost of helping to sink a shipload of crafting materials by buying them with gold from other players.

Hence the spreadsheet, keeping track of what I have and still need:

legmedss

The Step 4: Experiment stage of this has been surprisingly more entertaining than first anticipated.

Mostly because my miserly soul refuses to buy outright expensive things off the TP if there’s another way I can obtain them at a decent enough clip.

I’m time gated by provisioner tokens anyway, so it’ll be early June before I can be done.

The question is: what activities can get me more of what I need?

grindberry

The various experiments in answering that have led me to do long ignored HoT metas, chase down the Winterberry farm once more for Unbound Magic to open bundles to see if their contents were worth anything, and learn more intently about the Living Story 4 maps that contain Volatile Magic as a reward, as those can be exchanged for trophy shipments.

It’s gotten my not-quite-raider self out of closed instances with my ego continually frayed by ever-excessively competitive people (not that it’s wrong, but type As exhaust everyone else around them – especially when they decide type B aren’t worthy of respect, or would be better off dragged up the mountain and would appreciate it once they see the view at the top)

TypeATypeBCartoon
Cartoon taken from https://www.simplypsychology.org/personality-a.html

and back out into the open world where things are either slightly more chill, or where I can solo in peace.

I finished most of the crafting and mystic forging. I ran through a HoT meta or two and picked up most of the tokens I’d need.

I bought stuff I’m not likely to be able to farm for myself in good time from the TP.

My timing is terrible, as the legendary greatsword is coming and prices are no doubt rising in response already. I rationalized it by my supposition that prices will rise and stay high for at least the next month once the legendary launches and everyone realizes they need the stuff I also need for legendary armor, so I may as well get what I need now for peace of mind, and any extras I earn I can sell at the presumably more inflated price later.

The last step is T5 and T6 trophies. They’re in sync because there’s two major ways I figure I’ll get them.

One is mystic forge promotion. I buy the T5 and then convert them on my own penny crystalline dust and spirit shard-wise for T6. That economy is generally sensitive enough that it should always be somewhat cheaper to do so than buy the T6 outright, barring a sudden glut of T6 drops from some event or another.

The second is volatile magic converted into trophy shipments. The return seems to be fairly decent. So I’ve been all over the LS4 maps harvesting nodes, killing stuff, doing hearts, buying daily stuff off vendors, collecting glowy magic objects on mounts, doing dailies, doing metas and trying to figure out if anything gives a decent return and is hopefully more personally interesting to me than doing a million Great Hall/Palawadan meta cycles.

It’s still pretty grindy though.

In that I’m repetitively doing a whole lot of things mostly to get the end result. I’m not not enjoying it (if you can parse that.)

As in, it’s not something I would just do for fun (it takes a bit more focus than relaxation), and it’s not something I outright hate either (those I wouldn’t do. I decided to buy the fractal stuff I needed off the TP, all 140g of it, because I still loathe that game mode and the dislike deepens further with every new fractal I’ve never tried and ever-divided PUG scene. What’s gold for if not to trade with, right?)

It’s more a focused reason/excuse to repeat some things I might not repeat otherwise in order to get to a final goal.

In the repetition, I have a reason/excuse to actually be playing the game, and you know, it’s not half bad an activity to be doing.

…Hmm… Maybe I still sorta like this game after all.

It’s a strange kind of convoluted thinking that I haven’t quite got my head around yet, but it’s an improvement from -not liking- for sure.

We’ll see how things go from there.

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Stardew Valley Days

stardew1

This game is a dangerous time-suck.

I boot it up to get a few screenshots, and before you know it, I’m doing the “just one more turn” thing into the wee hours of the morning trying to make the crops grow up to the point where I can reap the rewards, and oh look, the seasons changed, my plants are dead, I need to plant more seeds and make them grow up to fruiting stage again.

stardew2

It probably didn’t help that I spent most of the spring fishing.

In every conceivable spot I could find. Because the minigame is devilish in a casino-like sense, involving just enough skill that makes you think you can control the outcome sufficiently and enough RNG from different fishing locations and different fish biting on the hook (and a high amount of variance on the basic rod) that the outcome is never guaranteed.

stardew3
Bought a farming game; Went fishing

Somewhere along the line, the community center quests were unlocked. This asks the player to turn in one of practically every item there is in the game for rewards, in themed bundles like fall crops or spring forage or night-caught fish.

stardew5

Naturally, this fed my hoarding tendencies to no end. Turning a profit is now tricky, because I’m more inclined to keep it in a chest instead.

Still, a sandbox is a sandbox.

Some people choose to min-max their farming to optimal sprinkler patterns and industrial crop generation.

Some people choose to decorate their house with pretty bits, or play the NPC dating sim portions.

Me, I’m tootling around on my dinky little unoptimized but immersive farm, watching the crops grow and the days go by, while I mostly fish the hours away.

stardew6

I’m also dead certain half my played hours are spent holding down “A” or “D” to criss-cross a multitude of screens “running” here and there, at a pace other games would call walking speed. Sneakiest time-wasting mechanic ever.

Before you know it, the natural tendency of humans to rationalize kicks in. “Gee, I just spent hours playing Stardew Valley. I must really like this game!”

(Not to mention the sunk-cost fallacy.)

For pleasant whiling away of hours to cheerful music and idyllic pastoral settings, especially if you only own a PC and can’t play Harvest Moon/Rune Factory variants, Stardew Valley can’t be beat though.

The inside of my modest chicken coop:

stardew4

With two extremely free-range hens.

stardew7

I’ve been keeping the bulk of the overgrown grass around, because they’re apparently a free source of hay.

The silo’s currently clogged with 240 pieces. Am still progressing toward a barn and larger farm animals ever so slooowly.

In the meantime, the hens are running amok in the tall grass and I have to admit that I rather like it that way.

(Fortunately, in-game hens are nice enough to return to the coop to sleep every night, and Stardew Valley doesn’t implement any “farm livestock happily run off and get lost without fencing” mechanics or have any free-roam hen predators around either.)

stardew8

Before you know it (or rather, 15 Steam played hours later,) fall is here.

And the Stardew Valley farming saga continues.

Minecraft: Agrarian Skies – Snapshots from Hermit Island

Home Sweet Sky Platforms....

The fun thing about starting from an identical map is that shortly thereafter, each player puts their own unique “home” imprint on things, arranging things how they like with what made sense at the time.

Before you know it, the place won’t look the same at all.

Here’s the view from my front door, complete with good luck cat.

as1_frontdoor

In the original dirt spot is a peach tree, grown from a lucky reward sapling. A plum tree has joined it in the background, but I’m clean out of any more fruit tree growing space.

Future plan: Extend outwards to get a proper orchard going.

There’s some milk sitting in the oak barrels, conveniently sheltered by a cobblestone roof extension that was actually raised flooring for Cobblestone Generator, Version 2.

That was just an experiment to see if the milk would keep and not spoil, though I believe there are a lot more effective fluid storage means (like fluid tanks of one sort or another) that I haven’t gotten around to sampling and learning yet.

as1_cobgen2

Speaking of Cobblestone Gen V2, here it is.

Pretty much copied off the Minecraft wiki, it uses two lava flows and four water sources funneling blocks to the center location you stand at.

Because two cobblestones are formed, you can essentially just keep on mining instead of having to wait for the lava to form another block.

It took me a surprising amount of time to figure out that one can also just hammer the cobblestone to get gravel immediately.

There was no room on the ground floor of the island, and I was a little paranoid about safety and mobs sneaking up behind me while tunnel visioned on mining cobblestone, so it made a lot of sense to me to just knock a hole in the house roof and extend out a second floor.

Of course, this was not without its learning hijinks.

ag1_lavaoops

This is why you take the effort to put obsidian blocks behind the lava source of the cobblestone generator.

Version 2.0 did not.

Naturally, I was bound to accidentally mine through the ordinary stone brick and create a lava leakage. Which, due to its placement, created a lava waterfall and took out the original peach tree.

Could have been a lot worse.

Version 2.1 was hastily retrofitted with obsidian, and Peach Tree #2 has been quite safe for a while now.

as1_cobgen1auto

Having absolutely no experience with Minecraft mods of an industrial nature, it’s been very baby steps for me, tiptoeing slowly into the automation portions.

There won’t be any complex machines here for quite some time, I think.

I generally like to take my time and understand each component singly and get it functioning in a simplistic way – easy enough for me to understand – before getting ambitious and chaining them all in a way that might either break the machine or my CPU.

Cobblestone Generator V1 was upgraded with one of my first automatic machines, which honestly seems sufficient for my present cobblestone needs.

It uses a Terrain Smasher.

This interesting block breaks up any block placed in front of it. That is. the cobblestone that keeps forming when the lava meets the water.

I added a lever, so that I can turn it off and on on demand.

I suspect I’m just a bit more of a manual control freak than an automation personality. I take immense pleasure in being able to flip the switch and watch the machine go. Then walk away and do some things while knowing it’s running. And then coming back and flipping the lever to turn it off, while I drool over the cobblestone produced.

I mean, I know I can just create an essentially bottomless barrel instead of a chest and leave the thing to run on automatic forever and never lack for cobblestone again… but the idea of exhausting my computer cycles and lagging me out every now and then, producing needless waste just… offends, somehow.

I just like it a lot better when I can say, ok, time to stop and time to start.

(And the chest on top of it collects the cobblestone it smashes up. Because of said control freak-ness, I rarely let the machine go long enough to fill up its capacity. There’s only so many stacks of cobblestone one needs at any one time, anyway.

I know that one day I can set the whole thing up in a big long chain to funnel cobblestone from hither to thither, machine to machine, all on automatic without me having to move a muscle, but meh, that day is not today. I’ll need so much more floor space for one thing, and it seems to take out some of the fun without manual input and control. Sort of like, yeah, one day, you could probably get a robot to drive your car for you and ferry you from place A to place B with the push of a button, but manually controlling the car and having some say in the matter has a certain ‘feel’ to it too.)

as1_pulveriser

The glass-encased ladder (because I don’t like climbing high places without a safety net to prevent strafing off ladders) from Cobblestone Gen V2 leads up to this beauty…

The Pulverizer Mark 1000.

My most complex machine to date, I made an entire raised floor for it (and future automation machinery) because I was nervous that I might break something or cause it to explode. Everywhere on the ground floor was already too cramped as it was, even before considering the damaging effect of an explosion or fire.

See, cobblestone has to be hammered into gravel. And gravel into sand. And sand into dust.

If I didn’t want to be chained to manually hammering stacks and stacks of the above blocks (and I don’t,) then I had to figure out an automatic way of dealing with the problem.

It uses a Magmatic Dynamo – which creates fuel/energy based on me feeding in buckets of lava.

This is connected to the main Pulverizer block in the middle.

(It would be a point of hilarity to share that it took me a while to figure out how these two blocks connected up. I originally placed the Pulverizer alongside the Dynamo block and it just wasn’t receiving any input. Turns out that I placed the Dynamo so that the output was facing up, and not sideways. Still, it was a happy accident. I kind of like the look of it this way.)

One can then set the Pulverizer block to output things on any of its faces – in this case, left and right. Chests are connected to it so that there’s somewhere for the items to go.

(Presumably one can eventually make pipes or conveyer belts and things that can move stuff around to more conveniently located chests/storage, but meh, why complicate things when learning?)

It took a while to figure out how to get blocks to feed into the Pulverizer. A mere chest on top of the input face didn’t work.

So the next step was to dump a hopper (that grey upside-down pyramid) on the input face.

This worked.

Except the hopper only could hold 5-6 stacks at once. So the chest got dumped on TOP of the hopper.

Now anything placed in the chest, falls into the hopper, which feeds it into the pulverizer, which does its crushing thing and feeds the output to the two side chests.

BINGO.

Add a lever for on/off control and celebrate.

The Mark 2000 is being planned soon. One problem that I ended up encountering with the present model is that it’s a pain to ferry lava up to this platform, two buckets at a time, from my main crucibles below.

I believe it will be possible to actually make a cobblestone generator up here (aka a one-block Igneous Extruder machine) that will feed its output into a crucible, which will melt it into lava, and then let the lava flow directly into the Magmatic Dynamo. Yet another Future Project to consider.

as1_smelter

Meanwhile, my Smelter is doing fine. It’s the same basic construction I used in Hexxit, with one side devoted to casting three ingots at a time, operated with a button, with the three blocks linked with a redstone circuit.

Another side has casting basins for solid blocks – though somehow the last block doesn’t respond very well to a button-operated redstone circuit (the power cuts out too quickly for it or something) so I’m reduced to manually operating the faucets when needed.

as1_smelterblood

The only funny story about the smeltery so far is that an escaped pig from the nearby pasture apparently made its way to and INTO the smeltery, while molten metal was present in it. Naturally, it must have roast itself to death, because I found 40 mB of blood in the smeltery later.

And the blood was busy clogging up the pipes and preventing the molten iron on top of it from flowing out into their ingot casts.

Enter problem-solving efforts to figure out how to get the blood out.

Fortunately, after some reading, it appears that Seared Tanks keep the liquid stored within it, even after being pickaxed and moved elsewhere.

So it was a matter of moving away a casting table, replacing it with an empty Seared Tank right under the faucet, turning the faucet on and letting the 40 mB of blood drip into the Seared Tank, then moving the Seared Tank off to the side and replacing the casting table.

as1_pasturestairs

The one lone pasture has been extended with another.

Ironically, they ended up in a Jungle biome by sheer accident, so an insane number of ocelots have been spawning in. I’d have more tamed cats sitting around, except I haven’t had time to fish.

Unfortunately, this means chicken-keeping is quite impossible with all those wild cats roaming about, turning randomly spawning chickens into balls of feathers and chicken meat, so another Future Project is to create a safe chicken rearing area.

I am also super proud of these stairs that lead up and down to the smeltery and Cobblestone Gen V2 on the roof.

Building these up and down, and installing fence railings, while suspended over a void was quite a feat of engineering.

as1_backdoor

Another view of the back area.

The artificial pool keeps being extended and deepened, in an effort to make fishing easier. The hook still keeps sticking into the sides and bottom though, if I don’t look up at the sky to cast, so really, it can stand being extended even further.

Eventually, there will need to be more water tanks when I experiment with marine aquaculture anyway.

The water barrels for clay making have been moved to a more stable platform – which is also conveiently producing mossy cobblestone via leakage from the barrels.

Outdoor crucibles making lava are barely visible beyond the barrels – these were moved outside because I was worried about risk of fire from lava as a fuel source. (Plus eventually, a perpetually burning netherrack fire when I get my hands on some netherrack.)

Some corridor space was co-opted for experimental mycelium and witch water barrel production, as well as a safe isolated spot for infesting a single tree with a silkworm for silk. But really, I need a proper mushroom farm area some day… Future Project Number Whatever. I’ve lost count.

as1_mobgrinder

This beauty took quite a while to construct.

I don’t make mob spawn/farm/grinders very often, but since one of the quest instructions was to make one of these… and the turn-in requirements were 10 rotten flesh and 10 bones, it seemed like a project to work on.

It operates on the simple “drop a mob through a center hole in the floor” principle.

Except I pretty much had to construct the ground it stands on – double layered, because I’m scared of accidentally pickaxeing through a one layer floor and falling to my doom. (It’s not like I don’t have enough cobblestone now.)

Creating the mob spawning floor was a bit trickier.

It’s relatively compact, and doesn’t allow for a straight 8 blocks of flowing water to push mobs into the hole. So I had to experiment with the compact design of curving water around cobblestone slabs until they ended at the hole.

The problem was that I shortly ran out of viable spawning locations between all the water and cobblestone slabs, so I had to construct a second floor to spawn mobs in.

The second floor has a 2×2 hole, surrounded by open fence gates (as suggested by the wiki to fool the mob AI into wandering into the hole – without the fence gates, they certainly didn’t seem to drop very often) that dumps them either directly down the chute or into the first floor, where the water should eventually push them to their doom.

Should.

as1_death

You see the head mounted on the right pillar? That’s mine.

This claimed one life from me when I accidentally stepped into the running water stream while constructing it, and failed to react fast enough and generate sufficient force against the current.

OF COURSE I already put the Punji Sticks at the bottom, so even if the impact on the floor didn’t off me, the five sticks with nowhere to run would certainly have their way with me.

The only good news is that I could walk back and collect all the items that fell out of my corpse.

Yep, stress-tested and proven to work!

The glass drop chute was an experiment with Forge Microblocks – a mod that lets you chop a solid Minecraft block into smaller and smaller shapes, oddly reminiscent of Landmark’s microvoxels, in a sense.

as1_microblocks

This was the size test. You can chop them into slabs, panels, pillars, strips, corners, notches and so on.

I settled on Panels – which appears to be 1/4 of a normal block.

as1_clearpanels

They’re placed on the OUTSIDE, on the surrounding blocks, leaving a complete 1 block clear space for mobs to drop unimpeded through.

I didn’t want to climb up 23 blocks or more to make the mobs die on impact, so I added some Punji Sticks at the bottom, which do enough extra damage to off the mobs quickly.

If one gets the timing and positioning -just- right, one can actually get a hit in for some experience, but it’s certainly not the most effective experience grinder. That can be, yes, Another Future Project down the road.

The really accidentally nice thing about this that I discovered is that one can pretty much walk all around the shaft and collect any items that drop, they’ll float right through the clear glass microblock if you can’t reach it from the front.

Eventually, I suppose one can put a vacuum hopper to suck up drops into a chest… but I’m still working on producing Ender Pearls to make one.

I made my mob grinder to only have a two block height limit, because I didn’t want to deal with Endermen spawning, running into a water stream and freaking out, then teleporting all over my base moving blocks around.

Still, this means I need to either think up another way to get Ender Pearls – aka experiment with Pearl Oysters from Mariculture or bee-keeping (though that might be more complex a task than bargained for), or make a more controlled mob spawner/grinder, just to handle and deal with Endermen.

Future Project Number Umpteen.

And always alongside, is the reminder of being endlessly hungry and needing food.

To combat this, beyond the sustainable basics of growing lots of carrots and juicing them into carrot juice (with which I’ve been living on most of the time), this means going further into Pam’s Harvestcraft mod and working out recipes for more substantial meals.

as1_houseindoors

I bit the bullet the other day and sat in my teeny tiny house, making all the complex utensils the mod requires – Pot, Mortar and Pestle, Saucepan, Skillet, Mixing Bowl, etc. and then arranging them on Bibliocraft shelving units so that it looks a bit kitchen-y.

You can also tell that I’m fast running out of storage space and need to expand elsewhere, eventually.

My sieve has graduated from being manually operated to having two Autonomous Activators feed in gravel/sand/dust and shake it for me on their own (as controlled by on/off levers.)

I’m going to eventually need a vacuum hopper to suck in the stuff produced (so far, it’s just me standing in the house doing stuff and absorbing what’s produced) and to move it off or make another one elsewhere with more space to point more automatic machines at it.

Yet More Future Projects. No clue where I’m going to have room for that though.

The recipes though, require quite a bit of food/crop variety and animal products…

as1_farm

My dinky little farm also needs to expand out into a proper crop-growing space with rows and a fruit tree orchard.

The Sprinkler I installed is really quite nifty though.

It apparently waters stuff in a radius surrounding itself, so there shouldn’t be any more irrigation channels needed in the future.

It certainly encourages tall grass to grow very very quickly – which is great for getting a big selection of all the seeds and crops and fruit tress that Pam’s HarvestCraft mod apparently has.

I found a wild strawberry the other day, and promptly planted seeds of it. There’s an avocado growing too.

Then as beet and blueberry and coconut fell into my inventory, I realized I really really needed more space.

More cobblestone floor extension soon(TM.)

GW2: Log Harvester Edition

The League of Orrian Lumberjacks strike yet again!

It’s official.

I’ve joined the ranks of those who risk life and limb virtual lumberjacking (aka getting mistaken for a bot by ArenaNet’s algorithm detections and slapped with a ban.)

Though by now, there’s an army of people standing by the grove of Cypress Saplings west of Pagga’s waypoint, all busy half-heartedly grumbling and chop-chop-chopping.

I held off selling 13 Foxfire Clusters in the last few days before the Dragon’s Reach Part 2 update hit, suspecting that we’d probably need them again for a whole new batch of plant food to grow the next stage of the backpack.

Good decision, as it turned out.

Except we were talking 20 for the clay pot upgrade, and 28 for the plant food, and that’s just for the first stage of this new incarnation. Double that for the next.

The names of the backpack are classic though – Mawdrey and Mawdrey II.

Being a Little Shop of Horrors fan, that’s a must have.

Not to mention, a bloodstone dust disposal unit would really come in handy.

I don't even champion train or EOTM train on a regular basis!
Yeah… I don’t even champion train or EOTM train on a regular basis!

If only we’d get another such device for dragonite ore, empyreal fragments or maybe even *gasp* elder wood logs (now 16c a piece and probably plunging further.)

What this means though, is that Foxfire Clusters are not likely to drop in price terribly soon, and I’m really tired of buying them for 60-80 silver apiece.

So the self-sufficiency option means to go woodchopping myself.

Except I’m also tired of running around 4 zones with one character from tree to tree. It was fun for a while, but I’m bored with that now.

The efficient tactic that most are using is, of course, alts. Double the characters, double the chopping power, unsoweiter.

As loathe as I was to move some very comfortably ensconced crafters from humping the Divinity’s Reach crafting stations, I decided I’d rather quintuple my usual Foxfire Cluster harvesting rate instead, at least until I get 76 of them – and then decide if I’d put up with repeating the same routine to sell more to others.

So now all five level 80s of mine are parked by the cypress grove.

Every odd half hour or hour, I log them all in to check if the trees have respawned. Feels a bit like one of those Facebook farming or resource management games – log in every 4 hours to check on things!

On the bright side, this is encouraging me to play my engineer and elementalist more, both at level 52, and consider extra key farming as another activity on the ‘to-do’ list.

Living Story episode-wise, Episode 4 definitely makes up for the slightly weaker stuff in Episode 3.

While doing my best to avoid spoilers for now, there’s one instance that had me grinning and thinking about Phoenix Wright in GW2, and the final instance is a spectacular climax to this series of 4 episodes, before we break for feature patch.

I really really liked the end-boss fight and am looking forward to repeating again for chievos. Made me feel super-heroic, taking it on singlehandedly.

It will, doubtless, be a bit too hard for some.

Overheard a more casually logging-in guildie seek help for it – kept dying as an elementalist, apparently, but imo, it’s a moderate test that asks of the player constant movement and some dodging ability.

Anyhow, if one doesn’t like to solo it, it can be done in a group as well.

I like how immersive the instances are. They encourage a little bit more “RP” into a genre that has left its RPG roots way back some time in the past.

I RP walked through the first ‘Party Politics’ instance, chatting to various NPCs.

A badly mistimed phone call stopped me from my first impulse to do something in the Waypoint instance, had to AFK during a critical story bit (yeah, this is why people solo too, rather than group) but I hear many others gave in to the emotion of the moment and acted accordingly.

And while watching the procession of leaders go past in the Summit instance, I couldn’t resist emoting a /salute as the charr Imperator walked past, which just so happened to time -perfectly- with the NPCs saluting.

It's the little things...
It’s the little things…

Anyway, this episode counts as a big must-play.

Go, go, play it, and then we’ll talk speculation in a week or so.

There’s so many delicious GW1-related hints and echoes to speculate about…

Grouping and Soloing in Terraria Hardmode

Cowabunga!

Over on the Terraria end, hard-mode has been my drug of choice.

I find that I enjoy the challenge of facing something difficult and initially pwns your face off, but then steadily working out how to defeat it via better and creative tactics (and possibly incrementally better gear.)

The big BUT is that I can accept this quite easily in a singleplayer or small multiplayer game, but somehow the flow seeking for optimal challenge seems to break down in a big MMO.

One major difference that I can think of is that Terraria allows creativity of block placement and the ability to alter your scenery. You get to dig trap pits, walls and barriers to shield yourself, plot and plan and set up regeneration stations (<3 my honey pits) and the eventual reward of this industry is the capacity for “easy fun” when the mob progresses to the “on farm” phase, where you stand around, hold down a mouse button and cackle as things die and loot drops.

In a big MMO, progress is more measured by how good your gear gets, and how well your group/raid members play.

In Terraria, there is incrementally better gear as well, but progress on that front is generally a lot faster.

RNG chances of 0.5% – 1% are a LOT more palatable when you can go through one mob in under a few seconds and can generate hundreds of them in under an hour.

Contrast this with an MMO raid where you only get to test the favor of the RNG gods once a night for maybe twice a week at best and things start to get annoying very quickly.

Mobs in Terraria can be soloed. I’m not at the mercy of waiting for others to match my timings and praying they or their gear is up to the fight.

They’re also easier in a group, so there is still incentive to come together when everyone is online.

And of course, the most fun in Terraria arises from the creative collaboration. Taking the ideas of one person and then running with it, being inspired by and improving on it.

arena

The old new arena, you may recall, was a clean glitzy place marred only by the record of our untimely demise at the hands of Skeletron when we summoned him on a whim a little -too- close to the dawn.

Post-hardmode, one thing has pretty much led to another.

Our group ‘boss’ project has been the Pumpkin Moon event, a series of 15 waves to be fought during the space of night. Logically and rightfully, it’s a lot easier to push the waves when there’s more of us around than attempting to solo. (But you could always summon it solo and still try it out, so there’s no nasty restriction there.)

Eri and I once attempted the event as a duo, and got to something like Wave… 4? Memory fails. From there, we noticed the tendency of mobs to start falling into certain locations, like a lake bed, and the idea was born to start playing mechanic and wiring up traps to defeat the smaller mobs more easily. (Also conveniently getting all of us familiar with the new stuff to boot.)

Each person has built upon the ideas of the other, and our new arena is pretty danged lethal. (Note: Keep hands and feet and body away from machinery when spiky balls are in operation!)

newnewarena

The assorted junk at the center of the arena was also a collaborative effort. I stuck a honey pit and campfire (and later a heart crystal) there cos I loves me some stacked regen. I put a clock there too cos I hate shuffling around my accessories trying to check when night was coming via a GPS.

Eri set up teleporters for kiting bosses, and a bed spawn point, and a chest and other conveniences have popped on in.

I wanted to play with asphalt.

I had 999 pieces of gel to use up, and the thought of running places at double the speed was very appealing to my lazy soul. Especially for getting to the dungeon quickly to farm all the goodies inside.

What better to use it on than Eri’s already set-up highway?

Followin' the black brick road...
Followin’ the black brick road…

Of course, sometimes collaboration has a cost. It involves compromises.

The new and improved lethal trap corridor below our arena necessitated the removal of a scenic lake. Someone’s *cough* lazy draining methods have turned it into a somewhat boring rectangular underwater reservoir.

reservoirdeath
I see it also claimed the life of its builder. Hooray for turtles and their were-merfolk ability!

Of course, all this means is the ability to re-collaborate and re-improve on the design.

I’m still pondering what to do with the stored water. I recently worked out how to pump liquids with pumps and wires and am somewhat eager to play with it. Just need a good idea.

I installed a bit better lighting because turtles are still blind as a bat (need to farm my nice white light off dungeon mobs at some point), took the opportunity to redecorate my tunnel in the gaudy fashion of someone who really likes those crystal shards but has no real sense of what’s appropriate, and stuck in a new door for one more minor mob speedbump before they pop in to plague me in the midst of crafting stuff.

Oh, and I also repaved the new way up (the one that doesn’t involve flying head on into a hundred spiky balls) with asphalt, just because.

It makes a hilarious fun slide into the other pond on returning from the castle.

And the cost of the speedy new west highway?

pumpkintunnel

Someone’s pumpkin has a hole in it. A very straight worm drilled through it. That’s what a little bird told me. Yes.

Halloween’s over. Pumpkins rot, y’know?! (At least, partially.)

My creations tend to be more on the ugly but functional side of things. Especially for speeding up farming of items I want, but am too impatient to spend hours waiting for.

Terraria has been kind enough to allow increasing mob spawn rates by standing by a water candle and drinking a battle potion, so farming seems to be very much a part of the game.

I want the ability to summon Pirate Invasions, because they’re fun, and that requires a pirate map consumable that is used up per summon. You get a pirate map off a rare chance killing mobs in the Ocean biome. That involves walking to the edge of the map and lots of swimming, and I’ve already killed so many sharks in a prior search for a diving helmet that I could make shark’s fin soup if such an item existed in Terraria.

Solution? Enter the meteor farm. Placing 50 pieces of meteorite anywhere turns it into an artificial meteor biome, and in near end-game armor, a helpful leaf crystal acts like an autoturret that can one-shot the meteor heads that spawn to accompany the biome.

sunsandandmeteors

Ugly, but functional. And the wooden platform below catches most of the drops.

It also allows for more active participation when desired, because I can only AFK so long before getting trigger happy.

The other thing that I regularly amuse myself with is the artificial biome project.

I guess I just enjoy taming the wilderness by encasing it in easily accessible little bubbles that preserve its habitat for posterity. I don’t even mind the mobs that keep spawning from them, they make life fairly entertaining (though I do have a certain hatred for a giant fungi bulb that insists on throwing nasty spores in the air that whack an unaware person for 56 damage per spore.)

Home sweet artificial biomes. All trees finally growing.
Home sweet artificial biomes. All trees finally growing.

All attempts at preserving natural antlion populations are failing miserably. I think I need a longer desert.

All attempts at preserving the natural antlion populations are failing miserably. I think I need a longer desert.
Work has begun on an underground jungle, though so far, it's more of an underground fish farm.
Work has begun on an underground jungle, though so far, it’s more of an underground fish farm.