Banished – The Minecraft Edition

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The past week’s singleplayer poison of choice has been the Banished modpack for Minecraft.

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In it, you take on the role of -the- dark mage responsible for tainting the world of the Hubris modpack (also by the same mod creator) who has now been banished to an entirely subterranean jail dimension.

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Not the most auspicious of beginnings.

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This jail dimension is one of its core strengths and unique features, utilizing the Caveworld mod to create a sprawling nested network of tunnels, caves and scarily deep ravines that also have their own separate biomes, so forest caves, swamp caves, plains caves, mesa caves of hardened clay, etc.

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Grass blocks and vines provide a slightly more varied cave experience than the standard vanilla Minecraft cave.

There’s even a hell cave biome made up of netherbrick (which you will need, since there’s no crossing over to the Nether when you’re jailed in Caveworld.)

Lycanites Mobs is used in conjunction to populate this subterranean world with a host of fairly terrifying entities (especially when encountered for the first time.)

Grues lurk in the dark making horrendous noises. Phantoms walk right through most walls, and are fairly impervious to ranged projectiles, so your only inkling that one is coming by to murderize you is its hoarse whispering chant of “kill kill kill…”

Chupacabras are certainly not rare legends here. And I’ll confess, the griefing capacity of certain augmented creepers has prompted at least one world ragequit and entire new world restart, plus a reinstall from AromaBackup.

The first was a case of getting blown up before even getting a bed set up and losing the bed and iterim chest contents while spawning somewhere else. The second was having some precious machines blown up while sitting at home base reading through one of the many magic mod books trying to figure out what to do next.

The only reason I haven’t turned off mob griefing yet is laziness looking for it in the configs. I do heartily recommend doing that if you hate mob griefing though.

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The good news, if you’re more of a “play as intended” type, is that you can build interdiction torches from the ProjectE mod when you’re a little more progressed through the early game – these things will push away hostile mobs within a 5 block radius.

Apparently, the mobs won’t go through obsidian either, so there is the option of sheathing your entire base in obsidian too. (That’s something I might get around to, way way in the future though.)

Banished’s other selling point is the strong focus on magic-related mods and its initial set up that establishes you as a dark mage front and center.

There aren’t a wealth of mod options, you mostly get Ars Magica 2, Aura Cascade, Botania, Thaumcraft 4, and ProjectE, so these are what you’ll have to learn to progress. But damn, all of these are hefty -deep- mods that will take a while to go through.

It ostensibly uses HQM, so there are some guided goals that will point you in various directions.

Honestly though, I’ve seen better written guidance/learning quests in modpacks like Regrowth, so don’t expect the Banished HQM book to hold your hand every step of the way.

It’s more sparse when it comes to coverage of the magic mods. You’ll be leafing through the actual mod books/manuals more often, and there are gaps where you’ll have to figure out for yourself what to do or how to best get a certain item. (Locating mushrooms come to mind, as well as trying to figure out how to get a bucket of milk.)

The HQM book is strongest in its initial setup quest:

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You start off with nearly nothing, and must conjure your first materials out of nothing but sheer willpower and the dark energy you harvest from killing a whole bunch of monsters (plus the handy dandy player focus and HQM book that actually enables this, of course.)

The basic idea is that killing various types of monsters completes a HQM quest, that you then claim a reward that boosts your Dark Power reputation.

Other HQM quests will let you turn in said Dark Power reputation, to obtain necessary items like saplings, seeds, eggs and so on.

Furthermore, turning in Dark Power reputation also allows you to unlock some pre-made spells from Ars Magica 2.

This gets you set up as a mage pretty quickly, as you can get a spell to Dig and mine blocks without a pickaxe, a Rock Blast that packs a larger punch than a bow and arrow, a Grow spell that acts like free bonemeal, and can Conjure Water out of thin air.

What isn’t really spelled out for you though (pun fully intended) is that these initial basic premade spells are mostly Touch range spells, so you have to be up close for most of them to work. This can lead to some perplexed spamming of things like Conjure Water, wondering what’s going on, and then inadvertently drenching yourself when your cursor gets close enough to you to work.

Later, you get other spells that can work in a beam fashion, or in a 3×3 panel or 3x3x3 cube, or as projectiles. (Hint: Magelight 2 is awesome, essentially free spammable torches that are shot in a projectile fashion.)

It’s nice that your spellbook can essentially replace more standard Minecraft tool use for most things, which changes things up from the more typical Tinker’s Construct tool focus.

The Silent’s Gems mod give the option for really supercharged tools to augment this foundation of self-powered sufficiency, built out of gems mined from the earth, and enabling the creation of Enchantment Tokens that let you pick and choose the desired enchantment, rather than relying on the RNG of vanilla Minecraft enchantment.

Again, what’s not explained is that the Fluffy Puff from this Silent’s Gem mod can actually be planted and grown to provide a source of string/wool/feathers. You’d have to figure it out for yourself, or hey, stumble across something like this post to learn about it.

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Yours truly has gotten a little more established a base now, after a week of slow and careful play.

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This is the Aura Cascade corner, which is quite technical/machine oriented, even if it has a magical theme.

I’m still working out the hows of the mod, but the basic principle is that the red squares are pumps that can shoot Aura energy upward to the grey node squares. Aura flows downhill, so they will fall back down to the lowest point, and generate Power while doing so. Relevant Aura Cascade machines use that Power in order to perform various functions.

Such as coloring sheep woold various colors, as well as combining/crafting new items via Vortex Infusion (the cyan altar-like thing.)

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The Botania chamber has been expanding somewhat over time, while I try vainly to figure out how to get more in-depth with the mod yet again. (This is maybe my third encounter with Botania and still haven’t learnt/progressed much with it.)

I want to make a more or less semi-automatic tree planting machine for mana, but the required Botania flowers require all sorts of other materials, most of which send me up another path entirely while trying to figure out how I’m going to get those things. (eg. Snow, cake, milk, unsoweiter.)

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My little underground experimental pasture, with what turned out to be a pretty bad decision to put an isolated mob spawning chamber next to it.

I veered completely off the HQM book for these guys. As of right now, I still have no idea if the HQM book provides a way to obtain passive mobs.

The original plan was to just dig a huge underground grass patch and see if natural spawning would take place.

Then I got immensely impatient, and while reading one badly documented mod webpage/website after another, figured out that the Philosopher’s Stone from ProjectE can fire a projectile charge that transmutates mobs (and it seems to consume redstone to do this. Possibly other fuel too, but since I don’t want to lose anything inadvertdently, I’ve just been keeping redstone in inventory.)

Enter about an hour of wandering around caves, trying to find a mob, and then changing it into a sheep, then trying to lead the damn sheep up cave slopes and shove it through a very narrow tunnel into my underground pasture…

That ended up more than a bit of a wash.

Then I had the bright idea of putting two modpacks together in possibly unanticipated ways…

Apparently, zapping Lycanite Mobs (aka mobs ProjectE doesn’t really recognize or know how to deal with) with a Philosopher’s Stone changes them either to a sheep or a slime. 50/50 ain’t bad.

Apparently, one can summon Lycanite Mob minions with a Summoning Staff…

The question then popped up… can I zap my own minion (which you can set on passive) with a Philosopher’s Stone?

The answer was: YES, YOU CAN.

So I ended up in my underground pasture, summoning my own minion mobs and changing them into sheep or slime.

You can then zap the sheep to randomly change them into all the other passive mobs. (Passive mobs => passive mobs, apparently.)

There were some casualties through this process. I changed a sheep into a wolf, which then promptly went after the -other- sheep and cows that were in said pasture. (Argh.)

I needed blaze rods, which can be dropped by a Lycanite mob called Cinders.

A previous base-ending (and backup reviving) incident suggested that a big enough fire would spontaneously spawn Cinder mobs.

So I set up a temporary Cinder spawning area in my dark room mob spawner with a 3×3 netherrack patch set on fire.

This worked great in terms of spontaneously summoning 3 Cinders in an enclosed area.

Unfortunately, they managed to fire projectiles through the same gap that I was using to kill them… and light ME on fire… which then spread to the livestock that was busy humping me in the pasture I was standing in while trying to snipe the Cinders to death…

There was roast chicken and cooked pork chop for dinner that day.

Also, a lot of panicked Conjure Water flooding of both rooms in an effort to both drown the Cinders and put myself out, while suddenly angry sheep (that were mad at me for setting them on fire, but still alive from my efforts to flood the room and heal them with spells) nipped at my sides.

I managed to leash them to fence posts temporarily while dealing with the immediate concern of Cinders spraying fire everywhere, but they refused to forget that I had been the source of their misery and I had to euthanize them later and start the sheep summoning process all over again.

Yeah. My advice: don’t do it how I did it.

Memo to self: New pasture / livestock holding chambers away from the mob spawner and clear grass patch area for weird experiments.

Minecraft: Regrowth – Expanding

On the Minecraft: Regrowth front, it’s been more expansion and progression down the HQM book, though I’m getting to that stage where the HQM quests stop handholding and I start cudgeling my brain and running out of ideas for, “Well, I could do anything I want, but what do I really want to do NOW?”

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My little hobbit hole is still functional, if cramped, for now.

I finally got to the point of discovering storage drawer controllers, which make sorting out all the little pretty items much easier.

Eventually, down the road, I expect that one could automate the whole chain of growing things, harvesting, sending them along pipes into a drawer controller which feeds into a giant storage drawer wall of everything-you-could-want (that is, until Applied Energistics comes along with their inventory system.)

I live and work so primitively and manually that I often find myself making things I don’t have an immediate use for right now, like the worktable just sitting up on the ceiling. I’m -sure- I’ll eventually have use for it, assuming I remember I have it, but eh, I don’t really have that many recipes I’m repeating right now, beyond a lever, a piston and some magical crop food that have already been stored in the picture frame thingummies.

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Function a little limited by form. I made a second drawer controller system for flowers and dyes and seeds downstairs in the experimental breeding chamber. Would it be nicer in one single gigantic storage system? Maybe. Possibly. But it would also mean a gigantic wall of drawers that my hobbit hole can’t exactly accommodate right now.

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It was made somewhat brutally clear that in order to get Mutandis to experimentally mutate through different plants to collect all the possible specimens, one was going to need quite a bit of Mandrake.

Problem is, if you pull Mandrake by daytime, they come alive and become a little annoying mob that creates nausea and screams horribly into your ear.

I’d figured out by chance that keeping them in a pit helps to limit all the crazy running around chasing after them, and watching a Youtube video suggested the clever idea of using Punji sticks as mandrake killing traps (they like to run towards you and screech, so you can pull them places.)

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A coincidence of sorts, I’d made a little chamber under this room because I’d previously found a rock hive while digging out stone to replace it with dirt for the crops. (The flowing dirt seems to be some kind of texture bug with an Agricraft water pad, but I kind of like the effect as it sort of hides the pit.)

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Inside the pit is a little safe zone for me to climb up and down with ladders, and at the far end, a little tunnel that connects to the Mandrake growing zone, filled with Punji sticks.

Basically I can cut down the whole Mandrake zone with a few Scythe swings, and then race up the ladder leading out of the Mandrake area and down this ladder into the pit. Any live Mandrakes that have been humping the walls screeching realize they can path right to me via the tunnel, and run through many many spiked punjis, conveniently falling over dead by the time they get to or near me.

Since I made a Ring of Magnetization via Botania some time ago, even if they fall over dead further away, the delicious Mandrake crop that is looted off their dead bodies floats right to me regardless of which trap offs them.

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Further along, I improved my mushroom and nether wart growing corridor from lazy pitch black 1 person-wide tunnel risking mob spawns and blocked by a door to a small low light growth chamber.

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Me attempting a little primitive aesthetics, while wondering if it was possible to block the brightness of light emitted by torches with a semi-translucent block or microblock. I ended up with stained glass microblock covers over an empty square with a torch in it.

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There’s a page of the HQM quest book devoted to creating life from Spawn eggs.

So I had to improvise little animal holding pens/zoo/stables thingummies.

At first they were just stone chambers with fence and fence gates at the entrance, but the opaqueness of the walls annoyed me. I wanted to be able to look through the pens and see what was being kept as I walked by.

I was debating something with glass dividing up the chambers, but some experimentation later, I couldn’t really find a good shape that would take up exactly the middle point of the block beyond a microblocks pillar or post.

Couple this with the madness of clucking chickens and baying cows doing their best to cross pens (the grass looked greener on the other side, presumably), I soon gave up making it perfect and just went for something, anything, vaguely fence-like and got out of there.

I count my blessings that no one has modded in chicken shit and cow dung yet in Minecraft (not in this pack anyways.)

Can’t seem to find a noise muffler block in Regrowth, sad to say.

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Ok, this might be slightly inhumane, but well… it keeps them easily accessible for trades!

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I’m contemplating some kind of see-through monster tank/specimen chamber for the other side. Part of said quest line is to make things like Spawn Zombie and Spawn Creeper eggs. Not sure what I would do with those really. It’s not like they’re really endangered species…

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The crops chamber has stood up to massive expansion, thankfully.

Presumably one day I’m either going to have to rearrange some of them so that they make sense (flowers together, metal crops clustered somewhere else, etc.) or make an even larger chamber to grow squares of crops and pipe them all to a big storage wall somewhere…

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Machinery experiments have been haphazard.

It’s been one Forestry machine after another (Carpenter, Squeezer, Centrifuge, Fermenter, etc) and the odd grey Rolling Machine all opportunistically hooked onto anything that supplies RF power.

The garishly candy-cane colored pipe is a quartz kinesis pipe that transports said RF power.

There’s a starter Hobbyist’s Steam Engine behind that mess somewhere, which I was initially using, and then swapped over to the multi-block steam boilers feeding into a more intermediate steam engine version in the background.

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More garishly colored Buildcraft pipes, along with my absolute disregard for linear systematicity.

On the left is a steam boiler consisting of a low-pressure tank block and a solid fueled firebox, and the right is a low-pressure tank block coupled with a liquid fueled firebox.

I’d been working desperately to try and get to the liquid fueled one, because I’d been accumulating a LOT of creosote oil from the coke oven, but progression-wise, the solid fuel one had to come first.

In the end, well, why waste either?

Both are temporarily still manually filled with water and the desired fuel. I’m still looking for the equivalent of an RF storage in this modpack – I’m used to not wasting RF power and storing it all up in a RF cell of some kind – before I start automating it all.

The neon green extraction pipes are emerald fluid transport/extraction pipes – one step up from the wooden extraction ones – that pull a fluid out of the block’s inventories.

In this case, they’re pulling Steam and feeding it into the Steam Engine (blue thing in the center), which then converts the Steam into RF power.

Said RF power is then being pulled out by the neon green kinesis pipe version and fed into the mini-network of rather haphazardly linked machines.

Oh, and the bright yellow pipes are gold fluid transport pipes, which are the more efficient fluid transport versions.

Having been completely defeated in my attempt to hook up the white quartz kinesis pipes adjacent to the green fluid extraction pipes so that the RF power could power the extraction, I threw my hands up and stuck Wooden Engines (with lever attached) onto each and every one of the green pipes. Now they will go and keep going and I don’t have to think about it further, beyond how ridiculous the whole thing looks.

(You may safely ignore the cactus. The cactus is for the bee hives. Turns out the edge of this cobblestone platform was conveniently reaching over into the Ocean biome, which has a conducive temperature/climate for normal-ish bees, and I just used the most available ocean biomes squares I had left.)

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Yet another primitive and garishly ugly attempt for me to work through and understand the various machines involved in this cycle.

The block on the left with a whole bunch of Wooden Engines sticking out from it is a Buildcraft Pump, pulling water out of a 3×3 infinite water source.

It is pumping an unlimited supply of water into the (currently green) Combustion Engine, which is supposedly one of the top tier engines of this mod.

Cos if you don’t and it runs out of sufficient water coolant, it goes boom.

Or so they say.

I am frankly not interested in finding out (there’s already enough craters in this ‘ere blasted wasteland), hence an infinite water cooling system first of all.

Said Combustion Engine can run on Oil, to produce RF power, but inefficiently. It does better on Fuel.

In order to convert Oil into Fuel, one needs a Refinery (the red gizmo) and to power it with RF.

Hence the tank of oil on top of it, to constantly feed oil into it. (Much to my exasperation, the pipe was incapable of delivering oil via gravity, and thus yet another clunky emerald fluid pipe with a tail of Wooden Engine+Lever was attached onto it.)

The converted fuel is then extracted into another tank, by way of Emerald Pipe+Wooden Engine+Lever contraption. (Can I shorten it to EWEL from now on?)

One can feed the Fuel back into the Combustion Engine to keep it going, but I’m sitting back on joining more pipes and larger tanks to this for now, mostly because I’m still looking for something that can store up all the RF energy produced.

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I pumped up the little oil pool on the left into the big tank too, by the by. I was getting tired of falling into it accidentally and trying to clamber out of it, with its quicksand-like properties.

Turns out it didn’t really have that much oil in there, but well, some is better than none.

I’ve seen much larger geysers and spouts of oil, while exploring out on the ocean, but I’m not 100% sure how I’m going to collect those, beyond a gigantic ugly kilometers-long golden pipe floating in the air and leading to an impromptu pump platform by the spout… I suppose I could lay it down on the ocean floor for a little more authenticity…

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This part of the outside is devoted to machines that look a lot less rainbow.

The red brick Bloomery Furnace creating Wrought Iron from Iron is in the foreground, the Tinker’s Construct Smeltery behind it with casting basins and a casting table, while the multiblock Blast Furnace for making Steel out of Wrought Iron is on the left.

Mariculture’s Crucible Furnace, hastily automated via hopper and adjacent ingot caster, is just beside the Blast Furnace.

I’m starting to run out of easily reachable short-term goals, which is a little bit demotivating.

Everything I consider doing next seems like it’s going to take a while.

I still have magic seeds to create via runic altar and grow, but collecting the requisite components is a rather tedious multi-step process. One has to find the ingredients, operate and power the runic altar, dig out further expansion in the seed chamber, fill it with more rows of garden soil and crop sticks, etc.

I can make more spawn eggs of different creatures, but ditto, it’ll also involve a lot of runic altar creation, digging out chambers to house the creatures, and so on.

I could make an upgraded automated farm, but that would mean finding the space, digging it out, laying in the blocks, growing stuff, automating it and hoping it works…

Maybe I’ll run around in the Nether and hope I can find Nether Copper Ore for the next quest in my HQM book… except I’ve already searched the area around my portal in a 50-100 block radius and can’t seem to find any…

😦

Guess I’ll have to think on this a little more.

 

Minecraft: Regrowth – First Thoughts

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Minecraft: Regrowth is a modpack with an interesting premise. You awaken in a wasteland of nothing, dead trees, dead rock, dead everything.

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If you’re lucky, you find a pool of oil near your front doorstep / spawn point.

From this auspicious beginning, your task (if you choose to accept it) is to bring life back into the world.

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That mini-forest and grass patch is entirely man-made.

It’s a modpack that doesn’t believe in hardcore pwning you the minute you walk out your front door (which is a very strong point in its favor after trying out mods like Crash Landing or Void World, where I tend to lose patience with urban city fighting fending off an army of crazily modded zombies and skeletons, never-ending thanks to strategically placed and nearly impossible to find spawners)…

…but cleaves to a philosophy of removing the (often easier) standard “go-to” tech mods like Minefactory Reloaded, Thermal Expansion, Extra Utilities etc. in favor of walking you through less explored mods of a nature and magic flavor, such as Botania, Agricraft, Magic Crops and Witchery.

A few tech mods are still present, but mostly of the less explored, slightly more tedious/grindy variety, Buildcraft, Railcraft, and Mariculture being some of those you’ll be asked to learn and progress through before reaching the ability to comfortably make a Tinker’s Smeltery.

It’s quite a well done progression, helped along by a very comprehensive HQM quest book that walks you step-wise through unfamliar mods and always provides multiple goals to be working toward at any one point.

The overall feeling is that of a relaxing, growing/farming progression, that gives you sufficient time and space to build however you wish.

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In my case, that’s still pretty much a functional home of the ‘hole in the ground’ variety.

I find it quite impossible to break the habit somehow. I vaguely considered flattening out a huge open space on which to grow squares and lines of crops out in the world, but my spawn point happened to be in the Arid Mountains biome and the landscape was just too daunting to consider massive terraforming.

Besides, a gigantic walled compound was so… ugly.

(I ended up digging a 3 deep moat around the outside of my base to demarcate a relative safe area with torches to prevent monster spawns. This has the advantage of being almost invisible to the eye, if you’re not looking directly at it.)

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While the experimental industry is left outside, most of the really valuable stuff happens inside:

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My initial hobbit hole with resource storage / crafting chamber and a lower room for initial experimental Botania flowers and crop growing.

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A week later, it’s significantly more upgraded, and starting to reach the limits of its confines.

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I was perhaps a little foolishly optimistic in thinking this tiny chamber would be sufficient. It’s now been more or less converted into the initial crossbreeding zone – one produces new crops/seeds by crossing two existing crops such as those dandelions produced by crossing sugarcane and melons (don’t ask.)

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It turns out that seeds can increase in strength and growing speed and yield, and the easiest fire and forget method of propagation (since weeds are disabled in Regrowth and you don’t have to hover anxiously over the crops ready to smite them) is to stretch them out in a long line.

By the time the seeds propagate themselves to the end of the line, that last seed is often at the ideal 10/10/10 stats, or close to it (whereupon you start the line again.)

My second growth room was stymied by my poor architectural planning. I couldn’t widen it any further because there are mushroom corridors along the right wall that don’t appreciate any light being let in, and on the left, those windows pretty much overlook the sea.

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Third time lucky. (We hope.) Left and right views of the slightly more industrial sized underground farm.

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The sprinkler system is newly installed. One is still working out the kinks. Several water tanks are connected to it outside but it’s been proving really hard to create an infinite water supply in Regrowth without my standard easy way out of an aqueous accumulator.

I think my only hope at this point is to use a Buildcraft pump (which requires me growing redstone) and a 3×3 infinite water source.

It will also involve some wrangling with Buildcraft pipes, which I honestly quite loathe after getting used to the more flexible and intuitive Itemducts and Fluiducts from Thermal Expansion via Agrarian Skies or the conduits of Ender IO via Wanderlust Reloaded.

Buildcraft pipes feel like a massive programming throwback to something decades earlier where you have to specify -everything-, starting from the extraction wooden pipe (that apparently has to be powered by a separate engine, which in turn has to be powered by a redstone lever – unless I’m misunderstanding something) and then the actual transport itself requires differently colored pipes made out of different materials specifying the speed at which it travels and then god forbid you want to do something complicated while stuff is in the pipes because that requires more pipe colors to sort/divide/filter and so on.

Well, we’ll see. Regrowth leaves me with no choice but to learn how to manage it (or forcibly custom install another mod, but that feels like cheating) so manage it we shall, for the time being.

It’s like how I’ve started wrangling with Railcraft’s Steam Boilers and really primitive-feeling steam engines (which I hear can explode if you treat them badly, like pour water into an empty overheated steam boiler) because I don’t have anything more modern on hand and I need -some- amount of RF power.

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The beginning of the experimental ‘machines’ phase. I decided to do a more Agrarian Skies-like floating cobblestone platform to house the machine experiments.

I figure if things really go badly and explode, everything will just fall into the ocean and I can do recovery from there.

No doubt I will have to widen it further as time goes by, but at least there’s potential for a nearly infinite flat space in this direction.

Definitely a modpack worth trying.

Just don’t say I didn’t warn you if you go silent for several weeks and no one hears from you in a while. *coughs*

A Trio of Updates – GW2 Fractals, Trove, Minecraft: Regrowth

I have no idea how I’m managing, but I’ve started juggling three games in one night.

What’s losing out is the blog. Again.

Guild Wars 2

The new pre-expansion stretch goal is to get to Fractals level 50, before October 23.

Preferably by the end of September or thereabouts to give myself more of a comfortable head start.

I guess I’m like the crazy inverse of that Reddit thread that asks how many players are looking forward to raids, but can’t/won’t do a Fractals 50.

I’m -not- at all looking forward to raids (just sort of grimly and begrudgingly looking at it as a mountain I’m going to have to climb because it’s there – and I’ll probably enjoy myself somewhat in the process – but not crazily anticipating it by any stretch, no… It’s sort of the same reluctant dread of corporate teambuilding activities… oh no, there’s -people-, they’re gonna make you do stuff you don’t want to do, go places you don’t want to go, but yeah, you’ll probably find -some- enjoyment at certain times/during certain bits, but meh, better if you didn’t -have- to go through it in the first place…)

But you know, I hear there may be a special something for all those who are at Fractal 50 before the expansion and the fractal changes (even if it’s just a shiny ‘been there, done that’ kinda title) and I WANTS IT. *gollum*

It’s also -something- to do, I guess.

Previously, I’ve never bothered going beyond the 20s, because you know me, I’m not a fan of vertical progression. And what is AR, but a special stat made up especially for the -express- purpose of vertical progression?

Whether you fall over and squish into a puddle at random intervals or stay standing and watch others do said “I’m melting!” impersonation bemusedly doesn’t depend at all on player skill, but merely on whether you have little baubles glued onto your armor that increment a number by 5 (or more), that you get by either doing the same activity over and over again or paying someone else gold to do it for you.

Meh.

So I “saw all the content” by mostly repeating the lower range of fractals over and over again (I wanted to type “an easier difficulty range” but as I’ll explain later, that’s not strictly true), and just meandering by chance to fractal level 25 or so, whenever someone happened to open a fractal level higher than my current one to pull it up by one.

But mostly I just played fractals 10 and 20 when I wanted, and I stayed at 26 AR, which could be all piled onto the Ascended trinkets, and kept my perfectly functional exotic armor and weapons.

After Blaugust though, a couple of things became apparent. I knew I wanted to stick with GW2 for the moment. I needed some kind of medium term goal to hold my interest in GW2 pre-expansion and play it a little more than I’d been doing in August… get back into the swing of GW2 things, as it were. I kinda had to “face my fears” socializing and grouping-wise if I even want to consider a 10-man raid. Fractals 50 is also pretty much the last unexplored frontier for me (not counting even more esoteric things like Dragon PvP rank or leaderboards, WvW god-knows-what rank or stuff like that.)

And there’s that shiny title thingy or whatever as motivation.

Ah, why not.

I’d been picking up the odd Ascended chest here and there from various places like Triple Trouble Wurm or Living Story and mostly sitting on them in the bank, while trying to decide what I wanted to do with them anyway.

The Wurm warrior was wearing Zojja’s chest and leggings, from two previous drops – one Zojja’s, one Raider’s – but I’d been reluctant to make the rest Ascended because the stat jump on things like shoulders and so on is… miserable, to say the least. (Intentionally so, of course, which I agree with.)

Well, since I now needed to hit 70 AR eventually, this was “go time” to clear out some pink clogging my bank.

There were two essentially free pieces – “Ascended Chest” variants – so I just picked Zojja’s and were done with them.

I idly eyed the other weirdly named Ascended stats like Apothecaries, Chorbens, etc. since now you can convert them to Zojja’s, then realized I had a spare Vision Crystal sitting in the bank, and a Zojja’s insignia that had been also sitting there because I made one accidentally when I just needed an exotic insignia some time ago.

So I said, ah, what the heck, I’ll craft a piece. The non-chest non-legging stuff is probably cheaper to craft anyway.

Unfortunately, I was silly enough to make a glove component before I thought to check the warrior I would be replacing his exotic armor with. The idea being that I want to just Black Lion Salvage Kit his exotic armor and pull out the rune for reuse in the Ascended armor piece, saving me loads of $$$ in the process.

Most of the warrior alt was decked out in CoF dungeon armor, because I was on a CoF kick then and hey, tokens for free zerker armor, why not? EXCEPT the hand location, which turned out to be WvW badge armor. Goddamn it. And they’re going to let us salvage that eventually…

Long story short, after a bunch of quick calculations on the AR I could potentially hit using other wear locations, the glove piece made out of what, a bolt or three of damask, went back into the bank to await the time WvW armor can be salvaged and I made boots instead.

I also converted one weapon and crafted a second to Ascended, because what the heck, that has better stat gains than armor, and I was bank cleaning some of this stuff anyway. (Hurrah for idly converting time-limited materials over a month or two, just to stock up for times like this.)

So now the warrior is pretty much all Ascended, save for one offhand weapon and one hand location (and underwater stuff.)

He jumped from 26 AR to 41 AR, the limit of which was the number of fractal relics I had at the time, and after a couple fractal runs, up to 61 AR.

I infused a ring, and now the last slot is just sitting there awaiting the +9 infusion that I calculate should be craftable soon, once my stock of 222 +1 infusions goes to 256 or thereabouts.

With that, he should be able to hit 70 AR for fractal 50, and have two more potential slots to go up to an easy 80 if future fractals require ever more increasingly insane amounts of this otherwise worthless stat.

In the meantime, I started running fractals 30, and later fractals 40 (after hitting 61 AR), plus the odd variant of other-numbered fractals higher than my present fractal level.

The goal, basically, was pure and simple prioritization of a) Can this raise my fractal level? If yes, join, and b) Does this qualify for a fractal daily? If yes, join.

(Can I run it without melting, goes without saying, of course. Basically anything on the 1% health loss chart is perfectly safe, and anything else means one is playing with fire, especially in a PUG.)

A lot of higher level folks will tell would-be beginners than the higher level fractals tend to be a lot -easier- than lower level fractals because of the selection pressure factor. Most of the folks at a higher level range should theoretically know what they are doing, since they had to get through quite a number of fractals before getting there. Most of the folks that -bother- getting higher AR to run said high level fractals have an obvious interest in the activity.

Repetition. Liking, Familiarity. All this adds up to something that ought to go a lot more smoothly than a lower level run where nearly everyone ends up running around like lost headless chickens.

I suppose, for the most part, this is sort of kind of true.

I’ve had some really smooth and amazing runs – especially nice if it’s a guild of three or four and just looking for one more PUG to fill the ranks, they’re usually a well coordinated team.

I had one level 40 run where I was absolutely stumped and trying to guess whatever the hell the others were wearing / whatever their build was because their hp barely budged – and my zerker warrior was the one catching the lion’s share of the aggro and having to back away now and then to heal up, fortunately only went down 2 or 3 times throughout the whole series, so it wasn’t too horrible – the other builds were ridiculously support-y, I suspect, but it was fantastically smooth and the combined team damage wasn’t horrible either (as timed by whether Molten Berzerker can get killed in a melee bumrush before people start wiping.)

I had one run which had an ele and a necro in the same guild and boy, did things MELT. I personally don’t subscribe to the common PUG theory all necros suck ass in groups, and I think this was a case of both insane might stacking (as helped along by moi, of the no-skill-required PS/EA banner warrior variety) and fantastic vulnerability stacking. My hundred blades were hitting some of the highest numbers I’ve seen, across various PUG fractals.

However, I’ve also had fractals run… with a necro… (and other classes, of course) of the *ahem* not so good variety.

Of the kind where everyone appears to be a squishy fail zerker and falls down multiple times, where the party keeps wiping until pieces of armor have fallen off and broken and one has to retreat out for repairs…

(I learned for the first time in one of those groups that one was actually supposed to log out and log back in to repair. I actually hit the little icon on the right, thinking that the rest could refuse and I’d accept and be beamed out, Scotty or something. Not as intuitive as that, I’m afraid.

Some guy in the party was like “lol, don’t do that, it’ll reset, just log out and log back in.” I was wondering if the guy was laughing at me for being a clueless noob… then I realized that actually not knowing how to repair mid-fractal till now could probably be seen as a -good- thing… )

One of the things I have kinda realized is that I’m not really that sensitive anymore about how others might potentially view my performance.

What’s the worse thing that could happen? They kick me. I don’t ever have to party with them anymore. There’s a dozen LFGs all looking for extra hands.

Granted, I have a bit of a ‘mask’ advantage in that I have over 22k AP (despite every exhortation that high AP != high skill, there still seems to be this undercurrent of belief or intimidation regarding it), and am intentionally playing a fairly foolproof PS/EA banner warrior where everyone is quite content if they have the three buffs on their bar and I swing a greatsword every now and then. (Though really, if the PUG leaves one of my banners behind – aka 99% of them – they have no more right to complain about anything.)

Generally though, I find that even the worse PUGs will still struggle through and finish the fractal in an hour, or hour and a half, even if we had to resort to essentially wipe-rezzing to get through certain spots.

(I keep thinking that all Anet needs to do is disallow wipe-rezzing in raids, and require certain encounters done ‘properly’ and even some of the vaunted high-level fractal PUG players are going to have a serious challenge.

Take for instance Snowblind and the elemental source/ice elemental encounter. The number of PUGs that can do that ‘properly’ without wiping is slim to none. I keep thinking that this would be perfect for coordinated stabilities, or coordinated reflection, while someone picks up the torch and maintains the fire or whatever, and well, it usually doesn’t happen. Add on a high likelihood of someone getting caught out by a one-shot ice elemental spike, others struggling to revive them and/or light the fire while under fire from more elementals…well, it’s ugly.)

The other thing that makes high level fractals “smoother” in general is the number of somewhat oddball exploitative strategies used to make certain encounters easier. Certain places to pull, certain places to stand, some of it perfectly legal LOS around corners, some of it slightly more questionable playing around with the Z axis and so on.

All this is stuff  you won’t expect a low level fractal to know or use, and generally, the number scaling on the mobs is such that a team probably doesn’t even need to bother with them and can just charge in and straight up kill things.

Anyhow, it’s all pretty good practice and warmup prep for Heart of Thorns, I guess.

Trove

Not much to say Trove-wise.

I sneak in a daily every night, working on the consecutive log-ins badge (which I hear is going to be reduced in today’s patch, hurrah.)

I’m not sure how much use I have for Shadow Towers. I just can’t be arsed with spamming the equivalent of LFG for Shadow Arenas, and I doubt I am inclined to do the same for Shadow Towers.

If I can’t solo parts of it, then I guess I’m essentially done, beyond seeing if I can collect a dragon via very simple daily play for an hour or so.

Playing all super-casual in pixel land, because a) there’s only so many games and time one can afford to be hardcore in, and b) their servers really suck. Ping is still 300-500ms and while it’s playable, it’s not awesome fantastic A-OK either. It’s just.. ok. Since I’m playing for free anyway.

Minecraft: Regrowth

Remember my spate of sudden internet disconnections that made me rage while attempting to play online games?

I took to playing singleplayer modded Minecraft in the meantime and boy, was it a mistake… in the sense that I am now hooked onto a new mod.

I get back home every night and I just want to get back to my little blocky world instead of any of the two games above.

I’m running out of space, so I shall save the loving lavish writeup for another time.

Minecraft: Wanderlust Reloaded – Magical Castaway

As sheer serendipity would have it, an idly rolled up world to argue the merits of procedural generation yielded a seed that sent my imagination into overdrive.

One turned up on the edge of what appeared to be a modestly sized island continent surrounded by ocean, beach/desert in the vicinity and what appeared to be a jungle or tropical rainforest in the distance to explore.

Surely, this place is tailor made for a survivor-castaway scenario.

But how could I make it different from the ongoing Wanderlust Reloaded game I was playing in a relaxing learn-all-the-mods-slowly fashion?

A few ideas struck me.

I tend to be attracted to tech/modern mods and make a beeline to Tinker’s Construct and Minefactory Reloaded as a comfort zone, since those were the first few I learned in Agrarian Skies. However, setting up a factory goes rather completely against the theme and idea of a sailor or person castaway on a desert island. How would they even make a modern machine?

So, rule 1: Minimal to no tech/modern mods to be used in this particular game world.

It so happened that some initial scouting revealed the presence of some magical NPCs on the island. Perfect. The rationale then would be to use nature and magic-based mods to progress, with the explanation that the NPCs had ‘taught’ these to my castaway character.

I was also somewhat sick of the constant nightly attacks of zombies and skeletons. Wouldn’t it feel a lot more immersive and like I was really cast away on an island if the night stayed peaceful and quiet as well, rather than recapitulate the zombie apocalypse every single time the moon rose?

Setting it to peaceful mode seemed a little like cheating though.

But then really, as I thought further, maybe it would actually make progress -harder- in that I wouldn’t have an easily renewable source of string from spiders, gunpowder from creepers, rotten flesh from zombies and bones from skeletons. In fact, I wouldn’t even be able to make a mob grinder… and that started to worry me a bit.

So I concocted a little trapdoor for myself. The -island- would stay peaceful, but I’d switch it back to normal mode if I changed dimensions. Yep, Nether, Twilight Forest, a Mystcraft age, whatever.

It made a certain kind of immersive sense that I’d crash onto a deserted island, save for a few peaceful natives, learn magic in an attempt to get away, and then eventually cross over into other dimensions that would be more hazardous and filled with hostiles.

Rule 2: Play in peaceful mode on the island. Switch back to normal mode once one crosses dimensions.

I was also a little sick of the common Minecraft tactic to dig a big mineshaft or stairway to bedrock or y = 12, and then dig a whole bunch of straight line criss-crossing tunnels pulling out diamonds, redstone and other valuable bits of ore.

It’s efficient, yes, but didn’t seem terribly immersive to me.

So I came up with another crazy idea, one I’m not sure how far or long it’ll last, as I really don’t know the layout and if it’ll yield enough resources…

Rule 3: There will be minimal manual mining through stone.

The idea is that I’ll go into already exposed caves and ravines and mine the ore that’s actually visible and a block or two around those visible veins. I won’t start hand carving massive dwarf mines through perfectly solid rock with a handful of stone or iron pickaxes.

The little loophole there is ‘manual’ so that later, if I like, create a golem or something that will mine straight tunnels for me, or create some sort of super-efficient magical pickaxe, then it’ll seem a bit more consistent to the ‘realism’ of this particular world that I could then create vast caverns if I wanted to.

Rule 4: We will try to build aesthetically thematic structures consistent with a ‘magical castaway’ theme.

Cheating in decorative blocks to paint textures on say, carpenter’s blocks, is permissible, to both make life easier and make it more aesthetically-pleasing, but cheated in blocks will not be used in functional ways. The carpenter’s blocks themselves would have been made with uncheated wood resources.

Sadly, I haven’t had a lot of real life time to play this particular world, or any Minecraft, to be honest, since I’ve also been distracted by buying the remastered Grim Fandango lately, but here’s the beginning of the adventure:

mc3

Cast away on the shores of a strange island, I try to make my way inland to gather some wood. Shelter, and a signal fire is primarily on my mind. Oh, and food, and a fresh water source.

mc2

I nearly perish when unawares, I stumble into a patch of quicksand. Some frantic digging and scrabbling away at the edge of the pit saves me.

There are a number of these differently colored patches of sand around, hazards that I constantly have to keep in mind.

mc4

With some relief, early on, I find a small stream that can serve as a source of fresh water.

After chopping down some nearby trees and chipping away at a rock wall to make some primitive stone tools, I manage to put together a modest survival shelter.

mc5

It is a quiet but peaceful night on this desert island.

I cobble together a small furnace made out of rocks and begin making some charcoal out of the logs I’d chopped earlier.

mc6

Daybreak heralds the start of exploration of this island.

I urgently want to build a signal fire, in case any passing ships draw near, but I realize that I don’t have any flint-and-steel to rapidly start a fire with. So after desultorily piling some wood together, the gnawing of my stomach suggests I need to pay attention to something a little more urgent than a rescue fire.

mc7

Following the edge of the island leads me into a tropical rainforest proper.

mc9

I find a melon patch with some relief – food! – but worry about how long these wild melons would last me. I save some seeds and hastily sow them. Only the gods know how long it’ll take them to grow though.

Merry giggling catches my attention, and I discover that there are others on this island… if these strange nature spirits could be called so. A number of dryads are taking a bath in a cavern fed by seawater.

mc8

For the most part, they say nothing to me, but I notice them paying a great deal of attention to certain flowers, which seem to glow with an almost-mystical light. Surely, these flowers hold some manner of arcane secret. I begin collecting them as I travel.

mc12

As night falls near the dryads, my breath catches in my throat as I realize that these sea nymphs appear to have also been tending a magnificent reef garden filled with glowing coral, like so many ocean-flowers. The constellation-filled sky is a wondrous accompaniment.

But I cannot linger, and I turn away, heading further inland.

mc10

I come across an eerie stone circle, even spookier at night, but nothing seems to stir from it.

mc11

Nearby, I encounter my first sentient being, a human, I suppose, who dresses like a witch. She introduces herself as Shannon Spellman, but refuses to speak of anything of more substance to me, telling me that I am not yet skilled in the Art.

It seems that I may just have to learn, somehow, if I am to find a way off this island.

mc13

And then I find it. A settlement! There are beds of crops – potato and cotton and some manner of berry.

mc14

There are even grapevines strung up in trellises, an old disused smelter of some kind, and a herd of sheep wandering unfettered through it all.

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To my surprise, there is only one human dwelling within this place. A man dressed in what appears to be priestly or mage-like robes. He declines to give his name, but seems open to sharing some of his crops and making small converse.

A hobgoblin is the only other creature keeping him company, wandering about crooning to itself in its hob-like manner, keeping its own counsel. I am not sure if it is merely a friend or the mage’s familiar, but I think it a question best unasked for now.

I will likely have to return to this strange pair later and see if I can befriend them further, but for now, parting as an acquaintance rather than an enemy seems wise.

mc16

I pass by caves and deep ravines, some with exposed veins of metals, which I mark for later exploration, and even a blasted wasteland which I give a wide berth to, for now.

mc17

The forest has given way to some kind of scrubland, filled with acacia trees, and red rocky soil.

mc18

And then, near dawn, a curious sight on the horizon. Is it… could it be… a castle?

mc19

As the sky brightens, I draw nearer. It seems only to be a lone tower of some kind?

mc20

It is fully daytime by the time I get up close, and its skull-like demeanor puts me off from venturing within. Perhaps another time, when I actually have armor and a weapon, and am not starving.

The scrubland dries up, becoming a desert once more, and I realize that I have almost circumnavigated the entire island.

I stumble over one noteworthy feature, a large pool of oil that has bubbled to the surface.

mc21

And am almost frozen in my tracks when I notice an alien sight, some kind of meteor that has cratered onto the boundary between shore and ocean, and whose sky stone is somehow…repelling? the seawater from itself.

mc22

I give that a wide berth for now too.

For now, it is back to my humble shelter, to figure out semi-reliable sources of food so as not to go hungry, and to prepare my signal fire.

And then, I suppose, I should attempt to learn the Art.

To be honest, I think this is a great seed.

mc23

I actually preliminary scouted the whole place out to get an idea of whether the rules I was planning would actually work, or no, and I think there are enough resources and interesting features on this pretty big island to manage it, more or less.

Yet, importantly, it does appear to be largely an island, rather than a continuous neverending landmass.

It’s probably a great place to have all kinds of Minecraft adventures, not just a strictly nature/magic one, so if you’re interested in playing in the same surroundings, this is Minecraft, with the Wanderlust Reloaded modpack and Biomes of Plenty world type, with the seed “Why I Explore” (without the quotes.)