Banished – The Minecraft Edition

2016-02-09_08.49.09.png

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

banished1

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.

2016-02-09_08.49.45

Not the most auspicious of beginnings.

2016-02-08_14.37.58.png

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.

2016-02-08_14.37.19.png

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.

2016-02-08_14.37.30.png

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:

2016-02-09_09.32.38

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.

2016-02-08_14.36.46.png

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

2016-02-08_14.36.52

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.)

2016-02-08_14.37.40.png

2016-02-09_10.17.20.png

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.)

2016-02-09_00.28.54.png

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.

Quotes of the Day & a State of Game Update

For those considering playing GW2:

“BUT WHAT THE FUCK SHOULD I DO?! IS THERE NOTHING I CAN DO TO BE BETTER AT THE GAME THAN OTHERS?”

You got it. Now you finally got it, right? You finally got it right. It isn’t your character who improves – it is you. You get better. Your numbers on a crit don’t grow. You do, as a player. That is the only way to distinguish yourself from the shiny, shiny masses.

— Monkeibusiness, on Reddit, his whole post is worth a read

 

Taken slightly out of context, but describing my current overall state of mind pretty well:

When it comes to this particular topic, I am out of fucks to give.

— Syl, MMO Gypsy, on payment models in MMOs

 

Well, yeah, it -could- describe my opinion on payment models these days. Some people like subs, some people like F2P, some people like B2P, the game companies just shrug and put up a cash shop of some kind plus figure out a revenue stream, and I pretty much just think “when I want to play a game badly enough, I’ll pay what I think reasonable for it, however you charge… and when I don’t, I don’t. Your turn to figure out what my particular “wallet opening” points are.”

Some tips (for my personal tastes): Uneven playing field of some kind is a big turn off. Charging for something’s that nonfunctional or for beta testing or essential, as opposed to extra, items to be unlocked is a nuh-uh.

If what you offer is commensurate with current market values (where $5-10 can get you a small indie game on Steam to some kind of bonus or prestige unlock in an MMO, where a sub for an MMO is around $10-15 a month, and where the price of a new shiny exactly-on-launch-day box is around $80-150 (higher range for collector’s edition types), then yeah, that approaches ‘reasonable’ in my book…

But well, whatever. Syl’s quote mostly describes my current state of mind – I’ve got good games to play and am quite completely out of fucks to give.

Having voluntarily overachieved in GW2 for the last month or so, I’m just as voluntarily slacking off and ‘vacationing’ with a change of pace.

Been riding on the world boss train for a couple of stops for fun, while taking advantage of all the AFK/wait time to play Minecraft in the other screen.

Trying to learn all the strange and intricate mods I’d been putting off:

mc-pigwrangling

Got tired of sacrificing my own health for power in Blood Magic, so… enter the experimental pig-spawning conveyer-belt pushing delivery system for pushing mobs directly to one spot to be *ahem* converted into stored energy.

mc-zombiewrangling

Upgraded to zombies once the system was tested out to be better contained and have no leaks.

Eventually, I think there’s a way to automate and automagically off them with a special ritual stone placed, but I haven’t got to that stage yet.

Thaumcraft 4 was a big effort to progress through and figure out.

mc-thaumcraft2

Lots of scanning objects with a thaumometer to see what type of essences they contained, that could be used for research points.

(The Deep Storage Unit was noteworthy for containing an insane number of the Vacuos element.)

Lots of ‘cheating’ by following a wiki guide for exactly what elements to combine with other elements in order to form higher order and more complicated elements, so as not to go mad running out of things to scan for the desired element, or worse, having to systematically brute-force each combination.

mc-thaumcraft1

Lots of starting simple… in this case trying to make the Thaumium metal by throwing iron ingots into a crucible/cauldron thingmajig that was previously primed with Nether Wart (which contains Praecantio aka magic and Herba aka plant essences. Only the first essence gets used and the second breaks down into its component elements and overboils with stuff. I -think- it’s called Taint but who knows… The good thing about living on an island in the sky is that one just dumps unwanted stuff by knocking a hole in the ground and letting things fall into the void.)

mc-thaumcraft4

… Then attempts to begin something more complicated and involved. In this case, arcane infusion of a super simple Hoe of Growth recipe, which required the setup of the entire infusion altar arrangement, everything to be completely symmetrical (radially, ugh) and provision of glass warded jars of the necessary magical elements for that particular recipe.

Not really looking forward to the recipes that are even MORE complicated and risky.

Then there was the quest for a Laser Drill:

One of the necessary components was pink slimeballs.

Where can you get pink slimeballs? Apparently, they only drop from pink slime mobs.

How do you get pink slime mobs? You dump a bucket of pink slime onto the ground and wait for it to turn, well, if not sentient, then, “alive” or wriggling.

How can I get a bucket of pink slime?

mc-pinkslime

Apparently, only a special machine known as a Slaughterhouse produces pink slime, as the rarer ‘drop’ from killing a livestock. The more common product is liquid meat.

Uh, ok. Enter impromptu cow spawning abbattoir / factory line.

It wasn’t a work of great art or design. It leaked. Cows got everywhere, under and on top of the pipes and had to be monitored and nudged onto the conveyer belt for proper positioning in front of the Slaughterhouse machine.

But it sufficed.

mc-laserdrill

The laser drill is kinda a scary beast.

It produces this big white laser that shoots straight down and is apparently lethal to anything getting in its path. I only have 50 lives or so. Not verifying that statement if I can help it.

It eats power. It needs well over several thousands of Redstone Flux power to run at a decent pace, and maybe try in the tens of thousands RF per tick, if possible.

Prior to this I’d been sufficing with machines that generate 80 RF/tick and putting only maybe 2-3 of them together for a modest 240 RF/tick or so.

10,000 RF/tick?!

That obviously calls for a Big Reactor.

I’d built a very dinky-sized experimental one. I needed to scale up a little more.

mc-bigreactor1

This is probably still miniature by crazy Minecrafter enthusiast standards, but for me, this was a pretty sizeable undertaking already.

Took several real life nights to collect all the materials to build it up, even with a repeatable quest that gave 32 reactor casing blocks as a reward.

5 fuel rods, a hell of a lot of Gelid Cryotheum liquid to act as a coolant (passive, I think, but I still don’t understand three quarters of what I’m reading when I try to learn more about this mod).

Since I was going whole hog anyway, I glassed up three sides of the reactor so that it would look prettier.

mc-bigreactor2

Ta da.

The effort involved felt like a fairly decent long term multi-step project/goal for any MMO, really.

The care and feeding of this reactor is currently center stage.

I’d faithfully followed a simulator that told me it would produce 10,000 RF/tick.

Imagine my initial display when I put in a modest amount of the Yellorium fuel it needed and it only produced, oh… 1-2k RF/tick.

What? Were my calculations off?

Maybe…it was too little fuel and I needed to load it up with more?

I chucked pretty much all the Yellorium I had (not much) into it, gradually.

Slowly, steadily, it started to build up more heat and ramp up in RF production, 4k/tick, 5k/tick, 6k/tick…

Oh.

Except now I have no more Yellorium.

The laser drill is now hastily hooked up to it, operating at a much slower than desired pace, and focused on looking for yellow ore objects… in the hopes that it will eventually dig up enough Yellorium ore to sustain the reactor fueling it.

Guess we’ll see how that goes.

Minecraft: Agrarian Skies

Pete from Dragonchasers has been on the hunt for a single-player Archeage – that is, a farming, crafting, home-building and occasionally get out and kill things sort of game… without the 4h queues.

While I personally couldn’t quite think of a game that plays in an exact similar vein as Archeage, as in 3D WASD mouselook, MMO quest-driven, with trade runs and sailing, as well as crafting, farming, home-building, etc…

… I can think of games with bits and pieces here and there.

Trade runs and sailing is one of those systems that I haven’t seen done for a very long time since the days of MUDs. I vaguely recall some MUDs I encountered in my sampling days where these were a thing. Beyond that, the closest we’ve gotten is in the sci-fi space trading genres, where one effectively flies a starship from planet to planet and station to station buying low and selling high.

Modded Minecraft has been the popular recommendation over in the comments section @ Dragonchasers.

Blue Kae mentioned Agrarian Skies and Crash Landing as popular challenge maps, and I simply couldn’t resist checking at least one of them out.

(It was about time I dabbled with the Feed the Beast launcher anyway, which appears to be the other popular launcher that isn’t the Technic Pack – which I dabbled with, when I tried out Minecraft: Hexxit some months earlier.)

I haven’t logged into GW2 longer than 15 minutes in the past two days, having chosen instead to feed all available leisure time into Minecraft, which is as much testament and recommendation as I can give to this particular mod.

Agrarian Skies is a Skyblock type of map.

In case you’re just as outdated as I am on the latest fashions in the Minecraft modding world, what this apparently means is that they dump you off on a floating rock in the middle of nowhere with nothing but void surrounding the dinky island.

Basically, you’re on a block in the sky.

And it’s time to start fending for yourself, with whatever resources the creator was kind enough to supply. Hope he or she was feeling magnanimous.

Installation

Installing Agrarian Skies was fairly simple and painless, though one did run into “doh, that wasn’t obvious to a newcomer at first glance!” issues.

1) Download the Feed the Beast launcher.

2) Navigate over to the 3rd-Party Packs tab and select/install Agrarian Skies.

3) Launch Agrarian Skies from the button shown, select Single-Player Minecraft, create a new world and promptly fall out of the sky and die repeatedly until all three lives were lost and the map deleted itself.

Wut?

Apparently, one had missed Step 2.5, which is:

2.5) Navigate over to the Maps & Textures tab,  and click on the Maps button. This brings up three maps for Agrarian Skies, which you can choose to install.

Step 3 then consists of selecting the pre-existing map, so that you get dropped off where there is actual solid ground – rather than creating a new world, which led to the looping death scenario.

agskiesstart

First Impressions

I went for the default map, which as you can see from this picture stolen from Google Images, is a small but fairly generous-sized island, with a small but fairly generous-sized decorative house.

Except that there’s only one block of dirt on this island. The rest is colored hardened clay.

In a chest in the house, is one of each type of basic sapling – oak, birch, spruce, etc, three stacks of bonemeal and a couple of guide books from some of the mods installed.

Your quest, should you choose to accept it, is to rebuild the world.

The especially nice thing about Agrarian Skies is that it comes with its own version of GW2’s Level Up Guidance System, so that completely clueless noobs like me don’t just stand there, looking aghast, trying to read up a dozen wikis figuring out where to even BEGIN, and promptly starve to death in the interim.

It’s called the Hardcore Questing Mode (or System) and essentially provides direction for beginners, leading them through and ensuring that the player ends up familiar with the various crafting pathways that will unlock more complicated technologies later.

hqs1

The first section, as you can see, is basically a tutorial in learning how to skyblock – or survive in a Skyblock map.

The others appear to be about cooking, machinery, bees/forestry, magic?, storage systems, and fluids and so on.

One has a limited number of lives. One can earn more by completing said quests and getting the quest rewards.

Yours truly died once by accidentally digging through the block that one was standing on – trying to replace clay with farmland – and then subsequently followed that up with another by attempting to retrieve all the dropped items by flying down to the impact zone in creative mode. Note to all: it doesn’t work. (I think I must have forgot to toggle on god mode. Oh well. I sucked it up as a penalty for trying to cheat and just made new tools for my new life.)

hqs2

The beginning reminds me a lot of starting out in A Tale in the Desert.

You start with practically nothing, engage in a number of repetitive actions to accumulate a resource, which then unlocks another resource, and on and on. Ultimately, you’re striving to unlock the tech tree to the point where you can afford automation and industry.

One dirt block equals one tree grown. (Thankfully, they supplied bonemeal to speed this up on demand.)

Tree yields wood, and a couple more saplings.

Repeat until one has sufficient wood to build various workbenches, including the Tinker’s Construct workbenches which open up an entire system of creating intricate tools. I’d previously encountered an earlier version of Tinker’s Construct in Hexxit, so it wasn’t too perplexing, but a newbie would probably spend some time playing with the whole thing.

How does one obtain more dirt? The questing system tells us how.

We have to create barrels to compost organic material into dirt.

compostingshed

There are a few not-so-obvious ‘stuck’ points that are not explained, probably under the assumption that any Minecraft player who plays around with mods are so used to and take for granted.

Use of the NEI is pretty much assumed.  That is, the “Not Enough Items” inventory mod that allows a player to flip through and keyword search through all the various items supplied by all the various mods, and look up recipes by pressing R or right or left-clicking on the item in the NEI.

I started out not so familiar with the NEI, and ended up Googling for info initially, but one eventually does get used to it.

The above barrels are quite neat. Covered, as above in my little composting shed, they accept things like saplings, leaves, rotten flesh, carrots, wheat, etc. and turn it into a dirt block.

Uncovered and left open to the sky, they collect rainwater until they fill up to 1000 mB and can fill an ordinary bucket as water.

The quest system walks you through creating a crook. Using it to hit tree leaves increases the chances of more saplings. More saplings = more compost = more dirt = more trees, unsoweiter.

From there, it takes you on a journey to obtaining string (via the most hilarious silkworm farm ever – contrast this with the utter brain-destroying pain silkworms are in ATITD), and working out how to create cobblestone from virtually nothing.

cobblegen

Also known as a cobblestone generator.

I have never been prouder of obtaining cobblestone in Minecraft before this.

You see, getting that one lava block was no trivial matter.

Dirt blocks – each one painstakingly composted from the death of many trees – are run through a Sieve to get stones. Stones are assembled into cobblestone.

This is then hammered into gravel. The gravel is hammered into sand. The sand is hammered into dust. (Again oddly reminiscent of A Tale in the Desert and running after medium stones to crush them with a sledgehammer.)

The dust is soaked in a barrel of collected water. (Hopefully, you already made an infinite water source some time ago! Though you’ll need a fired clay bucket to move water around in, without an iron bucket!)

clay

This wet dust turns into clay. The clay is combined with bonemeal to form porcelain clay, and shaped into a crucible. This is fired in a furnace to make it functional.

The crucible, atop a heat source, will melt 4 cobblestone into 1 lava – which you pick up in a bucket. Except if it’s a clay bucket, it’s good for only one use.

Imagine my utter agony when my first attempt at a cobblestone generator… yielded an obsidian block, because moving water came into contact with stationary lava, instead of the other way around.

For my second go at it, I decided not to reinvent the wheel and copied the simplest cobblestone generator from the Minecraft wiki page so that absolutely nothing could go wrong.

Agrarian Skies does a marvellous job of making what are typically commonplace materials a rare and valued resource. This does change the feel of the game considerably.

agskiesoverview

Every last cobblestone of the modest bridge took effort to produce – even if it’s just mining it off a cobblestone generator. (One day in the future… we look forward to automating the process!)

Room for the tree farm, and the trees themselves, were created from almost nothing – just one sapling and a lot of bonemeal.

farm

The modest farm that holds starving to death in check? (Yes, you can starve to death in Agrarian Skies, and food items don’t fill you up as much.)

Every block assembled with invested effort. No free digging stuff out of the world like in regular Minecraft.

And it’s only the beginning.

hqs3

My current project is the Smeltery, from Tinker’s Construct. Something I’ve, thankfully, done before with Hexxit.

Even then, one has to figure out where to put it!

There is no more room left on the island, which means room has to be made. Which means a floor of cobblestone somewhere, at the very least…

There’s a massive tech tree to explore.

I assume there is automation and fluids somewhere in the far future. There’s a Pam’s Harvestcraft mod that seems to expand to a ridiculous amount of fruit trees and cooking recipes. There’s beekeeping. There’s the Mariculture mod – or marine aquaculture, I presume.

mariculture

Conclusion

Minecraft: Agrarian Skies is very much a crafting / tech exploration / achievement delight.

Where Minecraft: Hexxit places the focus more on an adventuresome exploration of a fantastic world, with farming and crafting and home-building more in the background, Agrarian Skies is a mod that places progressing through the crafting aspects front and center.

Along the way, one will unlock more and more blocks, from which to assemble the world itself, in a manner that pleases you.

The planning of which becomes ridiculously addictive.

Recommended, definitely worth trying.