Minecraft: Agrarian Skies Meets Bragtoberfest – Death Times Three (#UpGoerFive)

I am having a great deal of fun talking like this.

I need to thank my friend for showing it to me.

(If it gets too annoying, feel free to give me notice in writing.)

But I do feel that sometimes, words that make no sense except to the people deep into a thing get in the way of explaining that thing to others.

When we game, (or even in school or at the office,) we use so many of those words. Usually without thinking about it.

It is a good chance to see what we really know by telling others about something, or explaining it in a simple way, using words that make sense to many.

It is like writing a song, or a short story, or that other form of writing where words are carefully picked and placed in a way that sounds good.

It is also really fun.

I love playing with words almost as much as playing with games. Or maybe it is the other way around. I don’t know.

Anyway, two of my writing friends have decided that this month is the month of the big mouth.

They are asking everyone to talk big and show off about what they have done in any game.

(There are also some together-game-playing times that have been set.

I am probably going to have to wake up really early for that. Like five in the morning early. But I will try. Since it is at week’s end.)

As you all know, I have been playing a game of mines and making things. Or in this case, a game of blocks in the sky and making things.

The other day, I went through three lives in one night.

I think that is really quite something to be a loud mouth about. Being really good at dying.

Especially if it’s for the great cause of seeing what’s around the next corner.

The great black dark nothing is all around my world.

That night, I thought it was way past time to go down and face it.

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So I let hot water-like rock fall from the skies and fall all the way down.

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Water-like water followed after it.

This changed the hot water-like rock into rock-like rock.

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All the way down… I’m getting quite good at this climbing down easily broken sticks business.

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When I got closer, one could see… “My god, the nothing! It’s full of stars!”

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Looking up, the rest of the world. “I can see my house from here! Oh wait, it’s ALL my house!”

And then it happened. I touched the dark, and the dark bit back.

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As usual, I don’t believe things the first time around.

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So I had to do it again.

Just how low -was- the death part of the dark? Could I get my stuff back if I just got near enough?

I don’t know in the end.

Before I could find out, I slipped and fell.

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Yeah, time to go leave the dark alone for now.

Falling out of the world hurts.

Maybe I’ll try again when I can fly.

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Good thing I had some hearts laying around to eat and get the lives back.

The world has a strange sense of what’s funny.

I did a thing the book asked me to do, and it gave me this to thank me.

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Oh my… can it be… is it… an up-goer flying thing?

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It IS, it IS an up-goer flying thing!

It doesn’t look very good, and may be hard to start… but it said, maybe, just maybe if you try long enough…

So I went outside and really tried.

I jumped one time. Nothing.

Jumped again. Nothing.

Maybe if I jump two times really quick?

I didn’t quite get it the next few times, but then… after jumping two times a couple more times…

Suddenly…

I was flying!

Flying really high!

Flying really fast!

Straight up!

Then there was a really loud noise.

And a big fire for just a second. I think.

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I guess I didn’t read the red writing carefully enough.

The good news was that I could walk back to pick up my stuff.

The bad news is that I very nearly couldn’t find all of it.

I think all the wood things burned up.

I don’t know where all the rocks went, but there’s always more rocks, not a big deal.

I almost cried when I couldn’t find my very strong tree-cutting thing. I had owned it almost since the beginning.

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Then I thought to look up. Way up.

It was on the very top of the blue tree.

I guess I really was quite high up when I burned up.

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The rest of my food was even further and higher up.

I think I found the problem in the end.

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It was green, you see.

I think that was why it went bad.

I also found my head.

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So I made a remembering place to mark the spot. Never forget.

What did we learn from this?

You know what they say.

If at first you don’t make it, try try again. Some day, I will have an up-goer thing that works.

Until then, this is me, signing off for now.

 

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GW2: Schooled by the Super Adventure Box Update

  • Dig locations in World 1 seem to have been nerfed, yielding only chests containing 5 or 20 baubles where they used to produce 30 or 40. The ending chest of World 1-1 and 1-2 yielded only a continue coin instead of a Bauble Bubble in normal mode.
  • I used up the 5 free continue coins I got in the mail, trying to get through Infantile Mode in World 2.
  • Even in that mode, I got a little taste of arbitrary death, what with the accidental slips into rushing rapids (“Help, I’ve fallen and can’t get up!”) and sampling a dart trap sequence on purpose (since presumably some day I might try normal mode.)
  • At 0 coins and 0 lives left, near the start of World 2-3, my rainbow ended at a frozen ice wall with an NPC telling me my candle was too weak. A shopkeeper nearby sold a torch for 400 baubles.

I logged out in disgust.

I just couldn’t face the grind tonight.

Grind baubles, grind continue coins, grind for this and that to buy such-and-such and unlock whatever. *sigh*

I lost about 100% magic find from the patch too. So that’s a lot of blues and greens to grind and salvage.

Don’t even talk to me about crafting to 500.

This whole update feels like someone just shifted the goal posts and chucked them a lot further away.

Took the words right outta my mouth.
Took the words right outta my mouth.

GW2: Not So Secret But Very Annoying Jumping Puzzle

I came.

I saw. 😦

I took a portal.

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I leave out the in-between steps of:

I jumped. (A lot.)

I died. (A lot.)

I raged. (A lot.)

Part of it was no doubt my fault for thinking I would be able to make it through without reading or watching a guide.

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I ended up painstakingly working through (and falling and dying and being rezzed) bits and pieces of the path (with an odd portal here and there) all the way towards the goggles (though I consistently fell off at the last sequence of platforms.)

Absolutely stumped by the lack of visible chest, and wondering why there were so many portals up to the top of the blimp which seemed to go nowhere, I chilled out with the rest and alt-tabbed to discover that I had been missing the chest several times while up there.

That was followed by multiple attempts at the diving goggles, made palatable only by kind mesmers who had set up a sequence of portals up to the goggles. It got so bad I was freeze framing Dulfy’s video guide second by second, trying to figure out the exact spot to jump to.

Eventually, 3 hours and 20 minutes later, I lucked into somehow missing all the pipes and landing in the water alive.

I never want to do it ever again. I’ve died less times in the Aetherblade Retreat.

It started out fun, step by step trying to work out the next part of where to go. The holographic walls were a neat trick. The jump pads were fine when they worked right.

Between the cramped camera angles in some places and the jump-forward pads shooting you downward slightly when the camera wasn’t angled right, it began to get annoying.

As the jumps got less forgiving, and ended up with repeated splatters on the ground instead of being able to respawn, and tracing back long obnoxious to execute jumps in sequence, I proceeded to move on to frustration, anger and being very cheesed off.

I didn’t dare leave it for later, because of how difficult it looked, and the fear that once people had done it and moved on, there wouldn’t be others around to rez or port.

Eventually, after I sorta kinda did each stage and sequence long enough to understand the theory of what to do, even as I repeatedly failed at the execution, I gave up and made use of all the portals. Thank goodness for the community building, inclusive aspect of those things.

I found a twin.
I found a twin.

I pity those who will be doing this puzzle out of season, without the crowds in place. It’s doable, but it’s going to be a frustrating experience, to say the least.

Many many thanks to the generous mesmer souls who had set up portal chains from the ground to the chest, from the ground to the blimp and from the blimp to the goggles.

Many thanks to all those freely rezzing in that place – it was sometimes trickier to figure out how to get to a dead body than the next jump.

This latest batch of content is very strange. It’s hard to the point of only being able to please the small subset of people who really really like a specific sort of thing, with a small leeway for the better souls of the GW2 community to help some others who are struggling with the content, and sorry, too bad, for all those who happened to miss that sweet spot conjunction of friendly people.

(Aetherblade Retreat is like that. Obsidian Sanctum jumping puzzle is another one – I got that one because my server’s pretty populous and strong in WvW and hit a sweet season of an entire zerg in that locale, which I am sure frustrated our opponent servers at the time.  Now Not So Secret too.)

I’m just relieved that’s over.

Was the jumping puzzle fun?

Hell, no.

PC: Blindside(d)

A chance comments discussion over at Syl’s Raging Monkeys about the importance of other senses besides sight in games finally pushed me over the fence and encouraged me to pick up Groupee’s Bundle of the Damned.

Following in the vein of the Humble Bundle and Indie Royale lookalikes, this was some kind of pay-what-you-want game and music and stuff bundle with a scary Halloween theme. To be deadly honest, I have no interest in any of the music and couldn’t tell you if they were good or bad.

None of the games in the bundle are popular must-have great-deal games – on the contrary, none of the games were previously in my Steam games list of 600+ games. Given that I’m in the compulsive habit of collecting games that vaguely sound intriguing on Steam 75% off sales for over 5 years now, many are the Metacritic 55 score type of games that I couldn’t even bring myself to pay $2-5 for. (Maybe at $0-$1, I might try them some day, maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised, that kind of thing.)

… Except… Blindside.

The description of the game intrigued me a lot. It is ostensibly an audio-only adventure, best played with headphones to navigate a 3D environment made up of audio cues and can be played with your eyes closed to simulate “blindness.”

It’s available for the iPad and iPhone, as well as PC (Desura) and Mac.

I have to say, I’m now wondering if I should have gotten the iPad version instead. The gyroscope turning controls are apparently more natural to grasp.

Color me generally disappointed by the actual implementation of the game. On paper, it’s a very intriguing premise. In practice, if I have to hear “You have died. Reloading saved checkpoint” one more time, I might put a hole in my monitor, or maybe just rip the wires out of my headphones while tearing it off my head.

Is it just me? I know I’m very poor at auditory learning in general. I fall asleep in lectures, when people drone on for more than 30 minutes in meetings, and I tune out most nonfiction audio books that I optimistically borrow from the library after the first track or so. The only audio presentation I’ve ever managed to fully enjoy were the audio plays from SciFi.com, featuring Neil Gaiman’s Snow Glass Apples and Murder Mysteries.

Or is it the game?

I have no issues with the 3D environmental audio effect in Blindside. It is done quite well, and even I can hear that such-and-such sound is on my right, or on my left. (Telling apart if it’s forward or backward of me is a lot harder, though.)

Some may take issue with the slightly cheesy voice acting, which is distinctly on the slightly low budget side, but I’m ready to forgive it as it’s a low budget indie type of game.

My primary problem is trying to get a spatial sense of the ‘room’ exactly as the designers envisioned it (and thus placed audio cues to reflect their vision) plus navigate it with the given key controls according to that imaginary spatial picture.

Key controls are supposedly simple. Arrow keys to move forward, move backward, turn left and turn right.

Unfortunately, and it becomes very obvious very quickly, the question arises, just HOW MUCH forward movement, backward movement, left and right turning are we talking about here with one key press?

Perhaps this dates me, but I belong to the generation of adventure gamers (and MUDders) who envision things in terms of “rooms” and compass directions – a simplified navigation mechanic that lets you go in 4 directions, NSEW, or 8 directions if we throw in the diagonals (NW, SE, NE, SW), and 10 with up and down.

That was my initial spatial map, where I assumed one ‘forward’ would take me into room 1 – where room 1 might actually be part of a bedroom’s wall or some such, and to get to room 2, I would have to tap “turn left” then “go forward” once each. Room 3 would be ‘turn right’ then ‘go forward’, room 4 ‘go backward’ and room 5 ‘turn right, go forward, turn right, go forward’ and so on.

This sort of grid might be overlaid on top of an actual bedroom, say, where the TV might be at position 3, and the closet at position 3, the bed at position 5, and so on…

A little lost bumbling around in the dark later, and some squint eyed sneak peeking at the compass Blindside provides, it was clear, this was NOT how Blindside worked.

Back to the drawing board

In fact, the compass was very worrisome.

It had the eight cardinal directions, but if you notice in the picture above, both the north and northeast directions are highlighted to different degrees. One tap of the left or right key does not shift you to one of eight possible directions, there are MORE degrees of freedom than that. How much more, I haven’t counted, but if I’m ever bored, I might start counting the number of key presses it takes to shift from one fully highlighted arrow to the other.

Instead, in good faith, I tried to revise my mental spatial picture accordingly.

Let’s assume I’m in the center of a room. The narration says there’s stuff to my right and in front of me (that are creating distinctive noises) and so on. So far, so good. Just rotating in place, I can tell where they are in relation to myself.

The problem arises when you have to walk towards them. Basically, turn in place to orientate the stuff to the right of you, turn in place to orientate the same stuff to the left of you, turn in place to approximate somewhere in the middle of that means it’s ahead of you, press forward for an unspecified amount of time and hope that you bump into it. If you do, yay.

If you don’t, then that’s -really- a problem. Because now you don’t know where you are. Pressing forward some more, the game is mysteriously silent and refuses to tell you that you’ve bumped into…say, a wall. You can’t feel anything in an audio-only game, unlike in say, real life.

Gamely, you rotate a bit and press forward some more, hoping to ram into something, anything. The game still says nothing.

More rotations and forward pressing later, you may indeed bump into something the game decided was worth describing to you, or you may end up “sliding” along something – except you don’t know how far and in what direction you’re sliding, and indeed, what you’re sliding against.

In a safe environment with no dangers, this turns into a frustrating guessing game of rotating randomly and charging forward, hoping to encounter the desired goal and move on to the next stage. Eventually, assuming you haven’t given up, you do hit upon the ‘magic spot’ and move on.

Alas, the next sequence was even more annoying. Some bad things happen, and one basically ends up facing Something Loud, Awful-Sounding, and Distinctly Death-Causing should you run into it.

You are very very sure where it is, and that you don’t want to go there.

Problem now is, you want to go back where you came from, where there is a stricken lady screaming a stock phrase which goes something like “help, I’m scared! come back to me please!” on repeat loop.

Alas,  she sounds very muffled compared to AWFUL SOUNDING HORROR NOISE and try as you might, she is essentially ambient audio with little direction as compared to the distinctly not-going-there noise.

As for the rest of the ‘room,’ it’s supposedly an apartment corridor with doors, or some such, and you gotta get back to yours, except you have no idea where it is in relation to where you are now.

Well, shit. Ten minutes later of getting continually eaten by the awful noise because that seemed to be the only way to go forward and actually encounter something (going backward just backed me into an apartment door that wasn’t mine) and some more random rotation hoping to maybe get to the apartment door that was mine, I somehow blundered past the horrible thing back to the girl who had really good lungs and no imagination.

(Suggestion for the future, try continual environmental noises as the cue, not a girl saying the same thing on repeat loop for as long as it takes someone really bad at navigating to get to the next checkpoint. Less immersion breaking that way.)

A little later, I encountered the situation that made me give up.

I believe real blind people get by crossing roads with a combination of asking for aid, tactile feedback in determining where the curb is, a dog guide, and so on. I might be wrong, I don’t have any experience besides what I read on websites. I certainly appreciate that it is an everyday challenge for them.

But I’m convinced that they certainly do NOT fling themselves into oncoming traffic just based on the sounds of the vehicle driving into the distance and hope to survive in between the cars until they get to the other side. That’s just… plain absurd.

And frustrating as a game scenario.

(I did try. I counted my footsteps, hoping to walk an equal amount of distance between safe non-speeding car spots and eventually get to the other side / goal that way, but somehow, after the 4th or 5th car sound, I still got bowled over and squished by an oncoming car. I ran into some poles or other by rotating randomly, and while trying to figure out how to move away from the pole, got ran down by a car. I ran forward and smacked into the thing in the middle which was blocking my path (whatever it was) and while trying to figure out how to slide around it, had a car ram into me. I charged heedlessly forward hoping to avoid the cars on pure faith and was let down.)

Which ultimately is the most damning thing I can say about Blindside. I wanted to like this game. But it’s just not fun to play.

It’s like one of those read-the-author’s-mind adventure game puzzles, made much worse because you can’t see shit. On purpose.

P.S. I’d love to hear what folks brave enough to try it out think. And if you’ve any suggestions on how to navigate properly or how the ‘rooms’ are laid out, which seems to be the bulk of my problem with the game, I just can’t create a picture in my head that matches what the developers think I should doing.

I’m at the point where I think I might have to try and map every coordinate point of the first room keypress by keypress  in order to begin to understand how the hell stuff is laid out. Or maybe I should just go play another game because this one ain’t worth my time.

RotMG: Oops #4 – And Some Days Life Just Hates You

More farming. My archer is about 5 potions away from maxing defence, I think, and speed is about 9 potions away. Getting a bit excited about the prospect of finally maxing one stat, ever.

Wizard #4 was leading a bit of a charmed life.

Last night, out of curiosity since I’ve never actually tried to actively observe the effects of mild alcohol inebriation on reaction times, I realized Realm of the Mad God is so twitch-based, it might just work.

(Obviously, if you’re hopelessly pissed beyond the ability to type coherently, the effects of being drunk while playing any game is ridiculously plain to see. But I’m talking about super-mild amounts of alcohol in the system. Scientifically, experiments have shown there still is an effect, even if the person is not aware of it and still thinks they are perfectly fine.)

Had the teeniest tiniest shot of absinthe mixed with Coca Cola (I’m weird, I know, I’ve developed a taste for absinthe cocktails since visiting this local hole in the wall). It’s a nothing kind of drink. There’s a faint low level of happy buzz and that’s about it.

Feeling perfectly okay, I proceeded to play RotMG. I know you’re expecting carnage, since this is a Yet Another Stupid Death post, but actually, no.

Being perfectly aware that my reaction times might conceivably be a bit dimmed, I played very carefully and kept reminding myself about the Nexus button. What I did notice were two things.

One, my reaction times did appear to be slightly impacted. And two, my focus got more…how to describe it… narrow visioned.

I kept walking into god bullets. At a much higher frequency than usual. Somehow, while I was perfectly aware that these bullets were coming, my focus on them was causing me to walk my character into them, rather than avoid them. Judgement of split second timings were a little off. I doubt it’ll be noticeable at all in a hotkey skill MMO, but RotMG is arcade twitchy and provides much faster frequent feedback.

And I was concentrating so hard on looking at the character and making sure he was safe, I barely looked at the radar map. Somehow my peripheral vision wasn’t functioning at the same level, situational awareness was not there, and there were quite a few scary moments of “Where did that God come from? Eep, I’m not looking at the radar map like usual!”

I’m not sure if this was a self-fulfilling prophecy kind of thing where my expectations were affecting my actions, or if there really is an effect. Not at all scientific, but it was kinda fun to attempt and observe. I hear platformers are another good place to do fun tests on this, since jumps require split second timing too.

After realizing I was taking more damage in the last half hour than in the rest of the character’s lifetime, I decided to stop before something permanent happened. (See, my judgement wasn’t -that- impaired!) Quit the game, surfed the ‘net, went to bed.

The next day, stone cold sober, I tried it again. Sure enough, I was dodging god bullets barely even thinking about it. Nary a single scratch. My fingers were turning the screen, dodging and shooting and correcting for overshoots completely subconsciously. Dropped into flow state without having to think very hard.

Quite convincing an experience, when all is said and done. Makes you appreciate why even a single drink and trying to drive is not ever a good idea. Doubtless I will be repeating the experiment some time in the future, for the heck of it. Not with anything valuable, though. 🙂

Continuing on while absolutely not under the effects of any alcohol whatsoever, I kept farming.

A Destruction Sphere spell ability item dropped for the lucky wizard (the irony of jumping from a starter item to Tier 4 was not lost on me). Then another, which I was going to keep for the inevitable next wizard in the vault.

And then out of absolutely nowhere, a Leviathan (that most dangerous of shotgun Gods) jumped me from behind.

Dead from the shotgun without the chance to complete the thought “What the f-”

No one ever said life was fair. This was just one of -those- deaths. Completely unavoidable.

He’d already got away from umpteen other bad situations because there was time enough to Nexus away. This one was just a surprise. Of the not-so-nice kind.

My wizards’ lifespans seem to be based on a score average (in terms of Total Fame Earned) rather than on time. Perhaps there’s just a certain number of gods I can kill in the throwaway gear and base stats I’m using before the inevitable accident kills me.

Alas, poor number #4, he only lived a day. But he lived it well.