Category Archives: Gameplay

Meta Update: Successful First Semester, Now a “Student” Employee

Todd Rundgren - Influenza
Current 80s favorite: Influenza (Todd Rundgren)

 

Six-hour study sessions pay off

Good morning, afternoon or evening.  It’s been six weeks since I last posted, but for a good reason – FINALS.

Cramming for finals

If I want to earn a scholarship or graduate with honors, there comes a time where one must neglect sleep, food, games, social life (and basically everything else) and concentrate on the grades.  Leading up to the finals, it was a marathon of class-study-class-homework-type-study-food-study-sleep up to May 13th, the date of the last final.  All of the studying has paid off, and with two As and an A-, plus my additional credits transferred from my out-of-pocket community college attendance in New Jersey (all As), my GPA is in great shape as I prepare to enter my sophomore year.

Fortunately the university has a very busy yet effective Career Services department; busy in that they do everything they can to not only place graduates but also undergrads in summer or year-round positions, which is amazing for a two-person department.  Ironically, I was able to land a lucrative Accounts Payable/Purchasing position within the university with almost no effort (as a student), but before I enrolled in the university my applications for employment were turned down three times during the first seven months of my being an Ohio resident.  It was only after proving myself academically and then showing the school my resume that I was able to get my foot in the door.  Not that I’m complaining – by both studying Accounting full-time and working in the financial field it’s basically the same as killing two birds with one stone.

The pay isn’t high but it’s more than enough.  If I was still in Philadelphia I’d be starving, but in Springfield small wagers still go a LONG way.  The hours are great – meaning I can work a full day and still have time to enjoy the town and it’s amenities or write before collapsing.  One thing I still need to get used to is being classified as a “student” employee when I’ll be thirty-six next week.  There’s a difference between being an “internal” employee and a “stranger” hired off of the streets, but after so many temporary assignments I have trouble performing in the former role.

In any case, so far so good.  Should the position stretch into the fall semester then I could integrate campus life with work (working, eating and attending classes, all on the same campus or within walking distance), and then home to sleep.

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Current Mac wallpaper - Cave Story+

I don’t have much to talk about which is worthy of going into full detail for this post, mainly because all of my energies had been spent cramming for finals, completing them, praying for straight-As and learning duties for my summer job.  What free time that I had was spent on the Mac version of Minecraft (again, thanks Dan for the addiction!), Gumi’s Brave Frontier for iOS, playing Cave Story+ on Steam and researching options for a new desktop this September to replace the five-year-old Mac that still (grudgingly) runs, even with the recent Mavericks 10.9.3 update.  To round out the post, I’ll touch briefly on three of these things in order.

Minecraft – the REAL version (PC/Mac)

Ravine ObservatoryCentral base to work from, check While still waiting for Mojang’s 0.9.0 update for the mobile version, I went to a game store and bought a PC/Mac license.  Playing the game for the first time on a desktop instead of a mobile device makes the experience a LOT better on so many levels – especially the nigh-limitless landscapes, a larger variety of enemies and biomes, more objects to craft, and a end-goal to the game (the End biome with it’s resident Ender Dragon).

I managed to open a portal to the Nether over the previous weekend, and found that going in unprotected is a HUGE mistake.  I knew what to expect from religiously reading official wikis, but I wasn’t prepared for was Zombie Pigmen wandering around in the Overworld once I emerged from the portal after being attacked by Ghasts whose fireballs I couldn’t deflect accurately.  After accidentally hitting one of the two Pigmen, they knocked me out in three rapid hits.  Fortunately I dropped all of my loot near the base closest to the portal, but while trying to re-obtain the loot I found that my diamond sword was missing.  Well, guess who now held it…and used it to VERY QUICKLY pound my a-double-s.  Again.  And again.  AND AGAIN.

After that I said “screw that!”, disabled the portal and blocked off the path to both it and the now-Zombie Pigman-owned base (they managed to find a way in!) until I was ready, opening new files and gathering better materials during the meantime.  The Nether…just no.  The Glowstone is worth the trekking alone as I was able to rebuilt the Dust into lamps for my home base (far, FAR away from the one close to the portal), but trying to attack Ghasts on unstable ground with 100-block high sheer drops into lava oceans while hunting down Blazes for their Rods to press forward to the endgame…yeah.  That can wait for a bit.

For the first time ever - color-stained glass

Brave Frontier (iOS) – Guardian Boss #1 defeated (video)

Gumi’s Brave Frontier is a rather easy yet enjoyable Japanese RPG in which you collect and summon elemental characters to fight an evil god’s denizens and prohibit them from wiping out the planet (typical RPG story).  Though there’s not much to the game besides collecting, selling and fusing summoned characters, there’s item crafting, enlisting other players’ characters to address elemental deficiencies in your group or for simple backup,  battling in arenas and participating in weekly and special events.  Though I say the game has little in the way of substance, it appeals to me due to having a Shining Force III-type of vibe.  It has the look and feel of a late Sega Saturn title, and that by itself is a plus in my book.

Recently I defeated the first guardian boss of the game, which one reaches only after completing dozens of fights.  Gumi had recently added an update which allows easy and quick uploads of battles to YouTube, and since this was an important battle I decided to upload it.  I therefore leave an imbedded HD-enabled video for your review.

Researching the next desktop replacement: few good alternatives

*WARNING:  RANT!*

We’re just a couple of weeks from Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC 2014), but my faith in the Mac platform is starting to dwindle.  First, the 2013 Mac Pro was released, and for all of the hype of being Apple’s most powerful desktop they’ve neglected two essential items:  an optical drive and more hard drive space.  Why in God’s name would a company release a $3000+ USD computer with only 256GB of storage!?

“But James,” you may be saying, “it’s a workstation.  It’s not meant for Jane and Joe Schmuck consumers like us”.  BullCRAP!  Just the mere fact that it’s a WORKSTATION AND that it’s replacing a machine which allowed TERABYTES of hard disc space with a few lever flips and a couple of tray slides is simply inexcusable.

But NO, they didn’t stop there!  THEN they had to axe the only Macbook Pro that was worth the bang for the buck – the classic unibody Macbook Pro.  The “classic” model lacked a retina display but had user-accessible RAM and hard drive slots, as well as an optical drive for those who needed a drive slot and didn’t want to spend $80.00 USD to get Apple’s USB alternative, or scour Newegg. Instead, Apple forced the hand of would-be customers by killing off the optical drive, soldering the RAM into the slots, and chopping down the amounts of storage.  So instead of merely opening our computers to add more RAM or larger storage drives, we’ll be purchasing new Macbook Airs and Retina Macbook Pros every three years instead of every six or seven.  Good job, Apple.  Good FREAKIN’ job.

That’s two strikes for Apple, with the foul tip being the same things being done to the entire iMac line.  Well, not the entire line.  I mean, you can access the RAM slots on the high-end machines – which you SHOULD, being that the user has to spend over TWO GRAND on the hardware to gain that privilege…

Here’s what I call the potential third strike – either a refusal to update the aging Mac mini line (STILL no Haswell architectures anywhere in the minis, they’re the only ones using Ivy Bridge chipsets since October 2012), an insane update to the line mimicking the gimped Mac Pro in having low amounts of storage while also mimicking the gimped Macbook Pros in having soldered RAM, or killing the Mac mini line altogether for “beefier” Apple TV hardware (there’s a good reason why some people hook up Mac minis to their home entertainment centers instead of Apple TVs, thank you!).  June 2nd is the make-or-break date as far as I’m concerned; give me one good reason why I shouldn’t build a Linux machine.  Otherwise, I’m GONE.

And it’s not like there’s much in the Windows-based pickings, either. Acer and HP hardware is fast, but they’ll require a graphics card purchase before I can reliably start playing games, as the best integrated chip I’ve seen is an Intel HD 4400 (at least with most of today’s desktop Macs, you get…well…something).  CPU speeds are rather lackluster, even when spending $800 USD and up, though this could be because of their turbo boost abilities (Intel).  The last time I purchased AMD CPU-equipped machines, AMD was the king, and Intel was a laughingstock (remember those days?  I barely do.), but today, with Haswell and Broadwell, with power plus efficiency as well as having integrated chips worth using, AMD looks to be a mere shadow in such a way that I’m wondering if their graphics card line can save them from potential bankruptcy.

I don’t know, perhaps I’m not looking hard enough, mainly because I have this feeling that I should shut up and wait for WWDC and Apple’s announcements.  Still, there used to be a lot of ready-made Windows-based hardware which could easily rival Apple-based hardware; all one would have to do is buy it, take it home, plug it in, and turn it on, the only future purchase being more RAM and a graphics card later on.  Nowadays, from looking at sites like HP and Acer…not so much.

*NOTE:  Another reason why desktop pickings could be weak; it’s because (and you may say “no duh” to this) it’s mid-2014.  The world has all but moved on from desktops.  Frankly, laptops are slowly but surely being forced aside for better and better tablets, so if laptop sales overall are starting to lessen, then what could I expect from ye olde desktops?  Does this make my ranting irrelevant?  In some cases yes, in other cases no.  In some ways, the raw power and expandability (well, on Windows and Linux-purposed machines anyway) cannot be duplicated on a laptop or a tablet, but then again, with a tablet or a laptop, you’re no longer chained to a desk.

Then again, some desktop-like builds allow you to leave the desk; they just have compromises.  Sigh…

At least downgrades from Windows 8 to 7 are plentiful.  Win7 is a decent, stable version if I really have to go down that dark ell-ridden road.

/RANT

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Steam's Big Picture Mode (Music Beta)
Steam’s Big Picture Mode (Music Beta)

Images are uploading rather slowly to WordPress (my Minecraft images for one) so I have to cut short this update.  Memorial Day is coming up, there’s a lot of topics I’ve placed on hold and some free time later so I’ll post something less hodgepodge-y then.

Jay

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Ending Spring Break 2014 with SurvivalCraft (short video)

*NOTE:  viewers might want to full-screen the video. – Jay

Good morning, good afternoon or good evening – hopefully this week finds everyone well.  As I type this Spring Break 2014 will be over in approximately twelve hours, so after reading for my English literature class the next day and ensuring that all of my Financial Accounting coursework is complete I wanted to do something worthwhile to conclude the break.  Seeing as how a friend of mine had recently caused me to get addicted to Minecraft (posted about the Pocket Edition previously), I thought that I would post a short blurb and video regarding it’s biggest mobile competitor SurvivalCraft, a Minecraft clone which – ironically – is a lot better than the game it’s “cloning”.

Facing the unknown from my old wooden base on the shoreline
Facing the unknown from my old wooden base on the shoreline (SurvivalCraft).

Usually I’m wary of clones, especially in the App Store – mainly because about 92% of them turn out to be rip-offs, i.e. are mere cash-ins on the coattails of popular and more legitimate franchises.  This can’t be more proven then the Flappy Bird craze (not worth linking to, because I’m sick of the whole ordeal) in which more than 700 apps imitating Flappy Bird  flooded Google and Apple’s distribution services, so much that they started pulling out the ban-hammers and began rubber-stamping the denial process.  Flappy Bird wasn’t the first game to be vastly copied, as there have been (and still are) Jetpack Joyride, Final Fantasy, Puzzle Quest, Angry Birds, Grand Theft Auto and Left 4 Dead clones (and rip-offs) all competing for attention along with the established official releases.

At this point though, I want to make a distinction between mere “clones” and “rip-offs”.  Before I discuss Igor Kalicinski’s SurvivalCraft (an obvious clone of Mojang’s Minecraft), we first need to briefly note that there is a difference.  A rip-off is a blatant attempt to imitate an established franchise in the hopes of luring in a customer by it’s lower price and extra features, and then once the customer purchases the products, locks necessary gameplay features behind pay- or time-walls.  Some are even blatant copies (nearly line-for-line of the game’s code) in an attempt to hurriedly lure customers away from legitimate products and finance talentless developers whose game are mere shells of official products.

Protected rye garden

While a clone may also be classified as a rip-off, it depends on the nature or intent of the clone.  A game like Cornfox and Bros./FDG Entertainment’s Oceanhorn for instance can be viewed as a blatant Wind Waker rip-off (the protagonist sails from island to island on a similarly-designed ship); however the developers publicly stated that they wanted to play a Zelda-like adventure on high-resolution mobile devices and assumed that others wanted that experience as well – an experience that everyone knows that Nintendo will never provide unless it’s on a next-generation Nintendo-developed mobile device.  Yes the mechanics imitate Nintendo’s console game, but the intent (providing an experience accessible to a group of players that another party refuses to cater to) makes the imitation ethically sound, not to mention the four years of effort in developing and releasing Oceanhorn, even more so due to famed former Squaresoft music composers (Nobuo Uematsu [Final Fantasy] and Kenji Ito [Mana series]) lending their talents for the game’s soundtrack.

Oceanhorn gameplay
Oceanhorn gameplay. Looks and plays exactly like Nintendo’s Zelda: the Wind Waker, but for a four-year iOS development effort it’s still a good game and fills a mobile niche.

In other words, though the state of the App Store is a HUGE freaking mess right now, there are still instances in which the saying “imitation being the sincerest form of flattery” rings true, and such applies to Oceanhorn’s availability on the App Store.  However, I’d like to talk about another (and stronger) instance of imitation, a “more legitimate” clone that expands on the original material in such a way that the “official” release (the original work) has been completely overshadowed, but not due to the imitation itself or the lower price.  In SurvivalCraft‘s case, it’s due to more sincere efforts by a single developer who wanted to emphasize the true fear of surviving in an unknown wilderness, the wilderness being much more vast (i.e. much larger horizontal vistas, though I’ve found limits on height) than Mojang’s Minecraft: Pocket Edition, which (as of this writing, consists of maps which are fully enclosed in a maximum 256×256 [horizontal] x150 [height/depth] block grid).  In short, SurvivalCraft expands on Minecraft’s gameplay traits in almost every conceivable way, providing more value for the money (currently $3.99 USD on the App Store) than the official Minecraft app ($6.99 USD).

Admiring base from afar, then gathering minerals

In SurvivalCraft, you’re a castaway tossed ashore on an uncharted land by scrupulous pirates who yell at you upon their departure that they’ll never return for you.  At that point you have until sundown to find wood, build a quick shelter, craft a workbench and build a door on your shelter.  Oh, and if you have the time, gather stone or at least more wood so that you can craft weapons to fight your way past the wolves and maybe a lion or bear or two the next day so that you can try to hunt and gather food before you starve to death!

A bear AND a lion.  I am SO FREAKING DEAD...
A bear AND a lion. I am SO FREAKING DEAD…
Prepare to be WOLF KIBBLE.
Prepare to be WOLF KIBBLE…oh wait!  What about the SHARKS?!

SurvivalCraft doesn’t include zombies, strange exploding humanoids, bow-wielding skeletons or nether-gates.  The game depicts one man against the unknown, a vast, near-limitless world filled with wild beasts which will kill you in a second if you’re caught unawares or don’t have strong enough weapons.  Even when fully prepared and with a nigh-impregnable fortress, one mistake can cost you your life, and depending on the mode chosen, your game will immediately end!

Newly-completed base (glass and stone)
Second base, built further inland

Yes, you’ll start the game with no shelter, no food and a pack of wolves that go mad whenever day passes into night (and when a full moon rises, they become demented werewolves, too!), lions, bears, tigers and hyenas roaming, and piranhas, sharks and even killer whales claiming bodies of water as their own.  You have to satisfy your hunger or you’ll quickly begin to lose health.  You’ll need to sleep at regular intervals or you’ll drop instantly, possibly leaving yourself vulnerable.  You’ll need to be mindful of your stamina, or you’ll run out of breath when climbing steep hills or running.  With all of these in mind, your task is to make use of this vast land filled with deserts, caves, forests, swamps, snow-covered fields and mountains using any and all of the resources, tools and even some of the animals to stay alive for a long as possible.

New base interior (before painting it black)
New base interior (before painting it black).  Used wicker lamps as light sources.  My “kitchen” is in the rear of the base surrounded by glass.

But you’re a human being, and as a human you’ll have to demonstrate to nature as to why humans have earned their place near the top of the food chain.  By crafting machetes and axes out of stone rather than wood, you’ll inflict more damage on hostile beasts, so much that they’re run away more quickly than continue to pursue you.  By defeating (but not killing) the wolves, both they and any new arrivals will leave you alone during the day (but you’ll still need to stay clear of them at night).  By crafting a bow and sets of arrows, you can easily hunt the seagulls, ducks and ravens that fly around and add to your food supply, and by finding coal and cooking the meat rather than eating it raw, it’ll satisfy your hunger stat twice as much.  Smelting sand into glass and crafting other resources into stronger tools (once you have iron weapons you’ll never look back, and coating iron tools with a diamond layer grants you with the strongest, most long-lasting tools of the game, but you have to earn diamonds, by digging way, WAY underground) and better blocks can potentially yield materials in order to construct bigger, better more secure shelters (such as the one seen above), as well as tools, items and lights to outfit your base with.  If you’re lucky, you can even craft a saddle from a defeated bear’s skin and tame a horse or donkey so that you can travel longer distances on this near-limitless world, as well as outfit them with saddlebags to carry extra equipment.  Once you learn your limits, priorities and proper use of your weapons and resources, surviving against the elements is lot less stressful.

Base (newly renovated) with black paint (water-filled copper buckets + white pigment + roses + coal = black paint) battery-powered lights (copper + coal) and light bulbs (copper + glass).  Special blocks were crafted so that the copper wires could run through the ceilings between floors (see the video above).
Base (newly renovated) with black paint (water-filled copper buckets + white pigment + roses + coal = black paint) battery-powered lights (copper + coal = batteries) and light bulbs (copper + glass). Special blocks were crafted so that the copper wires could run through the ceilings between floors (see the video above), and light switches were crafted and placed at the ends (though I have some crossed cables).  I removed the wicker lamps once the light bulbs were in place.

Regarding the official Minecraft: Pocket Edition, it’s a fun game in which players are prompted to fully explore their environment and craft as many unique items and bases as they can; however the environment is so enclosed that the experience on iOS becomes limiting before it’s potential is realized.  In other words, once I found invisible barriers, the gameplay became limiting and nearly-monotonous, and the enemies too predictable and easy to defeat.  In SurvivalCraft, there’s never a dull moment.  You can be armed to the teeth and still be taken out in a few seconds by a fast-running tiger or an angry bear, if Mufasa the lion or Ed the hyena don’t kill you from behind first.  There’s the anxiety of trying to reach your home base before nightfall and especially a full moon rising, in which case you’ll have werewolves to contend with.  You’ll be hunting seagulls over a piranha-infested lagoon and wondering if the seagull carcass is worth the risk of retrieving.  It’s situations like these that make the SurvivalCraft experience more fulfilling than Minecraft:PE.

Second floor (bedroom)

I guess if you haven’t figured it out by now, Igor Kalicinski’s SurvivalCraft provides WAY more value for the money than Mojang’s limited mobile attempt.  I guess it’s more understandable that MC is more limited in scope and gameplay compared to SC or Mojang’s PC/Mac/consoles equivalents, because at the time of it’s release (November 2011), tablets weren’t nearly as powerful as the ones currently available today and couldn’t handle barrier-less environments.  Still, for an official Minecraft release (currently alpha build 0.8.1, with only two programmers assigned to it part-time) it’s kind of a disappointment, though it was admittedly addictive when I first played it (thanks Dan!).  Kalicinski’s “clone” (released April 2013, during the first six months of the iPad 4/iPad mini era and constantly updated and supported by a strong fan community) takes the good things about SurvivalCraft and (seeing that mobile gamers wanted a more fulfilling Minecraft-like experience) and expanded on the ideas of survival, crafting, manipulation, and discovery tenfold.

In SurvivalCraft‘s case, it’s more than an imitation of Mojang’s Minecraft:  Pocket Edition.  It’s a single developer telling Mojang how to do an open-world item-crafting game for mobile devices the right way.  Minecraft is the king when it comes to crafting games on the PC and Mac, but on mobile devices, it’s SurvivalCraft that currently holds the cards on mobile.

Base's front door

Four memorable experiences while playing SurvivalCraft:

1) Outgrowing my first all-wood base and being sick of being surrounded by friendly (during the day) wolves, I dug a short tunnel further inland and found a large lake with horses and cattle roaming about.  I traveled back and forth through the tunnel carrying tools and chests, slowly building my glass-and-polished stone base per several days while retreating back to the coast before sundown each day (before the nightly wolf and lion attacks).

2) Crafting a bow and a set of arrows (iron arrow tips) and being able to kill birds with a single shot instead of having to sneak up and smack them with a machete or axe.  Satiating my hunger became much, MUCH easier.  I wondered if this was how our real-life human ancestors felt when discovering/using ranged weapons.

3) Digging diagonally downwards in the hopes of finding diamonds while wondering what SurvivalCraft‘s bottom layers looked like.  It was almost sunset when I finally found the bedrock layers, and knowing that it was too late to journey back to the base I kept digging around the bedrock blocks…and I finally found blocks containing diamonds embedded among the unbreakable bedrock.  By the time the morning came I was starving half to death and almost ready to drop from want of sleep, but I carried home nine fresh diamonds, which I immediately used to build a compass (the magnet shown in the base in the video allows me to find my way back to it using the compass) and coat a couple of iron tools to increase their strength and durability.

Battery-powered lighting throughout the base
Battery-powered lights – much brighter than the old wooden wicker lamps, plus they save on space.

4) Finding out how to make batteries (requires two copper bars and four pieces of coal to make a four-pack) and replacing the old wooden+torch wicker lamps throughout the base with a modern lighting system.  I had fun tearing up parts of the floor to add new blocks which allowed wires to run through floors and ceilings as well as placed new columns so that light switches could be placed.  As you can see in the video, the lighting system isn’t perfect, but it’s much brighter at night and gets the job done.

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Hope you enjoyed the video and my long exposé on the game, and with this post comes the end of my spring break.  With a busy week coming up I’ll post again soon, though I have no idea when.

Jay

Ushering in Spring Break 2014 with Reflector (iOS screen recording app)

*Note:  the featured image depicts actual gameplay of Block Fortress War, (C) 2014 Foursaken Media, available in the iTunes Store.

As I had explained in previous posts, I usually post new content on Thursdays, mainly because it’s the one day that I grant myself free from academic studies. The preceding Thursday had been an orgy of studying and cramming for a Financial Accounting midterm, the result of which means a low “B” or a low “A” going into the final. Despite studying for nearly half the day, I stumbled into an app which will temporarily allow me to bypass my aging Mac’s lack of Airdrop or high-resolution recording capabilities when making gameplay recordings, and the above non-HD video is my result.

Reflector app

Reflector is a Mac OS X and Windows app ($12.99 USD from AirSquirrel) that allows iOS hardware users to record their device’s screen using Airplay onto desktops via wifi.  Once the user decides on an appropriate frame and resolution, they could then begin recording gameplay, step-by-step how-tos, or anything they please. Once finished, the app then converts and saves the resulting .mov file on the desktop for editing and publishing.

The trick is in the type of internet connection available, as the developers recommend an 802.11n connection for seamless recording. Unfortunately all I have at the moment is a 768kbps DSL line with frequent drops used by three people (two of them needing always-on access), but some bandwidth was freed long enough for me to attempt the experiment.

To begin the recording, Reflector must be launched and all desired settings (iPad/iPod/iPhone frame around the recording as well as the desired resolution). After setting the desired changes, Reflector then has to be relaunched.

On your iDevice, swipe up from the very bottom of your screen to access the Control Center. Make sure that your wifi is on and Bluetooth is off, then select AirPlay (the monitor-shaped icon with a small arrow pointing into it):

AirPlay enabled
The iPad mini R’s AirPlay option enabled, and mirroring toggle on. Both are found in the Control Center by a single-finger swipe from the bottom of the screen.

On slower connections, it’ll take time for a representation of the iDevice’s screen to appear on the desktop, but on a faster network it should appear instantly.

The iPad Mini's screen in real-time
The iPad mini R’s screen displayed on the desktop in real-time (hopefully). Lag may or may not appear based on the strength of your wireless signal.

 Once the image appears on the desktop, change screens or select icons on the iDevice to test for lag issues. On a good wifi connection there should be near-instantaneous responses showing on the desktop (if not, I recommend disabling a home wifi appliance like a wireless printer or another such unnecessary device to improve signal strength). Once you’re satisfied then choose Start Recording on Reflector’s Devices menu on the desktop.

 Recording option

The recording I made above is short, but I did it as a spur-of-the-moment thing between arriving home from taking a midterm and rushing to the laundromat. Still, I was able to record and convert a five-minute video via a weak wifi signal in about fifteen minutes.

Block Fortress War (Foursaken Media) Overall, it’s a decent app and well worth the thirteen dollars. The quality of the experience has more to do with your wifi signal strength and the level of patience you have when your signal is weak. In my case my signal was so weak that I gave up after more than hour and downloaded the first title in Capcom’s Phoenix Wright trilogy for my iPad. Your case will (hopefully) differ.

About the game: Foursaken Media, a development team consisting of four brothers, released a spinoff to one of their first and most addictive tower-defense titles (Block Fortress) with the hard-as-heck but equally addictive Block Fortress War, a tower defense/real-time strategy game. The gameplay shown above is live gameplay of the first level of the first campaign, which I replayed for the sake expediency. Enjoy, and hopefully I’ll have a chance to post gameplay regarding the prequel Block Fortress.

Jay

Playing Minecraft for the first time (Pocket Edition), plus thoughts on SurvivalCraft

Current Mac wallpaper (Etrian Odyssey Untold).
Current Mac wallpaper (Etrian Odyssey Untold).

Good morning, afternoon or evening.  If you’re a full-time student like me, hopefully the days leading up to spring break are seeing you well.  Also if you’re like me, you’re in desperate need of a break.  Just remember the main purpose of our intellectual trials and tribulations – they’re to not only help us grow mentally but also hopefully secure decent employment in the future (though it’s not a 100% guarantee here in the States.  I wonder if Canada needs an accountant with ten years’ accounts payable experience).  Still, we’ll cross our respective bridges when we get to them, though there’s probably going to be a whopper of a toll charge when we do.

Thomas Library: a peaceful place to toil.
Thomas Library: a peaceful place to toil.

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Speaking of needing rest, you’ll note that at least two of my previous posts were made on Thursdays, which is designated as my day off from coursework.  After waking up later than usual on the previous Thursday (Feb. 27th) I decided to try the mobile version of Mojang’s Minecraft due to a friend of mine obsessing over it.  Figuring that since I spent the $6.99 USD on it as one of the first apps for my iPad R, I should either play it now or remove it from the iPad for another time.

Minecraft PE - beachside sanctuary

My iPad R’s battery (initially at 100% charge) was drained in under ten hours of play, then recharged while I was still playing, then an additional 10% when fully recharged.  In short, my whole Thursday completely disappeared.  Thanks a lot, Dan!

Minecraft PE work area It was admittedly frustrating at first as the game simply drops you into a world with little in the way of instruction and too many ways to die (from zombies, drowning, falling from tall heights, et cetera).  Once I accidentally found that with enough wood elements I could build a crafting table, which aided in my crafting fragile wooden tools for self-defense and for easier mining, I was able to finally start adequately defending myself.   Needing a simple shelter for protection when mobs hunted during the night, I built a simple one-room hut made of sand, placed a treasure chest and crafting table inside of it, placed a door on it, and then went foraging for more items.

Minecraft PE storage area

Coming back from my foraging, I would find mobs in my house!  These party-crashers were easily dispensed with my newly crafted stone weapons, but it was clear that I needed to work harder.  After mining stone I was able craft stone versions of my tools, and with additional mining I had a surplus amount of cobblestone.  “Hmm…cobblestone is more secure than sand, and I have lots of it”, I thought.  “Maybe I should convert this sand-shack into something better”.

Moving back and forth from my shelter to the caves brought additional learning experiences.  For one I found that mobs like to not only infiltrate dark caves at night as well as scatter across the landscape, but they apparently like to hide and wait where I was last working until I returned the next day.  At one point I came back to a cave to find at least seven mobs crowded in a short tunnel, some wanting brains, others wanting to explode, and skeletons begging to fill me with arrows (by the way, in Minecraft: Pocket Edition, bow-using skeletons can’t hit the side of a barn!).  I wasn’t fully armed to the teeth, so I sealed that portion of the cave until I was ready.  When I finally went back to the cave to dispatch them I found twenty of them!  What do they do when holed up, breed?

Minecraft PE second-floor smelting

As you can see from the screenshots above, you’ll notice that I practically made a glass house.  This was not only to enjoy the views but also as a tactical method (looking out for mobs mainly).  What also started as a shack turned into a two-story beach house with enclosed patio and second-floor entrance (via a ladder) to escape mobs if I’m being chased.

Minecraft PE - second floor patio
Second-floor patio. That cave in the distance was the short cave where the battle described above took place.

Converting my sand-shack to the villa shown in the shots took a while as I was acting over-compulsive regarding symmetry and joints, but I knew that while I could make it as attractive as I wanted, it had to be secure.  Finding out that I could craft glass from all of the surplus sand created from converting the shack and the surrounding beach (into soil for farming) was a happy accident, thus the result.  Having a glass house would be stupid if it wasn’t a decent shelter from the zombies, creepers and especially the spiders (darn them and their ability to climb up the walls and wait on the roof for me to walk by!) though, so placing an alternate entrance and setting torches throughout made the villa more secure.  No party-crashers since the renovations.

Heading towards the unknown

In retrospect, maybe the game’s lack of instruction is a good thing.  No, scratch that – it’s a great thing.  I wouldn’t have had so much fun with the game if I was specifically told what to do, and toiling for treasures while laying the smack down on any zombie trying to get in my way was relaxing.  I don’t think that I can express that feeling of satisfaction when I easily felled my first enemy after toiling in the forest unprotected for wood, taking it back to my humble sand hut, crafting the wood into swords and pickaxes and venturing out to explore with things to defend myself with.  Seriously, my fists or wood blocks weren’t a lot of help in fending off the mobs, so gradually building better and better weapons and tools (nd now full sets of armor!) was a satisfying experience.

The Holy Tunnel

There’s a drawback to the mobile version of Minecraft; namely, that the maps are too small.  Each map consists of a maximum of 256×256 blocks, and the height is supposedly around 150, so unlike the console and computer versions, there’s invisible barriers in place when playing the mobile versions.  Supposedly there’s an upcoming update that will attempt to integrate boundless exploration as well as more items and more varied environments, but having a limited valley to explore detracts from the fun.  It could be worse though, as previous versions of the mobile version didn’t have day/night cycles, and players only had four quick slots.

Marking map boundaries in tunnel

I’ve decided on a quick fix for tunnels; whenever I hit an invisible barrier when tunneling, I seal the hole and place an “X” pattern using torches (see the screenshot above) – this will inform me that there’s nothing beyond that point.

Not too far down this shaft is the farthest end of the map...hey, WHAT THE FRICK!
Not too far down this shaft is the farthest end of the map…hey, WHAT THE FRICK!

I thought that enemies wouldn’t infiltrate well-lit tunnels and mines, but I was sadly mistaken.  The shots of the cave above are of a special mine shaft I like to call “The Holy Tunnel” because not only is the entrance a few steps away from the villa, but also because I only killed a single zombie (which was my fault as I hadn’t placed torches in one small area of the shorter branch of the mine shaft).  When taking shots for this blog however, I found creepers and zombies dancing in my shaft despite torches being placed every fifty feet!

Get the frick out my tunnel!
Get the frick out my tunnel!

I’m attempting to get the farm started, but I’m a slow learner when starting crops.  I have managed to heal myself eating apples from fallen trees, and I’ve earned seeds from tilling the soil but I’ll need to grow food as well as gather elements to build a bed in order to truly sustain my character.  Oh well.

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SurvivalCraft (iOS)

Igor Kalicinski’s Survivalcraft is the fan favorite of all of the Minecraft “clones”.  It’s a cheaper yet more graphically-pleasing version of Minecraft with the same premise, except the world is ever-expanding (unlike the current portable Minecraft build) and there’s a true element of danger.  Players have to worry about hunger (like the console and computer versions of Minecraft), stealth and sleep.  While your character may be hungry, there’s an immediate need to build a shelter as being exposed to the wildlife while napping on the sand just isn’t pleasant.

Must...find a place to sleep...
Must…find a place to sleep…
A bear AND a lion.  I am SO FREAKING DEAD...
A bear AND a lion. I am SO FREAKING DEAD…

The game is harder yet is currently Minecraft: Pocket Edition’s biggest rival in terms of gameplay and expansion.  Despite Mojang’s success (16 million paid downloads of MC:PE versus 13 million console and computer Minecraft purchases), Survivalcraft (all the work of one person by the way) definitely gives the minimalist survival game king a run for it’s money.

*NOTE:  Survivalcraft also has screen-capturing support, something that Minecraft: Pocket Edition doesn’t have.  Does it make sense that Mojang has made millions from the franchise yet won’t implement screenshot captures yet a single developer implemented the feature in a similar game?  Since the game contains this feature, I’ll post better, lighter shots in an upcoming blog as I’m rather pressed for time.

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That’s it for this post, which should have featured console gaming and the “haves” versus “have-nots” of the current generation of consoles, computers and handhelds (promised in my previous entry), but with exams to study for I’m putting that off until spring break.

Until next time.

Jay

Dead Trigger 2 gameplay (iPad mini R via Everyplay)

*NOTE:  Everyplay’s embed code isn’t working here on WordPress, so here’s the link to Everyplay to see the vid.  Despite my praise for Everyplay’s functionality below, it apparently still needs work. – Jay.

I mentioned several games that I purchased for my iPad mini R (Retina) in my previous post, but one of the games that I didn’t mention was a freebie for iOS by Madfinger Games called Dead Trigger 2.  In it, the player takes part in mini-episodes dodging or defeating hordes of zombies while escorting or rescuing non-playable characters or otherwise completing objectives.  The controls are decent for an iOS game, and while the graphics aren’t the sharpest that I’ve seen as the resolution changes from blurry to sharp depending on movement (I admittedly have nothing to compare the game against as this is one of the first iPad games that I’ve purchased) they’re more than passable, especially on a retina screen.

Regarding the video, I didn’t even plan on making one as I’m still trying to figure out which app would be the most useful for capturing footage from the iPad to either transfer to the Mac and clean it up or upload directly, preferably not to YouTube.  Thanks to Madfinger incorporating Everyplay functionality, a prompt appears when a level is completed, asking if they’d like to share their session with others.  After signing in via Twitter the video was seamlessly uploaded, with full audio as well (I thought that there was something wrong with the game as I had no sound during playing…only to find that I accidentally hit the mute switch on the iPad when testing out my new travel case.  I didn’t find out until hours later.  Oops.).

This entry was unplanned, but hopefully you’ll enjoy the video.  I do plan to talk more about Everyplay and it’s implementation eventually, as it seems like it’s the perfect answer to YouTube in regards to copyright ownership (the developer agrees to let players post videos by implementing the Everyplay function).  It’s also a good way to address the lack of promotion on the iTunes Store, because the more gameplay videos shown, the more that iOS and Android owners are aware of the product.  Judging by the video and the seamless functionality of Everyplay in general, it’s a win-win.

Jay