Category Archives: entertainment

Bullet Points on Black Friday

No Black Friday deals here, but I am not much of a shopper.  Instead I am hunkered down with the TV, video games, and a large supply of turkey sandwiches as I sort through bits of news that were not worth a full post.

Pokemon Sun & Moon Scare

There was a story out earlier this week about a bug in Pokemon Sun & Moon that was causing players to lose their game saves.  That would be a miserable turn of affairs, especially since the bug seemed to be in the end game, specifically the Battle Tree competitive battle area.  I wasn’t that far along in the game, but it seemed like Nintendo was going to have to put out a patch. (A joy of the 3DS generation is that they can patch games even if you get them on a cartridge.)

And then a follow up came out that the problem was related to people using a hack to alter their game which was damaging their save file causing them to lose their saved game eventually.  Problem avoided for me, but I imagine that there are some people in the PKHex tool community that are pissed.

Pokemon Go Holiday Bonus

If you are still playing Pokemon Go (my wife and I still play daily, even if our daughter has moved to teen disdain when it comes to the game) then you have probably seen that, in addition to the daily “first catch” and “first pokestop” bonuses, for a limited time Niantic is also giving out double experience and double pokedust.  This event lasts through November 30th.  It might be time to crack a lucky egg and evolve all those Pokemon I have been saving up.

Death to The Mittani

Or, rather, death to the news site The Mittani Dot Com, as the team there transitions from the four year old Drupal based site to the shiny new WordPress based Imperium News Network site.  The INN site has been up for a while, but The Mittani announced the official cut-over this week.  The swap over has been accompanied by a resurgence in activity.

Of course, my first concern about the change was whether or not this change was going leave yet more dead links here on the blog.  I have been assured that the old links will route to the stories on the new site, though I won’t really believe it until the old site is gone.

New Ways to Mangle My Words

WordPress.com has added a Google Translate widget to the array of options for WordPress.com users.  So I put it up on the side bar.  However, your mileage may vary, as they say.  It will probably work okay when I stick to simple declarative sentences free of jargon, but I suspect that comedy will ensue when I start in on a post about EVE Online.

And that is all I could come up with.  Time for a turkey sandwich as I try to find my way back home in Minecraft.

 

Honest Game Trailers – Pokemon X & Y

It is Thanksgiving here and I am not writing a long post.  Instead, since Pokemon is a thing at our house at the moment with Pokemon Sun & Moon, a look back at the last original pair in the series, Pokemon X & Y.

 

And if that isn’t enough, HGT has videos up about past generations of Pokemon as well:

A Secluded Mansion in Minecraft

With the Ascension expansion in EVE Online and Pokemon Sun & Moon having landed last week, I was perhaps a bit surprised when I ended up playing more Minecraft than anything else over the weekend and since.

Of course, there was a Minecraft update and Aaron’ mansion adventure to inspire.  After that I decided I wanted to go find one as well.  That meant getting one of the new cartographer villagers to spawn, since each one only sells a map to a single woodland mansion.  I headed to one of the villages I had walled in, lit, and tended to, added a bunch of additional doors (as the number of doors dictates the maximum population of a village) and started feeding the current villagers their favorite things to get them to produce new villagers.  I managed to get a cartographer on the second try and, after he grew up and I stuffed him full of paper to encourage his trading, he offered me a new woodland mansion map.

The maps are somewhat generic looking, giving you a general sketch of the area where the mansion is placed.  It also puts a little marker representing the hold, which shows your position relative to the destination.  The marker gets bigger when you get close, and once you get on the actual map grid, it begins to fill in like a regular in-game map.  I forgot to take a screen shot of my initial map, so here are a couple of samples from the wiki.

A cartographer with woodland mansion and ocean monument maps

A cartographer with woodland mansion and ocean monument maps

Map in hand, I put together some supplies… a full stack of food, a set of tools, four stacks of torches because I like to light things, flint and tinder for when I really want to light thing up, a boat, 10 obsidian blocks, and a stack of wood.  I didn’t have any wool handy from where I set out, so I took a pair of clippers along as well, hoping to shear some sheep as I went.  That actually worked out well, as sheep were plentiful at various points.

My map showed the mansion I was seeking was northeast of where I was (Aaron’s mansion was to the west) so I set out to find it.  I left our explored area north of the prismarine bridge on the rail line.  North of there is ocean, so I was hoping to travel as far as I could by boat, which is both fast and doesn’t require you to stop at night.

And, as it happened, I did manage to make much of the trip by boat, though I did have to cross stretches of land at times, including the last stretch.  I moved northeast when I could, trying to get my little marker to move.  Eventually I found myself lined up on the east-west axis, and just had to travel north.  After a couple hours of travel I eventually found myself on the map grid and closing in on the mansion.  My path was a little more wandering than Aaron’s, as a render of the world after I arrived shows.

Aaron, straight west, me, northish...

Aaron, straight west, me, northish…

I was up past the -26,000 line on the x axis, though still lined up with our core area on the z axis.  But I had found the mansion.

The mansion in the woods

The mansion in the woods

Following Aaron’s example, I built a small house outside the front step of the mansion.  There was plenty of wood to hand, being in the middle of a canopy forest, so I was able to build all the amenities.  I also setup a furnace, fueled by wood, in order to turn wood into charcoal to resupply my torch supply, which had run short.  And even still there was so much forest about that I started setting fire to it just to get a some sky above me.  Slash and burn exploration.

Burn baby burn... also my wood hut

Burn baby burn… also my wood hut

I did managed to not burn down the mansion by removing trees that were up against it before I started setting things alight.

The mansion amid the burned woods

The mansion amid the burned woods… the remaining wood is easy to harvest

With more light shining everywhere, I was feeling better about diving into the mansion.  Aside from the usual monsters that spawn in the dark, there were some vindicators and evokers, the new “illagers,” to take care of.  Both seemed susceptible to ranged fire, so I stood back with my bow and killed them.  The vexes, summoned by the evokers, were the most difficult to deal with.

The mansion cleared, I explored its various rooms and stowed away my loot… including five totems of the undying.

That done, I was there, more than 20km from the nearest outpost, with a big mansion and dwindling supplies.  The mansion was a great place but, when it comes to the usual real estate litmus test, it failed on the top three items, “location, location, location.”  I was sort of stuck.

I did manage to pick up some additional supplies.  Along the way I found a desert temple, which I setup as a living station.  On clearing that out, I obtained some watermelon seeds and a saddle.  I also picked up a potato somewhere, probably from a zombie.

The saddle came in handy, as there were a lot of horses in the fields not too far from the mansion.  A lot of horses.  I think they must have really upped the spawn rate for horses.

A few of the horses within sight of the mansion

A few of the horses within sight of the mansion

I took the seeds and my one potato and started a farm to build up my food supply.  One potato became three, three became seven, and so on until I had a couple of rows growing.

The horse hanging about the farm

The horse hanging about the farm

I also had to dig the usual mine, so I began to tunnel down to level 12 in order to start collecting iron, diamonds, and cobblestone for the next project.  The next project was, of course, setting up some sort of link to home.

I had dragged along 10 blocks of obsidian in order to make a nether portal.  My idea was to do what we did with Aaron in reverse.  I would portal into the nether, get up into the roof, and start a transit tunnel headed south for the main hub.  That seemed easy enough.  I just needed a bunch of cobblestone for a tower up into the roof.

So I built the portal in the foyer of the mansion, lit it, and stepped through carefully.  It came out on a flat outcropping of netherrack, high up, but not too high, over the usual lake of lava.  I build a building of cobblestone around it, leaving a hole in the roof to start my climbing tower.

The tower went along easily enough, my main problem being cobblestone supplies.  I had to go back and mine more in the world.  And then I got to the roof of the nether and began to feel a bit of anxiety.  I didn’t want to bore straight up through the netherrack, lest I hit a lava patch and have it pour straight down on me.  So I expanded my current platform a bit and tried digging at an angle, just to poke up into things.  I was at about level 95 and I only needed to get up to around 119 to be level with our transit hub.

And, of course, I hit a lava bubble.  It wasn’t bad.  It was pouring down the side of my tower, all I had to do was plug it up.

And I missed.  And missed again, and then panicked as the lava flowed towards me, then dropped into the tower and plugged the top to keep any lava from pouring straight down into my portal room.

So now I was in a bit of a fix, with lava pouring all over my work.  So I got myself up on the roof of the portal building and started building a repair tower to get myself high enough to re-route and plug the lava leak.

Lava pouring down

Lava pouring down

After a couple of false starts, I was doing well getting up the side when I heard the cry of a ghast, followed quickly by the sound of it launching a missile at me.  I had fought off a couple of them already, but I was standing in a precarious spot at that moment and its shot knocked me right into the lava flow.

I quickly jumped out and off the side tower, heading down into the portal room and through into the world, hoping to be able to jump into the little pond by my farm before I died.  I did not make it, and my gear was strewn about the foyer as I died.

On the plus side, my gear was safe and close to hand.  On the downside, all my levels had disappeared, and with them my ability to repair my diamond pick, which was already showing yellow on its wear bar.  Levels are used to repair things, and without them my having the iron for an anvil and diamonds to the repair job were not much good.

Still, I was at least together.  I got back up on the repair tower and eventually plugged the lava flow at its source, then finished more drive up into the roof of the nether.  I hollowed out a room and moved the portal up there, by which point my diamond pick was into the red for wear.

I took some time to ride around and see if I could scout a good overland horse path to the ocean, from which I could sail back to our explored area.  That still might be viable, but it will take some time.  It will still likely be quicker to tunnel through the nether to our transit hub and then lay rail.  It just looks like I might end up doing it with iron picks, which mine slower and wear out much more quickly.

So there I am, stuck far from home, building a new one and a road in between the two.

Tribute Comes Alive!

Back in early October NCDot, Pandemic Legion, and the usual assortment of hangers on announced that they were going to invade Circle of Two’s space in Tribute and take it from them.  Pandemic Horde coveted the system of M-OEE8, which its easy access to Jita, so they and all their friends were going to go get it.

Horde has a vision

Horde has a vision

This was exciting news and seemed, in some ways, the final encore of the Casino War as the final pre-war resident of the region, Circle of Two, was set to be evicted.  Of those who invaded the north, TEST was CO2’s only major ally.

Of course, the only reason CO2 lasted that long in the north is that they sold our the Imperium before the first battle in their territory even began.  Stewing territorial grievances (among other things they resented having TNT, my alliance, in Tribute from the day we showed up) and bad cash management got them to switch sides, hand over intel, and actively join the fight against the Imperium.

As you can imagine, the thought of the Circle of Traitors getting their own comeuppance was a happy one.  I dubbed the whole thing the Schadenfreude War, as the two sides grinding against each other was going to be entertaining no matter who won, just so long as there was blood.

TMC and EN24 picked up the story right away.  War is always big news.

 

But rather than a supercapital blitzkrieg, it was more of a sitzkrieg, a phoney war in space.  There were a few skirmishes, but the greater effort seemed to be going into propaganda creation for Reddit. (Examples collected here and here.)  The TEST baby dino propaganda was especially good, I hope somebody has collected it all up somewhere.  And then there was the magnificent Be In NCDot piece.

So adorable

So adorable

Propaganda without a war… well, that pretty much defines the EVE Online subreddit most days, cesspit that it is.  At one point my going theory was that NCDot was attempting to slowly bankrupt CO2 by dropping bait titans in order to kill off all of CO2’s tackle ships.

The was was dull and other events overtook it.  The Alliance Tournament, the coming Ascension expansion, the end of gambling in New Eden, and EVE Vegas all took their turns in the spotlight as Tribute simmered away.  There were no headlines about it on the various EVE Online sites, though both the major news sites, EN24 and INN, seemed to be pretty quiet overall.  I didn’t so much give up hope for that comeuppance as forgot it was even an option.

But the war apparently ground on without me paying it any attention, so that this past week I was surprised to see NCDot talking up the war in their recent state of the alliance as well as a reports of a battle in M-OEE8.  I headed on over to DOTLAN to check the Tribute map, and it looks like the aggressors have been busy.

Tribute - November 22, 2016

Tribute – November 22, 2016

Pandemic Legion, Pandemic Horde, and NCDot now hold 16 former CO2 systems in Tribute, with more under siege including CO2’s capital system, M-OEE8, where NCDot has taken the ihub.

So the war has progressed, and that moment of schadenfreude for those of us in our new homes in Delve may come to pass.  There is also the usual null sec symmetry to the whole thing.  Back in 2012 I was there when we took UMI-KK in Tribute War of 2012 from NCDot, after which they pretty much gave up and moved south.  Now they are back again, invading down the same route we took, scooping up those very same systems the left behind four years back.

Minecraft, Llamas, and a Mansion

I mentioned in passing last week that the previous Monday saw the release of Minecraft 1.11, the Exploration Update.

Minecraft 1.11

Minecraft 1.11

Two of the new items that came in with this update were woodland mansions and llamas.

I was, of course, keen to find me some llamas.  You can tame them and then dress them up to give them a festive look.

Aaron, keen for a new challenge, was more interested in the woodland mansions.  Finding one, however, was the thing.  They are rare, they are reported to spawn at least 10K blocks away from the spawn point, and you need to find them in territory that has not been generated yet.

Fortunately, the 1.11 update also includes a new village NPC called the cartographer.  They wear the same white coat as the librarian in villages.  Once properly primed, they will sell you exploration maps.  There are two flavors of such maps, one that will guide you to an ocean monument (boring, I know where several of those are, not including the one Aaron took over and turned into a guardian farm), and the other will direct you to a woodland mansion.

Aaron got right on that, breeding a cartographer in his villager mall, though the first I heard of it was in an email from him to the group announcing that he had found a woodland mansion.  Since he was already there, I downloaded a copy of our world and rendered and updated map to see where it was.  Sure enough, I found his mansion.

Woodland Mansion on the map

Woodland Mansion on the map

That is the mansion, with a little dirt structure Aaron build outside the front door to act as his camp.  The mansions are pretty bit structures.

Of course, the other thing the newly rendered map showed was how far from our core explored area he had to venture to find this new structure.

Straight line to the Mansion

Straight line to the Mansion

That long, straight explored part jutting out from the west of the main map, that was path to the mansion.  It is admirably straight.  Of course, I wanted to go see the new thing in the world.  Getting there though…

Aaron reported that the mansion was at about the coordinates x -21,000 z -6,000.  The nearest easily traveled to spot in the explored world was the prismarine bridge on the great rail loop.  It stood at about x -1,000 z -6,300.  So just 20km to travel.  For perspective, the great rail loop is about 22.5 km, full round trip, and it takes a few day/night cycles while moving at minecart speeds.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to walk/row my way out to the new mansion.

So I started checking out our nether roof transportation network.  Traveling in the nether gets you 8 blocks forward on the surface for every block you move there.  I thought that the nether rail line to the prismarine bridge might be a good place to start down there.  But then I discovered a rail line Aaron had dug out to where he planned to create a wither farm at some point.  That line ended at x -754 z -710, which put it well on its way to the nether coordinates of x -2,650 z -750 where a nether portal would put any traveler close to the mansion.

I was there, had my diamond pick with the mend enchant, so started digging through the netherrack towards those coordinates.  I didn’t want to walk, but if I can build infrastructure, I guess that is a different story.  From where I was it was just about 2,000 blocks to go, digging a tunnel 2 blocks wide and 3 blocks high.

Actually, clearing the ~12,000 blocks to get there was less of a chore than doing something with those blocks once they had been dug.  The pile up in stacks of 64 in your inventory and, not liking to leave things cluttering the tunnel, I ended up having to run back to the start point of the dig, where there were a couple of chests, to dump the netherrack as it filled up my inventory.

I dug for quite a while, ending up close to the -1,600 line on the x axis, though I did have to travel back to the zombie pigmen harvesting farm to let experience repair my pick.  That is the joy of the mend enchant.  I also laid some track I found down there to start the line to the mansion and to make traveling back and forth to the dig easier.

At some point I called it a night, but Aaron had gotten back to out nether travel nexus and picked up where I left off, pushing the bore the rest of the way.  He also put up a portal about 250 blocks down the new line, with a stop, so that it came up where he had seen llamas during his trip to the mansion.

A family of llamas

A family of wild llamas in the high peaks

I caught him online the next day when he was just about done with the work.  I rolled down the line to its end point, found it empty, then started to roll back the other way when I ran into Aaron.  The problem with single track rail systems.  He was coming back with some obsidian blocks in order to make the portal.  So we rolled on back to the end again and he put together the blocks.

Aaron building the portal in the nether

Aaron building the portal in the nether

Once together he sparked it up and let me go through.  Of course it was night time, raining, and the portal was in a tree, out of which I promptly fell, leaving us to fight zombies, spiders, and skeletons.  The raid killed off the fire enchant on my bow making killing stuff all the more annoying.

The new portal in its tree

The new portal in its tree

But it was at the right location and on the surface rather than way down in some deep cavern.

during a lull in the fighting I built some steps up to the portal and went back into the nether while Aaron used the bed in his mud hut to advance the world to morning.  Then the sun came up… but since we were in a forest, there were still a few more things to kill.  But after that I was able to actually turn towards the mansion itself.

The entry

The entry

I have to say, that as an auto-generated structure in Minecraft, the woodland mansion is pretty impressive.  Aaron had already cleared out the resident bad guys, so I was able to explore the place relatively safely… there was a creeper hanging out, because there is always a creeper hidden somewhere.

Mansions have a variety of possible rooms according to the wiki, ranging from functional to silly.

The giant chicken room

The giant chicken room

There is even lighting and carpeting throughout, though there isn’t quite enough light by default to keep mobs from spawning.  As a structure it would be a fine place to make your base, especially now that it has rail access to our central hub. (Though even rail travel, moving 8x surface speed, it takes a good seven minutes to get out to the portal.)

Then the question was where to find the next one for those of us who wanted to try our hand with the new illager NPCs.  As it turns out, any given cartographer villager will only give out a map to a single woodland mansion.  In order to find another one, you need to buy it from a different villager.  Time to expand the villager population in hopes of getting another map… and go check out the llamas.

Meanwhile, as an update to the previous Minecraft post about map art, Aaron took what he learned and put together another piece.  Here it is when viewed from ground level.

Some colors in a field

Some colors in a field

Given that, can you guess what the end product looks like when on a map?

(Result here)

EVE Online Passes 50K Players Online Again

Today saw the concurrent user count in EVE Online pass the 50,000 mark, and the day is not over yet. (Though we are heading out of EUTZ prime time.)

Approximately 19:00 UTC

Approximately 19:00 UTC

Yesterday saw the count pass the 46K mark, surpassing the 2015 high water mark of 45,637 set back in January of that year.

The 2015 high watermark

The 2015 high watermark

We’re still 15K players shy of the all time high player count of 65,303 set back in May of 2013, but numbers are significantly higher than they have been, as the online peaks have been capping out just beyond the 30K mark on weekends since the Casino War wound down back in June.

This all comes because the Ascension expansion, launched this past Tuesday, added the “Alpha clone” option which allows players to play without subscribing, a feature which brought with it a spike in new character creation.

You can see when free hit this past week

You can see when free hit this past week

The catch is that Alpha clones only have access to a limited range of skills to work with, and they train those skills at half the rate of subscribers.

Of course, the question of the hour is whether or not all these new players… or returning old players… or current players just making alts and checking out the revised new player experience… will stick around and add some money to CCP’s bottom line.  I have noted in the past that every MMO free conversion is rewarded with a spike in players, but the “happy time” after such conversions can be limited unless the game in question continues to adapt in order to keep players.

Data, aside from the first screen shot, taken from EVE Offline, which keeps a historical record of user count and new user creation.

Pokemon Sun and Moon Arrive Today

We arrived at Friday and the fifth of five new expansions I planned to mention this week, Pokemon Sun & Moon.

Waiting for UPS deliver my copy

Waiting for UPS deliver my copy

You might take issue with that sentence at the top of the post.  First, I only mentioned the Minecraft update in passing on Monday and, second, Pokemon Sun & Moon are new games and not an expansion.

Well, I did mention the Minecraft update, along with the addition of llamas, and it depends on how you look at the Pokemon series of games.

On one hand, over the 20 year lifetime of the Pokemon series there have been seven distinct generations made up of twenty different titles, and whenever you buy a new one you start out from scratch.  There is no character continuity as in an MMORPG, where an expansion changes the world and its mechanics, but leaves your characters in place.  They are classic buy-to-play, forget when you’re done console titles.

On the other hand, you can make the argument, as I have in the past, that the Pokemon series has literally been the same damn game remade twenty times over with only minor updates along the way.  As I noted in my post about playing the Virtual Console version of Pokemon Blue, the game sprang into existence pretty much fully formed and the originals were completely familiar to somebody like me who only started playing Pokemon during the Pokemon Diamond & Pearl era.

Basically, each successive generation can be said to be an expansion, bringing with them changes to mechanics, new zones, new story lines, and new NPCs along with updates to graphics and supported platforms.  The catch has been that a pwipe between each release.

Anyway, that is more food for thought than a point a view I will fight to defend.  I would rather just go and play the game.  And the game should be arriving on my doorstep today.

I am actually pretty interested to play the new title, enough that I went and played the demo earlier this week.

While Pokemon Sun & Moon brings some of the expected updates to the table… a new region, a new set of Pokemon, a new story line, and a new nefarious organization in the form of Team Skull… there are actually some other updates that are unexpected in the continuum of the franchise’s 20 year history.

Probably the biggest change is the end of Hidden Machines, or HMs, those Pokemon moves that you need to saddle your team with in order to be able to navigate the world.  Replacing surf, cut, rock smash, strength, fly, and the rest is an ability to call upon Pokemon that can do those moves for you, but which need not be in your party.  Given that HMs also prevented you from transferring Pokemon to other games… the HMs change up a bit each generation… this is actually a pretty big deal and an alteration of a mechanic that has been in place since day one.

Then there is a big quality of life change.  When in battle now, your moves will indicate how effective they will be against your opponent.  One of the reasons I played the demo was that I wanted to see how they were going to implement this.  No longer will you have to memorize the move vs. type chart, it will say on the move itself whether it is normal, super effective, or not very effective.  Or mostly it will, if the demo is an example of how things will work, as the indicators were missing occasionally as I played through.

That change actually sounds like Game Freak might have taken a peek at how Blizzard did pet battles in World of Warcraft.  The effectiveness indicator has been a thing in WoW pet battles since day one as simple green up arrows and red down arrows for super effective and not very effective.

And also something that sounds a bit like WoW pet battles, wild Pokemon can now call for assistance, so you may end up facing multiple Pokemon when walking through the ever present tall grass.

On the possibly disturbing side of the change coin, Pokemon Sun & Moon also does away with gym battles.  Again, another part of the foundation of any Pokemon game up until now has been the need to defeat the gym leader in every big town… eight in all generally, though I seem to recall that number being doubled in one game… as you move through the region where the game is set.  How many gym badges you have has been a measure of progress through the game.

Instead there will be trials on each island, and each trial will be different, or so I have read.  Can that replace the traditional gym system we’ve grown to love, with gym mazes often being an art themselves?  We shall see.

And then there is the region itself.  As with past games, the new region, Alola, is based off of a real world location.  In this case, it is the Hawiian islands.

Alola Region Map

Alola Region Map

That part is actually fine.  However, the tradition is to change up things in the region to make it different from the real world.  So in Alola they don’t say, “Aloha!” as a greeting, they say, “Alola!” which is going to grate on me… a lot… until I train my brain just to substitute in the word, “Aloha.”  That might just be a problem for me though.  I have family in Hawaii and have spent a good chunk of time there.

There are other, more standard new items.  There is the inevitable new battle mode, the Battle Royal.  There are new Global Link options, new ways to connect and battle your friends over the internet, a new type of attack in the form of Z-moves, and the usual enormous set of side tasks and end game things to do outside of the main story line.

Of course, these are all things I have yet to actually experience, save for the demo, which was brief. (Though playing the demo gets you a special Pokemon, as does ordering early, as noted here.)  All of that comes after the first big decision, choosing the starter Pokemon.

Which one will you choose?

The starter Pokemon choices

None of them thrill me, having seen their final evolutions.

An anime co-player, Thundercats, and Trump's anime wife

An anime co-player, Thundercats, and Trump’s anime wife

So I will go with the safe bet, Litten, the fire Pokemon.  Fire always works well, water is generally okay, and grass is often hard mode.

Anyway, my weekend gaming plans are set.  Amazon should have my copy to me some time today.