Category Archives: entertainment

Return of the Isle of Refuge

As mentioned in my previous post this morning, I was away for the week so the posts that went up on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday were written well in advance of their going live.  So my Tuesday post about the EverQuest II time locked expansion servers going live was working on the information I had at the time and lacked any immediate action on my part.

So I was pretty surprised to find upon my return that Daybreak had pulled a fast one and had actually put the Isle of Refuge back into the game for these servers.  I logged in and made a character… a barbarian berserker, which is my default EQII character choice most days of the week… and found myself, as Bhagpuss put it, on the boat and on my way to the isle.

Where are we headed Captain Varlos?

Where are we headed Captain Varlos?

In fact, when you create a character you are back to the two original choices.  No Frostfang Sea or Darklight Wood options were displayed.

You have your choice between two identical islands...

You have your choice between two identical islands…

I ran through the boat ride and landed on the Isle of Refuge, but stopped there.  It did appear that, if the whole retro isle experience wasn’t your thing, you could leave immediately as opposed to after you finished up the main quest chain.

The servers themselves seemed pretty busy for a Thursday night.

TimeLockedServersPvE seemed to be beating out PvP for the time being, and enough people were rolling in then that I ended up in Queen’s Colony 3 on the PvE side of the house.

I will have to devote some time to playing this weekend to see how the retro experience stacks up to my memories.

And there is an incentive to get into the game sooner rather than later.  Daybreak is offering a 16 slot bag to those who log in before August 7.

Subscribers Only

Subscribers Only

Given that you start out with a single 4 slot bag… where will I store all my stuff… that seems like a good thing.

Now to decide which trade skill to pick up.

Quote of the Day – The End of Smed?

Daybreak Games confirms that John Smedley will be taking some time off from the company for the near-term and transitioning to a different role to be determined. Upon finalization of his plans, further communication will be provided.

RadarX, EverQuest II forums

l go away for a few days and this happens.  While I was down at Pismo Beach watching the beach bunnies and avoiding the horde of German tourists… seriously, they were everywhere… only to come back home and find that Smed is out as the boss at Daybreak.

I will cut you

The Daybreak era Smed

There is plenty of speculation about why he is out, where he will end up, and how it may or may not relates to his run-in with Lizard Squad and the deletion of his Twitter account.

Smed was, of course, a pillar of the MMO development community who helped make EverQuest possible.  He was also a staple of “Quote of the Day” posts here and not universally loved, having run SOE and Daybreak through various controversial periods including the NGE, the transition to free to play, the current era of early access sales, and the sale of SOE to Columbus Nova Prime.  While he has fans both inside and out of Daybreak, not everybody will be sad to see him step down.

But that just brings us to the next question; who will replace him at the helm?

Smed was at least a gamer through and through.  Russel Shanks, another long time member of the Daybreak team is stepping up for now, but it is not clear to me if that is a permanent move of not.  So the next person running Daybreak may not be cut from the same gamer mold.  And while Smed stepping down may have had something to do with his online conflict coming home to roost at Daybreak, it could be about something else as well… something like money even.

Having worked for a company that was acquired by an investment group in the past, I can tell you that I was often reminded of that scene from Goodfellas:

Now the guy’s got Paulie as a partner. Any problems, he goes to Paulie. Trouble with the bill? He can go to Paulie. Trouble with the cops, deliveries, Tommy, he can call Paulie. But now the guy’s gotta come up with Paulie’s money every week, no matter what. Business bad? Fuck you, pay me. Oh, you had a fire? Fuck you, pay me. Place got hit by lightning, huh? Fuck you, pay me.

This may be simply the first round of, “Fuck you, pay me.”  Or it could be something else.

What will Daybreak be without John Smedley?


Sheep Stole My Mining Cart

Having built the automated sugarcane farm, which now produces more raw sugarcane than I can ever possible use, all while I mine away down below the earth, it became time to start doing something with the output.

Sugarcane storage is full...

Sugarcane storage is full…

My plan, based on my still tenuous knowledge of the game, was to take the sugarcane, turn it into paper, and trade the paper to the right villager in the village we ran across way back when, in order to accumulate the villager currency, emeralds, so I could buy other items from them.

I wasn’t sure how much paper I would need, how much I would get for it, what I would buy with the emeralds once I got them, or even where the village was.  So it was less of a plan and more of a venture based on pure optimism.

The first thing I had to do was find the village again.

I recalled it being vaguely to the southeast of our current home area.  I had actually run across it once since we first discovered it, but did not setup a marker or make note of its general location or coordinates.  I was on another mission at the time.  So, compass in hand I set out to find the village.

I went south first, then veered off toward the southeast to stay in the plains where we tamed the horses.  I found the horses again, and considered maybe riding a horse rather than walking, but I am not sure about horse dynamics at this point.  So I carried on.

I found a cobblestone column with some torches on it, a marker of some point I left.  Not sure why.  There wasn’t an overnight shelter or anything under it.  So I kept going.

Marker of no import

Marker of no import

Eventually I spotted the roofs of the village a ways off and arrived there as dusk was falling.

I had heard from a few sources that villagers are not so bright when it comes to defending their town.  They do go inside at night, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the ferocity of the undead attack that would follow nightfall.  It was really a horror movie scene, with zombies and skeletons pounding on doors and running to and fro in the village.  I stepped out to kill a few, then fled back inside.  I was ignore long enough that I could use the bed I brought to fast forward to daybreak.

With the morning I decided to fortify the village.  I had read that you have two choices on keeping a village safe.  Either stay far enough away from it at night that the chunk it is in doesn’t spawn anything… the world really does revolve around you… of fence it off and light it up.

I had brought some supplies with me, so I made a crafting table an used some wood to build fencing.  However the wood quickly ran out before I had even gotten an eighth of the way around the perimeter.  So I went back and made a few shovels, dug up some surrounding hills, both to provide material and to give me flat terrain to work with, and then built a three high earthen berm around the place, with a few doors and plenty of torches.

I had it mostly done before the end of the first day there, but had to run for shelter as the sun set.  The monsters were not as plentiful due to the wall, but they were still out in force.  The bedtime fast forward worked again for me though, so I was able to resume my work again the next morning, though a pair of creepers hiding around the corner of the house I had claimed nearly got me.  They left quite a hole.

I dug up some more dirt, flattened more terrain, and finished off the berm.  I had to corral a couple of villagers who got up that morning and decided to see what was on the other side of the short earth wall.  But I got the place surrounded and laid out even more torches, so that when the sun went down once again, the forces of darkness were much reduced.

Just Enderman at the fence line staring in...

Just Enderman at the fence line staring in…

At that point, with the village semi-secure, I decided to head back to the castle to make some paper.  I went off with a pack full of exploring supplies only.  I left my bed and crafting table behind, built another lit pillar just outside of the village and, in a moment of obvious oxygen-rich blood flow to my brain, turned on the diagnostic overlay and wrote down the coordinates of the place so I could find it again.

Then it was back to the castle, which was a bit of a zig-zag path, though I did remember a couple of landmarks, and I had my compass, which would set me on approximately the right course.

But once back at the castle I decided to end my cross-country wandering by building a road.  I had plenty of cobblestone from mining and was no longer using them as building material for the castle itself.

And so I started on the long, L-shaped road to the village, straight as an arrow south from the castle, then a right turn east to the village.  And I decided I would run a mine cart track along it to make the trip that much quicker.

On the road facing the castle

On the road facing the castle

The rails had a practical application during the building process as well.  It took several day/night cycles to get anywhere close to the village.  But with the mining cart and powered rails laid, I could just jump in the cart and be home and in bed in a flash.  No need to dig a series of shelters along the way.

The actual building wasn’t very dramatic.  I started the whole thing as a causeway over the plains, but at a change to a tiaga biome I hit a hill and had to make a cut through it, while clearing some trees, in order to keep the road straight and level.

The Tiaga Cut

The Tiaga Cut

And once I was done and had a terminus at the village, access was pretty quick.  The mine cart moves quickly.

Arriving at the village station

Arriving at the village station

I was now able to haul my paper over to trade for emeralds.

The Librarian wants paper...

The Librarian wants paper…

It is a good thing that access is easy too, as the librarian will only take so much paper per day, so I have to go visit regularly to sell.

Of course, having accomplished this minor Minecraft engineering feat, I had to show my daughter.  I was at the village when I called her over to see my new quick route to the village.

I gave her a tour of my village fortifications, showed her which house I had holed up in, and the door in the wall I made to get to the track.

Then I ran over to the end of the rail line and… my mining cart was gone.

I had left it there at the end of the line, as I always do, so I could just jump in when it was time to go.  However, this time the cart appeared to have gone of its own accord.  And then, as we sat there, my daughter acting as though I had left the keys in the car causing it to be stolen, the sound of of the approaching mine cart was suddenly audible.  It was coming back.

And as we watched, the cart rolled up with a sheep in it.

Sheep on wheels!

Sheep on wheels!

Ha ha! Mystery solved and mine cart returned.  And then the sheep hit the end of the line, reversed, and kept on rolling.  The cart, now getting away, I gave chase.

And the sheep keeps on rolling

And the sheep keeps on rolling

Chasing was futile however, the cart moved too fast.  So I wandered up the rail line waiting for to catch the sheep on its return journey as my daughter laughed and explained how animals in Minecraft will do that sort of thing.

I caught the sheep, un-carted him, and slaughtered him for good measure.  More mutton for the auto-furnace that somebody suggested in the comments last week.

Mutton cooking!

Mutton cooking! The input trunk is on the second floor.

So now I take my mine cart with me whenever I arrive at my destination.

Still, I am pretty happy with my little rail line.

I will get home before the sun fully sets!

I will get home before the sun fully sets!


EverQuest II Time Locked Expansion Servers Today

Today is the day.

I am not betting on an early launch, but Daybreak’s shot at nostalgia servers for EverQuest II are slated to come online today, after a two week beta.  The short version of what these servers are is:


The more detailed list of features, from the forums, is:

  • PvP server: no battlegrounds EVER!
  • PvP server: no prestige housing!
  • PvP server: no flying, leaping or gliding EVER!
  • PvP server: No more pvp stats on gear. Procs return to items that have them.
  • PvP server: Travel bells will be restricted, more information to be determined.
  • There will only be ground mounts and they will have reduced ground speed. Most likely 45%/50% run speed.
  • Only All Access Members will be able to create characters and log into the TLE-Servers.
  • A new queue system for logging into the servers
  • Content will be locked to classic EverQuest 2, starting areas will be Frostfang Sea and Darklight Wood. More on this later.
  • Expansions will be voted to be unlocked at certain times by the population of the server. Majority vote 2/3 of the population.
  • No Veteran Rewards or Veteran experience bonus.
  • No Recruit a Friend
  • No /claims. Anything you could claim on your normal accounts will not be available on the new TLE-Servers
  • Loyalty System and daily quests will be locked to Chains of Eternity expansion.
  • Legendary, Fabled and Mythical crits will be locked to Altar of Malice Expansion.
  • No dungeon finder
  • Level agnostic dungeons will be locked to an undetermined expansion feature.
  • No races or classes will be restricted from character create if you own them. They will all be playable at launch.
  • Re-forging, Mercenaries, and Tradeskill apprentices will be locked to Age of Discovery.
  • Mercenaries may or may not return to PvP, this will most likely become a poll in the future.
  • Guidhalls and their amenities will be locked to a undetermined expansion. We are still considering this.
  • No prestige home portal or home UI will be available.
  • Marketplace will be highly restricted and polls will be done to determine what will be available.
  • Experience penalty will be returned to launch levels of experience gain
  • Coin will also be returned to launch levels of coin gain.
  • Adventure packs will be linked to specific expansions, still being determined.

I am surprised they haven’t updated that, but maybe they will have something new once the server goes live.

And the whole Alternate Advancement side of things will be unlocked as follows:

  • Exp01: Desert of Flames, Adventure, Tradeskill and Guild Level raised to 60, Guild Level Cap Increased to 60
  • Exp02: Kingdom of Sky, Adventure, Tradeskill and Guild Level raised to 70, Alternate Advancement Subclass Window unlocked with a 50 AA cap, Guild Level Cap Increased to 70
  • Exp03: Echoes of Faydwer, AA Class Tree Unlocked, AA Cap is Raised to 100, Tinkering, Transmuting, and Adorning Unlocked
  • Exp04: Rise of Kunark, Adventure, Tradeskill and Guild Level raised to 80, AA Cap is Raised to 140, Guild Level Cap Increased to 80, Guild Halls
  • Exp05: The Shadow Odyssey, AA Shadows Tree Unlocked, AA Cap is Raised to 200
  • Exp06: Sentinel’s Fate, Adventure, Tradeskill and Guild Level raised to 90, AA Cap is Raised to 250, Guild Level Cap Increased to 90
  • Exp07: Destiny of Velious, Adventure, Tradeskill and Guild Level raised to 92, AA Heroic Tree Unlocked, AA Cap is Raised to 300, Flying, Leaping and Gliding Mounts
  • Exp08: Age of Discovery, AA Cap is Raised to 320, Mercenaries, Apprentices, Reforging
  • Exp09: Chains of Eternity, Adventure, Tradeskill and Guild Level raised to 95, Prestige Window Unlocked, Guild Level Cap Increased to 95
  • Exp10: Tears of Veeshan, AA Dragon Tree Unlocked, AA Cap is Raised to 350
  • Exp11: Altar of Malice, Adventure, Tradeskill and Guild Level raised to 100, Prestige Class Tree is Unlocked, Guild Level Cap Increased to 100, Legendary, Fabled and Mythical crits

Unfortunately, this is going to be a busy week for me, so I doubt I will be able to peek in on the server until the weekend.  We shall see how things play out.  While I remain mildly disappointed, though not surprised, that the Isle of Refuge won’t be making an appearance, I will surely head to Qeynos to explore the old zones out there, including the catacombs below the city.

The catacombs back in the day...

The catacombs back in the day…

Now, will anybody show up for this?  Is there nostalgia for some variation of old EverQuest II?

A Call for Space Carebears

At one time in the distant past, the CFC eschewed the idea of renting and those who set themselves up as landlords were derided.

And then, as null sec politics evolved and we ended up with essentially three power blocs, two of which were heavily financed by rental space, the tune of the CFC changed.  The Greater Western Co-Prosperity Sphere was born about two years ago.  The CFC became landlords, pragmatism winning out over exclusion and any spurious  feelings of ideological purity.

That this venture remained a distant third behind the other two main rental empires was no surprise.  The surprise, to my mind, was that it got any renters all.  After years of rental and recruitment scams, who would actually rent from Goons?

As it turned out, quite a few people would, and that rental ISK helped filled the coalition coffers.

And then came the looming threat of what became known as Fozzie Sov.  With the Phoebe expansion, the ability to range across New Eden was throttled and the CFC let go of some of its southern holdings.  As the details of the Summer of Sovereignty changes came out, plans for further consolidation were drawn up.  Fountain and most of Cloud Ring would have to go as well and the coalition, now renamed The Imperium, who fortify itself in the north. (SMA holds that bit in Cloud Ring, J4LP having been reset some time back.)

Regions of The Imperium - June 2015

Regions of The Imperium – June 2015

Now the changes has hit.  Null Sec is choatic as various factions explore the dynamics of the Entosis Link module.  The Timer Board site shows a lot of systems in play.

Up in the north though, things have been relatively quiet for The Imperium.  We have lived there for so long because the systems are decent for ratting and mining.  There are a few lemon systems, but the active defense multiplier… the measure of how much a system gets used, which influences how hard it will be to take… for a lot of the north was pretty high straight out of the gate on the 14th.  Where we live is defended.  However, some places where we have not traditionally lived are pretty weak, with low ADM numbers.  This is particularly true in Pure Blind where, in the past, many of the systems haven’t been worth ratting or mining.

However, with the PvE upgrades that were announced just before the sovereignty changes hit, the systems in Pure Blind are suddenly viable.  The Imperium just needs somebody to live there.  We have been encouraged to rat there and strategic mining fleets have been running out that way.  I think I have personally raised the ADM of one system in the region.

Doing the Ishtar thing in Pure Blind

Doing the Ishtar thing in Pure Blind

But all of that is a temporary measure.  Not many people live in the vicinity.

So a new plan has been announced.  GSF is going to allow corps to join if they want to live in, rat, and mine, in Pure Blind.  There will be a fee to sign up and a tax on ratting and a charge for system upgrades, but otherwise corporations will be able to carebear to their heart’s content as there will be no fleet participation requirements.

In addition there will be a corp in GSF for individuals who want to sign up for that plan.  Ratting will have a 25% tax, but mining will be free.

GSF already has a way for anybody is keen to join to get on board through Karmafleet, which has greater access, so is the more likely conduit for spies and awoxers.

So we’ll see if there are any takers who want to live and rat and mine in Pure Blind.  It is close to Lonetrek, so getting things back to high sec in general, and Jita specifically will be easier than most places.  Is greater population density the answer to Fozzie Sov?


Learning to do the Fozzie Sov Shuffle

After the false start of Wednesday, when downtime was extended well into the Icelandic evening and jokes about Fozzie Sov killing EVE Online were starting to feel uncomfortably close to real, it looks like people really dove into the whole new sovereignty mechanic with a vengeance.

If you look at the Timer Board web site that somebody put together to use the updated API’s ability to tell you what systems are in play, you will see… as of when I am writing this… more than 200 things are being assaulted.  Obviously, not all of them are going to get taken.  A lot of timers look to be past their mark.  But clearly Entosis Link trolling is a thing, if nothing else.

Meanwhile Wollari over at DOTLAN EVE Maps has integrated some of the new data available into the map options on the site.  In addition to the usual sovereignty view of a region, you can also now choose views that show systems that are vulnerable, which systems have which of the three key structures (TCU, ihub, station), and what the active defense multiplier is for systems.

That last one is important for both attackers and defenders.  For attackers it determines how long the Entosis Link module has to run to capture something, a range of 10 to 60 minutes depending on the multiplier.  And for defenders, it essentially lets you know what your response time has to be for given systems and where you might want to focus some effort in order to boot that number.  (I am waiting for somebody to put that ADM data together into a chart to show how many sovereign null sec systems people actually use regularly.  If the ADM is 5 or greater, people live there.  3-4 shows some life.  But if it is less than that, not so much.)

This has lead to some changes of behavior, at least in The Imperium.  Before now, the carebears amongst us were, at a minimum, kidded about spending their days ratting, mining, building, or otherwise whiling away the hours in space not shooting people.

Now though, with their behavior influencing the ADM, the call goes out for shock workers to perform hero ratting in low multiplier systems.  Strategic mining ops are called and participation links given out for burning rocks.  Industrialists are now hailed as heroes of the coalition.  I am not making this up.  Well, maybe I made up that last one, but the first two are real.

It is a good time to be a carebear in The Imperium.  And it isn’t a bad time for combat operations as well.  Mordus Angels and Pandemic Horde have been making runs at systems in Pure Blind and Fade in small, easily destroyed fleets.  I managed to get into a homeland defense fleet that caught MASSADEATH himself and a small Cerberus fleet trying to finish off a vulnerable node in Pure Blind.  We got some kills, drove them off, and made the save.

Making the save

Saving the ihub

The theory seems to be that if they get in quick with a small fleet, they can get away with it.  But small gangs and squishy Entosis Link ships just feed the Feroxes of the Homeland Defense fleets.

Feroxes for Freedom

Feroxes for Freedom

The Timer Board site only shows a few systems of The Imperium under attack out of that list of 200+, and mostly on the periphery where hostiles have easy access.  It is a little early to make much of a claim, but it feels like having the coalition contract into a smaller perimeter that consisted of space that was mostly occupied and in use on a regular basis was a good plan.  Attacks are only really getting any traction where we are thin on the ground.

And the ihub upgrades for rats seem to be having an effect.  A system I ratted in pre-Aegis used to generate a single Guristas Forsaken Hub, the best generally available ISK/effort anomaly.  After that system got the upgrade, it was generating three Guristas Forsaken Hubs and a Haven.

I also had an opportunity to go out and be part of the offensive side of the Fozzie Sov equation.  Last night Asher Elias and the patron saint of welps, Dabigredboat, ran a joint Reavers/Bomberwaffe operation down to the Reavers’ home away from home, Querious.

A test run, we went down in Caracals and interceptors via a convenient (if more rare) null-to-null wormhole to  see if Darkness would defend some of their space.  Ideally it would have happened in ED-9LT, the former Reaver outpost in the region.  That was not an option.  Instead we were headed to UYU-VV in the 8BO-IH constellation.  (This is going to mean learning system AND constellations now, isn’t it?)

We faced no opposition on the first Entosis Link attack and pushed the event into the “scatter round” when additional command nodes appear throughout the constellation… in this case six systems… forcing us to break up into smaller groups.

The group that stayed in UYU-VV actually faced a bit of opposition.  The group I was in, sent off to W6V-VM, was not bothered.  We flew off to the Territorial Claim Unit Command Node that spawned in the system.

TCU Command Node

TCU Command Node

That appears to be the overview marker for the actual target, the Structure Command Node.

Timer on the command node

Timer on the structure command node

Of course, in the grand CCP tradition, the option in the overview to actually SEE these nodes is unchecked by default, harkening back to the battle cruiser split when one of them… attack battle cruisers I think… didn’t show up on overviews by default.

You need to check the right box...

You need to check the right box…

Upon finishing off the node inW6V-VM , two more nodes spawned.  Our Entosis Link fit interceptor went after one while we flew cover and, upon finishing that one, we were called back to UYU-VV.  Enough other modules were running that we did not need the additional one in our system.  And while Darkness appeared in small numbers, they did not seem interested in hitting any of the Structure Command Nodes to contest or operation.

The results bar tipping heavily in our direction

The results bar tipping heavily in our direction

And so the system was rolled.  Later, Plaid Rabbit ran out, grabbed a TCU, and planted it in UYU-VV, thus taking sovereignty for Reavers in Querious yet again.

Our constellation

Our constellation

It would have been nicer if it had a station, but I am not sure we’re going to spend ISK upgrading a system we grabbed on a whim at the other end of New Eden.

After that we had the option of starting the process on another system or going 20 jumps on the off chance we might get into the middle of a fight.  The killers won the poll, clearly betraying out Reaver philosophy, and off we went.

We did catch a blockade runner along the way just idle near a gate.  I am going to guess the pilot went AFK cloaked and then got decloaked by somebody passing too close.  That was a quick kill.  And while I understand that eventually some of us got on a dreadnought kill or two, I ended up getting popped when we crossed paths with a Northern Coalition fleet headed for the same fight, and so missed out.  Life in a combat zone.

So that has been my experience with Fozzie Sov and the Entosis Link module dynamics so far.

CCP has put out a video detailing how the mechanics of the new system work.

How the new system will actually play out over time though, that is a horse of a different color.

Minecraft and Bringing Light to Dark Places

How many torches do you actually need in Minecraft?  More than you actually have I am sure.

I mentioned my friend Xyd and his castle last time around.

Xyd's castle at night

Xyd’s castle at night

It fairly glows with the amount of lighting he has in and around the thing, to the point that when my daughter and I were wandering through it exploring, she asked me if I had been putting down extra torches.  I had to assure her that this was not some aspect of her father’s mania, that somebody else had put down all of those torches.

She tends to be rather conservative in her torch usage, while I tend to throw them around more liberally.  This is why I stop and dig out every coal vein I run across… must make more torches.

Or at least my torch usage feels profligate.  But it has mostly involved mining.  And down under ground, where space is restricted, it is pretty easy to get a feel for how much is enough.  Narrow passages and such mean it is easy to spot those dark patches where zombies and their ilk may spawn once the sun goes down.

Secret underground mining facility

Actually needs a few more torches…

But in different sorts of spaces… well, I would have to learn.

I finished up my first run at a castle.  It is three stories tall, with roof access, a tower at each of the front two corners and a wider, keep-like tower in the back.  The walls are all cobblestone, but I felt the need to refine a lot of that material back to stone for the flooring of the first two floors.  The third floor is all oak wood, and the roof above that is back to cobblestone because it is an exterior surface… and I got tired of using my coal to refine cobblestone.

A castle in the distance

A castle in the distance

The roofline is visible because I did that in granite around the perimeter… mostly because I had a ton of granite I wasn’t using.  That turned out to be a useful thing in that, when running up the ladders in the towers, the line of granite serves as a very visual marker of when I reach the roof.

So basic structure complete.  Now what to do with all that floor space?

I know, kill all the freaking monsters that spawn in it!

I found that, once I had roofed everything over, I had essentially made my own series of dark spaces where zombies and skeletons and spiders and such would spawn once the sun went down.  And, of course, once they spawn inside, the are also shaded from the sun, so they don’t burst into flames when daylight comes.  One of the joys of the game is to wake up every morning and look out of the window to watch the burning zombies on the front lawn… and that one skeleton that is always smart enough to jump in the pond out there and just hang out.

Skeletons are wily.  I find them in the middle of the day under the shade of trees.  You can see that causeway I built between the castle and our original house.  It runs straight along the east-west line, so the underneath is always shaded.  Skeletons like to linger under there during the daylight hours as well, sniping at me with their bows when ever I come within range.

Less amusing than the flaming zombies is the sound of one inside the castle.

Just because a spot is dark enough doesn’t mean something will always spawn there, but it seems like something will eventually spawn there.  So the open area outside my workroom, behind the stairs, and next to the shaft down to the mines, seemed to pop something nasty every so often.

I had started with torches around the walls, but that wasn’t enough.  I tried to make something of a torch light fixture on the ceiling to add more light, but still got a spawn now and again.  Eventually I said, “screw it” and just threw down torches where ever I saw a dark shadow.

Spawn now, come on!

Spawn now, come on!

And I am still not sure if that will be enough, but it has kept spawns at bay for now.  I’m mostly just happy that only one creeper has spawned inside so far, and I managed to kill him before he exploded.

Meanwhile, deep under ground, the mining continues to expand.  I originally dug down to level 12 and started on a series of horizontal shafts running along the north-south axis, branching out from a large, well lit, main room.  However, in both directions I ended up running into fairly large pools of lava as I started running shafts further east.  Eventually I used the western most shafts and started digging that direction, every three blocks, to satisfy my thirst for ore.  And I have been suitably rewarded.

Diamond's are Steve's best friend

Diamond’s are Steve’s best friend

I have found enough diamonds to have some set aside for future use, gold sufficient for current projects, enough iron ore for projects as well as keeping ahead of the constant tool making consumption curve, and more redstone than I will likely ever use.  I am about to fill up a full double chest with my accumulated redstone.

Of course, not every bit of ore has been easy to get, and I still run into lava pools in my current direction.

I got those diamonds, but I did so very carefully

I got those diamonds, but I did so very carefully

More interesting have been the wide, open spaces that I run into now and again.  From an effort/reward point of view, those are quite lucrative as I often just see veins of ore there on the walls, ready for the taking.  The downside is that it generally becomes an underground cathedral of torches as I try to keep the place from becoming a zombie mosh pit.

At some point we may pick up and move to a new location… I’ve seen a couple square kilometers in a world that is effectively limitless in size, so exploration is a thing to come… at which point I will be tempted to run down into the mines and collect up all those torches I have planted,  backing out of each shaft as I harvest them, and then plugging them up.  I suspect I would have quite a pile.

Meanwhile, back on the surface, with the castle done, I started working on some related items.  There was the causeway to the house, the flattening of the front yard and the removal of the hills from the back.  I cut back some of the woods around the castle, both to deny skeletons cover from which to snipe and to have enough wood to eventually fence things in a bit.

And then I built myself an automatic sugar cane harvesting system on the castle roof.

Of course, this was not at all my own design.  I went to the internet to look for ways to accomplish this.  The first video I tried on YouTube looked good, however it turned out to be a few years out of date and the design wouldn’t work with Minecraft 1.8.x.  Of course, I only figured that after I had built the whole thing.

I had more luck with the second video I found promising an “easy” automated sugar cane harvesting system.  I was able to create it and… once I actually duplicated the redstone system correctly… I had a block out of place… it actually worked.

Automated Sugar Cane farm

Automated Sugar Cane farm

The hard part was actually getting the parts.  You need sticky pistons which need slimeballs to create, which means finding slime, which only spawns in the swamp biomes and blah blah blah.

So I spent about a day (real world day, not in-game) camped in a swamp trying to find slimes.  And then I started looking up how to find slimes and found a video about how to discover where they will spawn and then spent another day killing enough to get the the necessary slimeballs and then trek back to the castle to build my sticky pistons… and was so totally focused on that whole thing that I didn’t even take a screen shot… or write down the coordinates… so I hope I don’t need any more slimeballs soon.

Anyway, I got my 28 sticky pistons which, in hindsight, watching this system work, is probably twice as many as really necessary.  The whole thing triggers when the sugar cane on the far right gets three blocks high, triggering the whole array to knock down all but the base row.  But I am pretty sure it would work with a single row of pistons just knocking everything down when that first sugar cane got two high instead.

Whatever, I was just happy to make it work and can refine things later.

The one change up I did make was to use the collection system from the first video, which involved a stream of water which dumps all the harvested sugar cane through a hole in the floor into a hopper on the third floor of the castle, which then deposits it into a double trunk.

I will say it was a bit challenging to build the second story on the farm.  The design can be extended horizontally or vertically, but the space on the roof and my use of the water delivery method limited how wide it could be, so I had to go for the vertical.  Having built the whole thing close to the edge meant that my construction scaffolding put me over the edge of the castle roof, facing a 4+ story fall to my certain death if I went over.  That will help you focus.

My goal in all of this was to have ample sugar and to be able to make paper to trade to the villagers in the village we came across back during our further exploration phase.  Though I have to go back and find it.  It is sort of south-east-ish… I think.  Time to explore again.  And maybe build a road.

Meanwhile I also started looking into hosting services to put the world online so the instance group or other friends could join in if they wanted.  There has been some mild interest in that regard.  I will say that the number of such hosting services shows just how popular Minecraft really is.  And exploring that brought up the whole “which server type?” question.  Vanilla Minecraft is the default, but there are other options out there, the most popular… based on what I have seen… being Spigot, which claims better performance, memory management, and finer control over world parameters, and Bukkit, which offers a huge range of ready-to-go mods.  Or such is my take-away.  So the question isn’t just who has the best price and where their data center is location, but also what server type to run.

And such is the state of affairs for us in Minecraft.