Category Archives: Minecraft

Finding the Northeast Passage in Minecraft

Theoretically, this should be easy.  I just need to lay rails starting at location ABC and ending at location XYZ and my mighty rail loop project will be complete.  Actually, it would probably be north from location ABC to JKL, then turn east until I hit XYZ, because Minecraft, like early Pokemon titles, just doesn’t do diagonals very well.

Unfortunately, mere coordinates do not tell the full tale.  Terrain has a pretty big influence on where I lay my track.  Some days I look at a mountain range before me and decided to simply tunnel on through.  Other days I might try to go around if I can.  And sometimes I just go up and over.  The view is better when you go over, but I have to use a lot more powered rail to get up the side and it messes up my planned rail production ratios.

And then there are the wide open bodies of water.

That is the situation I am in now.  Between my current location and the link up point in the mesa biome there is a considerable amount of wet.

The water situation

The water situation

From the looks of it, there are two possible routes, both of which are going to require a bridge.

The southern route (red line on the map) is the most direct and, as such, will require the least amount of rail to complete, and rail is a limiting factor for me.  Right now I am on another mining binge to collect up iron for the next big building push.

The southern route will also likely only require me to build one more major supply and mining base.  Such bases aren’t a big deal, really.  In fact, I tend to enjoy building them up.  Skronk has noted my tendency to go overboard on them.  However, they are a distraction and use up more rail since part of any major supply base is a nether portal connected to the transit hub in the roof of the nether.

On the downside, the southern route will require a lot of bridging.

Again, it isn’t like I haven’t built bridges before.

Mesa Biome Channel Bridge

Mesa Biome Channel Bridge

Bridge at the south end of the Great Northern Road

Bridge at the south end of the Great Northern Road, before rails

I even put in bridges occasionally where I might not strictly need them.

A wooden bridge to cross a valley

A wooden bridge to cross a valley

But I have gotten a bit picky about them.  I hate to do just a two-wide platform across a gap.  I want something that is a bit of the scenery in its own right.  And the longer the gap to cover, the more materials the bridge will need.

In addition, the south route also goes through a watery area, so I will be building bridges or platforms just to get to the bridge.  Finally, the long water gap where the bridge will need to go is a bit dull when it comes to scenery.

The northern route (the purple line on the map) will require a lot more rail as it goes the long way around the top before cutting back to the mesa biome.  That means a lot more mining for iron to build rails.  I have been pretty lucky in that regard so far though.  Iron has been reasonably abundant.

The northern route will also require a bridge, but not nearly as long as the southern route.  Actually, with my current plan, the route will need two bridges before it hits the mesa biome, but the second one will be very short.  (The mesa biome is another story.  I will be building bridges… or digging tunnels… there no matter which direction I choose.)

I also estimate that I will need two, or possibly three, major supply bases on the northern route.  Fun to build, and I persist in the fantasy that we’ll get a few more players on the server who might use those bases as start points for their own projects, but they are a distraction from the main project.

However, the northern route also offers some better scenery judging from my initial scouting, something that counts for a lot.

Waterfalls where my bridge will likely end up

Waterfalls where my bridge will likely end up

So I am leaning towards the northern route, mostly based on aesthetics.

However, while I am building up supplies, I also have a bit more scouting to do.   There is a potential third route north of the peninsula on which I am building.  I have to get in a boat and go explore further north to see if there is a closer land connection possible.

Fortunately, contrary to some rumors I hears, boats are still excellent scouting vehicles in Minecraft 1.9.

Collecting Tears…

Ghast tears, that is.  What did you think I meant?

Ghast tears drop, naturally enough, from Ghasts in Minecraft.

Ghast tear in inventory...

Ghast tear in inventory…

And Ghasts… well, you find them in the nether, where can loom out of the distance or spawn suddenly in your vicinity and as soon as you hear their special sound they are launching fireballs at you.

I went looking for some Ghast screen shots, just to illustrate what they look like, and I only found a few and most of them were mid-action panic screen shots.

Ghasts are a bit of a terror in the nether.  The float up out of reach, so you can only hit them with a bow and arrow, shoot those fireballs that eat up the netherrack and set things on fire, while their behavior is such that they tend to pull back to maximum range so they are harder to hit. (Though that doesn’t seem to hinder their ability to hit you.)

They aren’t a constant threat, and so long as you keep moving you likely won’t take a fireball hit.  I’ve been running through the nether between portals on a few occasions with the sound off, noticed nothing amiss, only to come back for the return trip to find that the terrain is torn up and on fire because a Ghast had been taking shots at me as I ran previously.

Another divot to be filled in

Another divot to be filled in

I always try to carry a stack of cobblestone with me to fill in the holes along regular routes.  The fireballs won’t destroy the cobble, so the path is that much more sturdy, though it can still be set on fire temporarily, so you don’t want to stand still all the same.

Anyway, they are a threat and they will encourage you to learn how to use a bow and arrow effectively.  Just don’t miss too often, lest you hit the zombie pigmen and start a new sort of terror.  That has killed me more often than Ghasts.

And, as noted a couple hundred words back, they drop Ghast tears.

Before Minecraft 1.9 the tears were of no particular value.  They could be used to create mundane potions, which weren’t really useful, or regeneration potions, which were actually useful.  But not being a huge user of potions so far, I wasn’t seeking them out. (Brewing chart for potions, if you are interested.)

After the update hit however, the tears became one of the ingredients in creating an End Crystal, four of which may be used to re-summon the End Dragon after it has been slain for the first time.  Aaron, who drove our initial effort to slay the End Dragon, was keen to be able to respawn it (and kill it) on demand.  So he wanted to collect more tears, but the randomness of the open nether… half the time I kill a Ghast it is over a pool of lava, so no tears and no exp… wasn’t working for him.

A couple weeks back I logged in and saw him on.  I happened to be passing through what is the central area of the nether for us and, just as he was telling me in chat that he had built something new, I saw that very new thing.  It didn’t look like much, just a tall wall of nether brick and an area of cobblestone with a door.

Spotting the new building...

Spotting the new building…

The cobblstone structure was a room with a door on the opposite side.  I went through that and found Aaron with his new plan… an indoor Ghast killing arena.

Into the arena

Into the arena

It was tall enough to allow ghasts to spawn in it, floored with cobblestone to keep the floor from getting chewed up by fireballs, and illuminated by a pattern of recessed lighting featuring the end rods that came in with the big update as well.  I had to admit I was impressed.

The space does tend to fill up with zombie pigmen which, as I noted previously, can be an issue if you do not take care where your arrows fall.  And I would still recommend arrows for fighting ghasts in an enclosed space.  While we were there a ghast spawned and I tried to go after it with my sword and found it tough going.  You have to close with a fireball spewing mob and then stay within arms reach, hacking away at it, while you are probably on fire and dying.

After a bit of that I opted to fall back and use the superior firepower of the box.

When a Ghast spawns it is tough to miss in that confined space.

There he is, shooting at me already!

There he is, shooting at me already!

But once you kill them, it is easy enough to pick up the drops… just avoid the temporarily burning cobblestone while you do so.

I think there is a tear in that lot

I think there is a tear in that lot

The spawn rate is a little uneven.  In trying it out on my own I have sat for a stretch with no spawns at all… and then had two Ghasts pop up at once.

Now they are both shooting at me

Now they are both shooting at me

Two Ghasts at once pretty much guarantees that you will be on fire for a while.  As soon as you take aim to shoot at one, the other will hit you.  So I hope you were at full health and fully fed when they both showed up.  I had a pair pop in when I was still recovering from having stood in the fire too long on the last one and had to flee the room.

However, if things get too crowded in the room… I had a LOT of zombie pigmen in there acting like they were trying to block my shots at one point, Aaron put together a handy little arena reset option.

The reset rail ride

The reset rail ride

Just get in the mine cart, press the button, and go on a round trip that takes you far enough away to unload the chunks the arena occupies, and then back again to a fresh new start.

Those pigmen will be back soon, you just wait

Those pigmen will be back soon, you just wait

Anyway, that is one of the new features in our world, a Ghast hunting arena in which we can collect their tears.  Actually, I think the recessed lighting might be the best part.  It does look pretty cool and the light coming off the end rods is just about perfect.

Minecraft Rail Plans

Quite a while back I had a post about my Great Northern Road project on our Minecraft server.  I wanted to lay down a horse compatible path… meaning any tunnel had to be at least two blocks wide and three blocks tall… from our populated area around the spawn point for our world up to the Mesa biome that had been discovered quite a ways north of us.

The whole thing involved digging tunnels, burning forests, leveling terrain, and building three bridges to cross some wide stretches of water along the way.

Mesa Biome Channel Bridge

Mesa Biome Channel Bridge

They “why” of it all can only be answered with “because,” as we already had a nether portal up in the Mesa biome which provided a considerably shorter path for those wanting to collect hardened clay of various colors for construction projects.  The “why” of Minecraft itself only has the answer “because” when it comes down to it.

Having built it, I decided to create some attractions along the road.  One of them developed into a base that I started living out of most of the time, with a town nearby.  Of course, traveling up and down the road to build things became a chore, so I started laying rails.  Then I linked those rails up to my base at the southern end of the road.  With that done, I started pushing the rails north to the Mesa biome.

That ended up being quite a stretch of rails, which used up a lot of my stored up iron.  Of all the things we have automated, iron collection turns out to be the one I use the least and is the one I need the most.  I have gold in excess, enough redstone to build a castle out of redstone blocks, and I use diamond tools to avoid wasting iron.  Still, I had enough to finish that and then start building south.

Riding the rails on one of my bridges

Riding the rails on one of my bridges

South was a bit easier.  I put up a rail line from my base at the south end of the road to hook up to my previous base.  That base already had a rail line that ran out to the spawn point, so I was able to hook those up.  And, at the south side of the spawn point was another rail line that ran down to Skronk and Enaldi’s Firenze, which I also hooked into the line.

Once complete, you could get in a minecart at the Mesa biome terminus…

Mesa biome

Mesa biome

…travel south down the line past my then current base…

Where I build up my supplies

Where I build up my supplies

…down the line past Aaron and Xydd’s bases…

You can see Aaron's charged creeper grid...

You can see Aaron’s charged creeper grid

…past the spawn point and down south through Skronkholm and into the station under Firenze.

Firenze continues to grow

Firenze continues to grow

The run ended up being just about 10km in game and takes a full day/night cycle to complete.

In order to accommodate travel between points along the line, I decided I needed to build stations along the way.  I looked into a few different designs, but opted for simplicity.  If somebody wants a more complicated station at their stop, they can build it.  Mine just stops the minecart at each point and sends you on your way with the push of a button.

Simple station

Simple station

I also put an override switch on most of the stations so that they could be flagged to simply pass people through.  That became useful when moving between distant stations regularly.

So there we had it, the Great Northern Road turned into the Great Northern Railroad.  I finished that up a couple of months back, at which point I was out of iron and most other supplies and ready for a bit of a break.  I meant to do a post about it back then, but never quite got around to it.

I didn’t stop playing Minecraft, but I spent a while pottering around, improving things, building small things, and moving the server to a new host.

As an aside, for general performance, Minecraft Realms has been a big improvement over MC Pro Hosting.  The downside is lack of ability to tweak some server settings I was able to previously and the idle timeout, which means no more over night automated harvesting for some of us.

As I did that, I also started building up my supplies again, especially iron.

Even with automation, I still mine a lot in Minecraft.  There is a certain peacefulness to it, a regularity in driving a shaft down to level 12, setting up a central open area, and then mining off of it at every third block, and digging to see what you will find.  I can do that and listen to podcasts or audio books and relax.

As my iron supplies built up again, I started building more track.  I also started seeking out abandoned mine shafts underground to strip them of all the track they contained.  I had found quite a few of them previously, but now went back to strip them bare.  I decided that I was not yet done with my rail project.

I had noticed on the map… as I mentioned in a previous post, I occasionally create a map of our world using a utility called Minecraft Overviewer, which takes the world data and renders it into Google Maps format… that on the western side of our explored world there were a few nether portals hanging about on their own.  They were left over from some early explorations done by Xydd, where he would go to some point in the nether and build a portal just to see where it came up.

I decided that those portals would be good anchor points for an expansion of the rail line.  I wanted to bring the line around through the unsettled and largely unexplored western reaches of the map and then turn right at some point and link back up at the Mesa biome to create a large loop.  So I moved a bunch of supplies to Firenze and started building a roadbed and laying track west from there.

Supply is probably the biggest challenge.  Inventory management comes into play, as it always does, in that you can only carry so much stuff with you.  That means you either have to go back to your supply depot when you run out or setup a new base and start building up supplies there.  The further you get from your current supply base, the more time you spend moving back and forth between that base and where you are working.

This is exacerbated by day night cycle, which can seem both cruelly short and extremely long depending on what you are up to.  With the Minecraft 1.9 combat changes, it has become much more difficult for me to deal with the spawns at night, in part because you can no longer just swing wildly and chop all those zombies and skeletons to pieces and also because the spawn rates at night seem to have been notched up noticeably.  Creepers especially seem to boom in abundance now and have blown up a lot of my track.

While finally getting the infinity arrow enchant on a bow has been a boon… I spent a lot of time trying for that… because I can hand back and murder stuff at range, I still have to get to shelter at night to sleep and start the day fresh.  The distance between the work site at the supply base makes that take up time.  And even if I build little overnight shelters, I still end up having to travel back and forth for more supplies.  So, even if I had infinite resources, there is a bunch of work to be done.

And I did not have infinite resources.  And it isn’t just rail I run out of in the field.  If I have to bridge some gap I need cobblestone.  It my tools wear out I need fresh ones… or I need to go back and repair the ones I have.  I need torches to light the way.  And I need food.  A stack of 64 baked potatoes seems like it should last a long time, and then you get caught out at night and have to fight, then eat to keep your healing up, and then fight some more.

So at some point I get far enough down the line that I have to build a base with all the amenities.  In my quest to finish the western run of the rail line, I am on my third base.

The world map currently

The world map currently

As with most of the screen shots in this post, this one is from Minecraft Overviewer, though zoomed out to give a sense of where the rail line has run so far.  You probably need to click on it and view it full size to be able to see any of the detail.

Mesa to Firenze was the original 10km rail line.  Supply Base A was chosen because of its proximity to one of Xydd’s portals.

Supply Base A

Supply Base A

I built a mine there, sent up a bit of farming, got an auto-furnace setup to smelt, and put in a bunch of chests to hold things.  That base didn’t end up too big because it wasn’t all that far from Firenze and I was still pretty flush with supplies when I got there.  I barely mined at all, though I did find two abandoned mines in the area, which helped build up my track supply.

Supply Base B ended up being more complete.  By the time I got there I was having supply problems, not to mention being far from home.  It was also the location of another Xydd nether portal, but not one he had built a road to in the nether, so I had to mine some to get some cobblestone in order to pave a path down in the nether so I could find my way there and back if I needed to.

At this point supplies were dwindling, but both Aaron and Skronk donated to the cause and I was able to drive north to what is my current supply base.  Supply Base C is where I have sat for over a week now.

Supply Base C

Supply Base C

I stopped here because it was a town, so there was already shelter and a food supply.  I used some of my cobblestone stockpile to wall it off, built a mine, and started hording supplies.

I also went down to the nether, to our transport hub in the roof of the nether, and dug a tunnel from there to a point where I could build a portal that would come up in the town.  I miscalculated by a bit and the portal ended up on the roof of the town well.  At least it wasn’t deep under ground I suppose.

One of the advantages of this town was that a whole family of horses had spawned in the area, so I was able to tame one to use for exploration.  And I needed to explore, because the other reason I stopped here was I was beginning to reach the point where I couldn’t just head north.  I have to find a path to route the rail line to get back to the Mesa biome.

So that is where I sit, at the far end of a long rail line, scouting for a way forward and building up my supplies for my push to close the circle.

I will say that without rendered maps of the world, this would be a lot more difficult.  I could plot a route with the F3 option open so I could see coordinates to note down a possible path, but it is a lot easier to head out and explore for a while, then download the world, render it, and see what the lay of the land really is.

It just takes a bit to do that some time.  Our world is now over 1GB in size in its raw form, it takes about 45 minutes to render, and the output is about 12GB in size.

April in Review

The Site

Well, the MMO Bloggers Feed in my side bar got a last minute reprieve when IFTTT decided not to cut off Pinboard support on April 4th.

FeedlyPinboard

Pretty much the synopsis…

That was probably a good thing as my experiments with Delicious created RSS feeds have been a complete flop.  Not only do they have ads injected into the feed… which I get, they have to make money somehow… but something between Delicious and WordPress.com isn’t picking up the feed as it updates.  So while I look at the raw RSS and see new things being added, the feed just sits with the first couple of items.  Bleh.

Meanwhile, nobody has suggested anything about the Google+ syndication issue I mentioned last month, which I am going to take as a sign that either nobody really cares about Google+ syndication or nobody noticed that my posts stopped appearing there.  Probably the latter.

In addition, because I have a Google login that I use to comment on Blogger sites, I made a blog over there to point to this one since my Google profile only likes blogs they host.  But as I was tinkering with various RSS and feed options, I thought I figured out how to get anything that posted here to also post straight to that site as well.  I put that in place but never actually tested it.

Imagine my surprise when I passed by the blog half way into the month and found that it worked.  So I renamed the site The Redundant Ancient Gaming Noob.  The only problem is that it takes the post as published and never picks up any revisions, so all my original typos are there. (And I am too lazy to go fix them… though it takes a while to poll, so if I fix them right after I hit the “Publish” button… which, due to some lesser known physical property of the universe,  is the only time I can actually see my own typos… then I can catch them in time.)  Still, it seems to work.  Not sure it is much use and I figured the whole thing our about nine and a half years too late for me to jump ship to the Blogger platform.

And, finally, I thought I might not have anything to complain about when it came to WordPress.com this month, and then they decided to change the interface for doing inline links in such a way that they are more annoying AND you can easily delete them by accident.  Since that is a feature I use constantly… just look at them all in this post… that bit of nonsense has had me fuming for days.  It is like they never think things through.

One Year Ago

As ever, it was April Fools at Blizzard and elsewhere.

Elsewhere, EA was still selling lots of Sims titles, but were cutting online games like Need for Speed: World.

In what I thought must be an April Fools joke, Daybreak said they were not going to do any more expansions for EverQuest II.  Instead it was going to be DLC like the Rum Cellar.  A rum idea if ever there was one.  Likewise, though EverQuest was getting a new progression server, it seemed like it was the end of the road for expansions in old Norrath.  Also, that logo, totally not stolen.

Of course, why would you even need an official progression server, since Daybreak declared Project 1999 totally legit.

And speaking of rum ideas from Daybreak, they were also pushing people off of their forums and on to Reddit.  How were they going to lock threads and delete posts there?

CCP was talking about ship skins in EVE Online, in hopes of finally finding the right formula for the Mosaic expansion.

In New Eden the war was still going in Delve, including a big fight at ZXB-VC, while the Reavers were doing their work in Querious.  Not only that, but we were also decked out in our spiffy new jackets… well, some of us were.  I was trying to be in both fronts of the war. The Reavers front was the place to be though.

The Imperium was declared, with Max Singularity VI as our spiritual leader.  Also, Karma Fleet was launched and Xenuria got in and was a Goon for like ten minutes!  How crazy was that?   I’m sure that will never happen again.  Right?

Blizzard’s WoW Token idea went live, and the US regional version immediately dropped below the opening price.  They also had a beta for the Legacy of the Void expansion for which I was not prepared.

The instance group was doing Auchindoun and Skyreach in Draenor… after which we were fresh out of dungeons until we all hit 100.  After that I was leveling up some characters and complaining about little things in WoW.

Meanwhile, the war of the rings in Lord of the Rings Online was dragging out into its eighth year.  Is this Mordor or Afghanistan?

While we’re there, Guild Wars turned ten.

And there was this Liebster thing, which feels like it happened a lot longer than just a year ago.

Five Years Ago

Of course, there was some April foolery both here and at Blizzard.

I also wrote something about magic quadrants.

Sanya Weathers had one of the best quotes about MMO gamers ever, made all the more amusing by its truth.

Battlefront.com released a completely new version of their original WWII Combat Mission series.

Wargaming.net released World of Tanks.

SOE’s spy themed MMO, The Agency, was officially cancelled.

We got a PlayStation 3.  And then the PlayStation Network got hacked.  At least I could still play Blu-Ray disks and stream Netflix.

The instance group got together and decided to try out EverQuest II Extended, the one-time separate free to play version of EverQuest II.  However, the game immediately began to kick us in the teeth for daring to do solo content as a group.

Being there in EQIIx also meant looking at what the cash store had to offer.  Some of this stuff is gone now in the post merger era of EQIIFlying mounts are still around.  And some idea, like selling max-level characters, would have to wait a while to come back.

And Potshot and I were still playing EverQuest.  We moved on from Unrest to Lake Rathetear and spent an evening there.  Then it was on to Kerra Island and finally we made it to Runnyeye, at which point SOE also went down due to the PSN hacking.  That pretty much ended our EverQuest adventures for 2011.

I did have to explain EverQuest to my daughter.  Her foundation in MMOs is World of Warcraft.

Ten Years Ago

ANet releases its first post-launch Guild Wars expansion, Guild Wars: Factions. It only took them a year, too.  Right, Blizzard?  See?

Auto Assault went live, perhaps the first “troubled at launch” MMO I am personally aware of that fails to get past its issues.  The game ends up being shuttered by NCsoft 19 months down the road.  It is, for a while, the poster child for MMO launch failures.

Nintendo announced the name of their new console, slated to replace the GameCube.  Known up to that point only by its code name “Revolution,” Nintendo said it was going to call it the “Wii.”

Viacom spent $102 million to purchase Xfire.  According to Viacom: “Xfire and its users fit squarely into the Company’s multiplatform strategy to build an engaging universe of music, gaming, entertainment, news, networking and interactivity for focused audiences.”  They also thought NeoPets were worth splurging on as well.

Featured Sites of the Month

For this month’s featured MMO Blog I want to bring your attention to:

Kirith Kodachi has been plugging away for more than a decade at his blog.  While not initially about MMOs, he fell into EVE Online at about the same time I did (I beat him by 10 days), at which point it began to take over his blog, a situation that persists through to today.  EVE is just a crazy game that is fun to write about, and it has been interesting to watch our parallel, yet very different, trajectories through New Eden.

Then of the “other” site of the month, I want to point you at is:

While zKillboard now gives you something of a battle report with its related kills option, I much prefer the output from the Battle Report Tool.  It draws data from zKillboard to piece together the raw details about who shot whom and which ships got blown up and how much ISK it was all worth.  While I am not all about the kill mails, I do like looking at battle reports this site generates in order to understand what happened.  I often have a sense in a battle if we’re doing well or not, but this helps quantify what just happened.

Most Viewed Posts in April

Well, I can write every day of the week about EVE Online, but nothing brings in traffic like a World of Warcraft post.

  1. April Fools at Blizzard – 2016
  2. Blizzard, Nostalrius, and the Classic Server Question
  3. Will Nostalrius Drama Shift the Sleeping WoW Giant?
  4. War Footing, War Fever
  5. FCON Leaves The Imperium
  6. SMA Leaves The Imperium
  7. World War Bee – What’s in a Name?
  8. WoW and the Case for Subscription Numbers
  9. Google Tells Me Nearly All Games are Dead
  10. The Russian Complication
  11. FCON Shows Up in Immensea
  12. CSM 11 Announced – Xenuria Wins at Last

Search Terms of the Month

Claude Ring
[Once I saw that, I made an alt with that name]

origin unifies your gaming life
[The way your mom organizes your trading cards]

legion gonna suck
[And haters gonna hate]

if you change world of warcraft payment plan do you get a refund
[no]

lotro level store
[I don’t think the cash shop is quite there yet]

what do you get after you complete the national pokedex
[Your life back?]

Diablo III

I haven’t really played much Diablo III this past month, except to go in once Season 5 ended to clean up my storage situation.  It is nice to have everything combined into the common storage, but the fact that the game mails you all of your seasonal stuff was kind of a pain.  Okay, maybe I should have recycled some of those legendary items I held onto, because it took a while to collect all the items and then sort them out into different boxes.

EVE Online

The war goes on.  On the down side, we’ve lost almost all our sovereignty.  On the up side, we don’t have to go very far to find fun.  There has been an almost continuous supply of fleet ops from Saranen for the last few weeks.  I am starting to think the war effort depends mostly on Boat holding out.  He has been running fleets every day for hours at a stretch.  Best fleets to be on though.

Oh, and there was the Citadel expansion that has the potential to change everything in New Eden.

EverQuest II

I have pottered around on the Stormhold nostalgia server off and on this month.  EQII is less of a solo game for me than others.  I don’t think I have ever played for more than a week or so without ending up in a guild with at least a few people I know.  But it is fun.  The pace is slow and it is relaxing if I have a couple of free hours.  My shadow knight is level 22 and fumbling around between Nek forest and Butcherblock.

Minecraft

I swear I meant to do a Minecraft post this month.  Actually I have a few.  But I never quite got there.  News of the moment from the war in New Eden and Blizzard managed to preempt tales of building.  Still, if I look at Raptr, I spent more time in Minecraft than any other game in April… though that might be because Raptr stopped tracking EVE Online when I upgraded to the new launcher.  Doh!  I have to remember to manually enter that time, and I forget more often than I remember.

Pokemon

I have been carrying on with Pokemon Blue.  Another gym badge down.  Progress has been slow in part because it remains the fourth item on my list of things to play of late, and because it is a game I don’t play sitting at my desk in front of my computer.  As such, I never launch Pokemon by default, I have to actively want to play it.  Still, I have time to finish.  Pokemon Sun & Moon are not due until winter.

World of Warcraft

I did not actually PLAY WoW in April, aside from logging in to check something out on a level 20 character.  But I did write about it.  I didn’t even write that much, but if you look at the top posts for the month, WoW was definitely a big topic.  The whole vanilla/classic/special server thing opened up a lot of emotions and I am sure we are not done with it yet.  I know I am not.

Coming Up

Summer is coming, and May is its harbinger… at least out here in Silicon Valley where despite what the calendar says it can feel like Summer from some point in April through until November.  Not sure that means much for the blog, aside from the fact that I might write more with the window open in the evenings.

The war in New Eden will carry on and we shall see who has the greater endurance.  CCP though, I am going to bet we are going to see a lot of post-Citadel patches in May.

The Warcraft movie is just a month and ten days away, so I expect to see Blizzard ramping up on that pretty strongly while trying to go back to ignoring the whole vanilla server drama it stirred up by shutting down Nostalrius.

Speaking of Blizzard, their latest title, Overwatch, will go live this month.  I am not really interested in playing myself… and my daughter, who wants to play, is fuming about the lack of MacOS support… but another game from Anaheim means that much less focus on WoW.  It isn’t a zero sum thing, but a company can only put out so much PR before it is trying to talk over itself.

Also, isn’t Daybreak supposed to ship Landmark this spring?  May is the last full month of spring left this year… well, that and 20 days of June.  That will be a thing.

I will write something… or finish writing something… about Minecraft.

And… what else is coming up in May?

Google Tells Me Nearly All Games are Dead

There is a game you can play with Google… well, there are probably many, but this is one of them… where you enter the name of something, followed by “is” to see what pre-filled search suggestions come up.  These results are driven by what people have searched for previously.

As I was playing this game the other night instead of doing something important, I began to notice a trend in my searches.  It seemed like Google was declaring most everything dead.

Sure, sometimes that was apt.

GSAbeVigodais

Abe Vigoda, after being reported dead by mistake on multiple occasions over the years, does indeed now sleep with the fishes, having passed earlier this year.

And sometimes the result wasn’t so spot on:

GSObamais

I’m pretty sure somebody would have mentioned if he was dead… or a mack daddy.

I decided to see if that trend held for video games on my side bar.  First on the list was, of course, EVE Online:

GSEVEis

Given that “EVE is dying…” is practically an meme at this point, that wasn’t too surprising.

Likewise, EverQuest, at 17 years of age got a similar result:

GSEQis

At least it wasn’t both “dead” and “dying” I suppose.  Of course, that last item lead me to World of Warcraft:

GSWoWis

Three of those aren’t so good, “dead,” “dying,” and “boring.”  Even EVE Online didn’t get “boring” as a top result.  That lead to a series of other titles, all of which at least got dead as a result:

GSGW2is

GSLOTROis

GSRiftis

GSWildStaris

I had a whole run there where “dead” wasn’t just a result, but the top result.  Then I started branching out from MMOs:

GSSCis

GSTF2is

I finally hit a game where “dead” wasn’t the top result, though I am not sure that was a good thing:

GSStarCis

Even Minecraft got “dead” as a result, though at least it was in fourth position, which was practically an endorsement at this point:

GSMinecraftIs

Hey, “awesome” came before “dead!”

Landmark was odd, but I think it suffers from having a generic name:

GSLandmarkis

Still, I think “dead” might be in there just for it.

Then, finally, I hit a game that wasn’t dead:

GSLOLis

League of Legends is only “dying,” not “dead.”  Also, it is “gay,” which I think says more about the demographic that is searching for things about it.  Still, it is doing better than Heroes of the Storm:

GSHotSis

“Dead,” “dying,” “bad,” and “free!”

Then at last, I hit a search where “dead” wasn’t even a result:

GSHearthis

I’m not sure Hearthstone was really winning with that draw.  I mean sure, “dead” wasn’t on the list, but the rest was hardly an endorsement.

March in Review

The Site

This month, many words about the site.

For reasons unclear to me, the automatic WordPress.com syndication to Google+ stopped working for me in the last month or so.

Well, technically, it still works perfectly for me… but only for me.  Everything that gets syndicated is shared only with myself.

GPSharedOnlyWithYouAs far as I can tell, nothing has changed at my end.  The transition seemed to have happened somewhere between the 22nd and 23rd of last month, because on the 22nd things were sharing just fine!

GPSharedPubliclyBut after that items were only shared with myself.  Looking through Google+ for some setting or change brought me no joy, while the settings within WordPress.com are minimal.

Looking at the WP.com support forums though, it appears I am not the only one seeing this issue.  However, given that WP.com is not answering any threads opened about the topic, instead choosing to close them without comment, seems to indicate that I am not going to find a solution there.  I have a manual work around, but that requires me to go into G+ every day and republish every item.  And then they appear twice in my own feed, which is kind of annoying.

So, if you were following my blog via Google+… which I think would make you Potshot, Tipa or Brian Green, my G+ following being fairly limited… and you noticed I suddenly stopped posting there, this is why.  Of course, if you only follow me there then you may never see this.

Elsewhere automatic syndication remains active, so I am still a menace on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.

Meanwhile, in the midst of a somewhat sleepy month here there was a sudden spike in page views when Reavers CO Asher Elias posted my Higgs Anchor Rigs tale to /r/eve.  That was a big enough one day boost to secure that post the top spot on the “most viewed” post list below and to prove that people in /r/eve/ will click on just about any link put in front of them.

Then there was this:

Which made it sound like my MMO Blogesphere side bar feed was about to die.  Since that came up I got a notification that my Rube Goldberg implementation only has until April 4th, then it is gone. Time to figure out a new course on that one I suppose, because it is the one thing readers here click on regularly according to the stats.

Addendum: Got a note this evening indicating that IFTTT and Pinboard might come to some agreement that will keep them working together.  At least it won’t shut down on Monday as planned.  We shall see.

And then, in a minor odometer moment, one of my post categories actually rolled into four digits.  With this post, the top five most used categories (aside from “entertainment” which is everything here) now are:

  1. EVE Online – 1,000
  2. World of Warcraft – 999
  3. EverQuest II – 612
  4. EverQuest – 492
  5. Lord of the Rings Online – 360

CCP wins the race to one thousand.  Is this an EVE blog or a WoW blog now?  Random people keep telling me it has to be one or the other.

One Year Ago

I hit level 50 yet again.

The Elder Scrolls Online dropped the subscription business model.

The Crowfall Kickstarter campaign was still running.  I was wondering if they had a mid-game plan.  They really didn’t, but the campaign still brought in $1.7 million, double what was asked.

EA closed down Maxis as an entity within its organization.  It is what EA does best.

It was a Turbine roast as an insider spilled the beans on problems that have plagued the developer of Lord of the Rings Online.

Rift hit its four year anniversary, but it felt like it had been around for longer than that.

I was wondering what a progression server would look like with EverQuest II.  But it was Sweet 16 for EverQuest, which was getting a new progression server for its birthday it seemed.

Blizzard announced that they were going to go ahead with their PLEX-like idea, the WoW Token.  The instance group was in the Iron Docks and farting around in garrisons.

CCP was talking about the next stage of the proposed sovereignty changes for EVE Online.  There was the Scylla release, which was overshadowed by Fanfest.  Also, the members of CSMX were announced.

In New Eden I attempted to fly an Ibis from Immensea to Deklein.  Then there was a rumor of war as the usual suspects attacked our sovereignty in Fountain.  That called for a big old move op which, in post-Phoebe New Eden, meant caps taking gates.  Then there was that system our foes took.  And once they were evicted from Fountain, it was time for a punitive expedition to Delve.

And The Mittani declared that the power blocs of New Eden would never die.  We shall see.

My daughter and I tried out Diablo III on the PlayStation 3.

I put together a review of my Kickstarter history… I should do that again.

Finally, it seemed as though some of the MMO news sites were paying attention to bloggers again… at least briefly.

Five Years Ago

Rift officially launched.  And while I wasn’t playing, the social media options integrated into the game made it feel like I was there.  And I don’t mean that in a good way.

Pokemon Black and White came out, which became the theme for my birthday.

World of Tanks was talking about going live in April.  There was, of course, a pre-order offer.  There always is these days.

Potshot and I made it to GDC thanks to Darren, where we were able to hobnob with the likes of Brian Green and Damion Schubert.

March of five years ago found me spending time in EverQuest.  It was on the Fippy Darkpaw progression server last year, which at that point was still set in the original EverQuest zones.  Potshot and I were doing some classic things, like getting stuck in the Ocean of Tears and making alts.  And running out of money.

There were the newbie armor quests to work on, which required travel to Freeport at one point, something as hard as we remembered.  We also visited Unrest, North Karana, the Desert of Ro, and Najena.

It was also the 12 year anniversary of the EverQuest launch, and nobody was more surprised that I that I was playing the game 12 years later.  But no corpse runs please.

The instance group, still in Cataclysm Worgen form, spent a couple of nights in Scarlet Monastery and then went to Razorfen Kraul.

I put up a poll asking people which of several items in my drafts folder (current population: 57) I should buckle down on and finish.  I think almost everything on the list except the winner is still in my drafts folder.

And I came home one day to find the TV had died.  Emergency CPR (read: banging on the damn thing) brought it back to life temporarily, but clearly a replacement was going to be needed.  It was, after all, a few years older than EverQuest.

Ten Years Ago

World of Warcraft hit 6 million subscribers.  Eventually it would double that number.

Twitter launched, but who in the hell wants a platform limited to just 140 characters?

Brent, going by the “Prognosticator” handle back then, launched the VirginWorlds podcast which began what was, for me, the golden age of MMO podcasting.  His site is still up and chugging away and you can go and listen to VirginWorlds episode 1 if you care to relive the world of possibilities that seemed to be ahead of us for MMOs back then.  It was a different time.

Featured Sites of the Month

For this month’s featured MMO Blog I want to bring your attention to:

Belghast, who runs the blog, is in the “must post every day” club.  If there are 31 days in the month, he’ll have 31 posts on his site.  He doesn’t even take weekends off.  And every day he posts many words about the MMOs and other games he plays.  Then, every August, he runs a community event called “Blaugust” where he invites his fellow bloggers to join him in his post-a-day routine.  I’ve kept up with him each time so far.  He is also much more active in fostering community in our corner of the internet.  I talk about that community once in a while, he tries to make it really a thing.  Oh, and he does a podcast as well.  I get tired just thinking about all that.  So go visit him and say, “Hi!”

Then of the “other” site of the month, I want to point you at is:

I remember when Meclin first went to null sec and told me about this site.  It seemed confusing, but I was mining in high sec in the same system every day.  I didn’t need all that.  And then I went to null sec, and the site became as necessary is air.  I have said in the past that EVE Online’s in-game map is a very impressive.  Show it people who don’t play and they will be in awe.

But it isn’t very useful.

Yes, it is more useful than it used to be, but it still mostly getting by on looks alone.  And the new map is even more slanted in that direction.  So if you want to know what is where, what the best route is, who owns what system in null sec, or what systems are being attacked, DOTLAN is THE place to go.  I am constantly looking at the site and regularly use screen grabs of maps there for posts.  I need to donate some more money to Wollari just thinking about all that.  You do too!

CCP also did a community spotlight dev blog about DOTLAN a few years back if you want to read more about it.

Most Viewed Posts in March

  1. Me and the Medium Higgs Anchor Rig
  2. Betrayal at M-OEE8
  3. The Imperium Abandons the Vale of the Silent Region
  4. EverQuest Next and the End of the Classic MMORPG
  5. The WildStar Headshot
  6. Setting Sail with Yacht Fleet
  7. Upgrading to Minecraft 1.9
  8. Will EVE Online Get a Bounce from M-OEE8?
  9. SOE and Its MMORPGs
  10. Market Saturation and the Cash Shop
  11. Skill Injectors, Meet Experience Injectors
  12. Contemplating that Last Stand at VFK-IV

Search Terms of the Month

how to 2 box everquest on phinigel true box server
[You are  a bad person]

syncrude shutdown march
[I think SynCaine is planning to carry on]

how many characters are in wheel of time
[Too fucking many]

pantheon rise of the fallen will the trolls be playable
[No, the trolls will remain in the forums and comment threads]

playstation how to use daybreak cash?

psn soe settlement how to use daybreak cash?

ps3 how to use station cash?

how to use daybreak cash psn dcuo

bought dc market cash but can’t use it
[There is some problem with Daybreak Cash on PSN I guess]

Diablo III

Well, I carried on and played through Season 5 right up until the moment I competed the set dungeon for the final baseline achievement… and then I totally stopped playing.  There is a lesson in that somewhere.  Anyway, it is off my currently playing list and will likely remain so until at least Season 6 starts… whenever that happens.

EVE Online

To put it mildly, shit got real in our small… now smaller… corner of null sec.  The war has been given a few names.  The Second Great War, or World War Bee, starring Goonswarm in the role of Band of Brothers.  Noizy dubbed it The Casino War, because one side is being proudly financed by an online gambling site. (Making it one of The Mercenary Wars in Matterall’s expansive write up.)  Then this week it was suddenly The Easter War, because CCP likes… bunnies and Cadbury eggs?  Seriously, CCP claims this is what most people are calling it, but I never heard the term until they started using it this week.  I get the feeling that, in hindsight, we might end up calling this the Propaganda War, as spin on both sides is getting quite thick.

Anyway, I expect we will be seeing a lot more of that from both sides as the war continues.  It will all be a good read a year from now.

EverQuest II

After writing about all sorts of Daybreak topics this month, including the cancellation of EverQuest Next, I had a rather unsurprising urge to go wander around Norrath.  I picked EQII and the Stormhold server for my focus, and spent some time doing the quest lines in The Commonlands.  It was both nostalgic, a lot of things haven’t changed in 11 years, and a bit disappointing, a lot of annoying things haven’t changed in 11 years.  Still moving myself slowly forward in hopes of getting to Nek Forest.

Minecraft

I wasn’t playing too much Minecraft until our server bill started to loom.  That got me in and playing as I was looking for a new home.  I settled on Minecraft Realms, which has worked out well so far.  That got me back in and working on a huge new “public works” project, which I will post about at some point… as soon as I get around to posting about my last such project.

Pokemon

Pokemon celebrated 20 years back in February and I bought a copy of Pokemon Blue for the Virtual Console from the Nintendo eShop.  As I spent some time traveling early in the month, I actually got to spend some time focused on the game. (Nothing like a couple of five hour plane trips to make time for that.)  I have been pleasantly surprised by the game, though perhaps not for the obvious reasons.

Coming Up

Tomorrow is that day where the unfunny think they are funny, the grumpy act grumpier, and the wise treat any headline as though it were posted on Reddit.  It is only for a day, but since nothing on the internet is ever fully gone, your regrettable mistakes will last forever.

The war New Eden will carry on.  After the hammer blow of the CO2 betrayal, things feel like they are hitting a new equilibrium, with a war of attrition over command nodes running every night.  Each side either needs a new tactic, a new defection, or the other side to stop showing up to make big gains.  Rumors say that there will be an official State of the Goonion tomorrow.  One has to ask if April Fools is setting the right tone?

Meanwhile, the new expansion looms, bringing with it citadels and capital ship changes.  Will that change the face of the war, and will the war still be going when it hits?  April promises to be interesting.

As noted above, I hope to make it to Nek Forest in EverQuest II.  I am not sure how well nostalgia will sustain me there however.  The original version of the zone was a punishing horror show, so I don’t really miss that.  The last time I did anything in the zone though, the whole thing had turned into a tedious amount of running half way across the zone and back for quest updates.  Maybe Echoes of Faydwer will go live by then.  I already have a crafting guild request to go to Butcherblock, which won’t be live on the server until that expansion hits.

I also want to buckle down and finish Pokemon Blue… then write about it.  Or maybe just write about it.  Something.

And I need to figure out a new scheme for my side bar.  My current plan is to try Pinboard’s mortal enemy Delicious.  A test version is even now lurking at the bottom of the side bar.  If that doesn’t work out though, it will be back to a static blogroll for a while.

The Move to Minecraft Realms

The server move was on.

As I mentioned in the last Minecraft post, our term with MC Pro Hosting was up this past weekend and I was looking for a new home.  Performance on our server there was poor, especially at peak hours, and the only solution they had to offer was to upgrade our service.  However, given that only eight people have ever logged on to our server, and having even four of us on at once was a rare occasion, I felt that our server plan (we ended up with the Iron Plan), advertised as good to host up 40 players, should have been sufficient, especially given we were using the vanilla server with no mods.

But where to go?

Back when I was first looking at hosting plans, people had nice things to say about Minecraft Realms, which is Mojang’s own hosting service.  It was stable, safe, and easy.  It was just expensive relative to what else was out there.  However, late last year Mojang decided to fix the pricing part, dropping the rates to as low as $7.99 a month for a six month run, $8.99 a month for a three month commitment, and $9.99 for a month to month billing cycle.

And, they also offer a free two week trial.

I setup a trial server a few weeks back, and then life got in the way and I never quite got back to it until last week, after the trial had expired.  Still, I had gotten a peek and decided to commit.  That was on Thursday last week, and I had until Sunday to wrap things up with MC Pro Hosting.

Dealing with Minecraft Realms though, that is a little different than other hosting services.  Netherbyte and MC Pro Hosting were similar, if not in pricing and service, then in how you managed your server.  They both used the same third party admin tool, both gave me FTP access to our partition, and allowed me to basically tinker with all the bits and settings directly.

You don’t get any of that with Minecraft Realms.  Or the bits that you do get are not like that at all.  You do all of your server work in the Minecraft client.

Everything is under the Minecraft Realms button

Everything is under the Minecraft Realms button

For me, having used various other tools up to this point, it was a bit confusing at first.  However, if you are coming from playing on local, single player worlds, it is clearly an attempt to make a hosted world as much like a local world as possible.

So the control panel won’t overwhelm you with options.

Controlling our world

Controls for our world

You can have three different worlds on your realm, though only one may be running at a time.  You can generate them from scratch as with a local game, but to use a current world you have to have it available locally as a single player world first.

That meant making a backup of our current world, downloading it, and then converting it into something that could be accessed locally.  That generally just means putting the “world” folder in the “Saves” directory for Minecraft, but since we tried running a couple different server types over the last nine months… in search of better performance… our directory had a some extras in it, including two extra copies of the nether in their own folders, as opposed to the DIM1 (or is is the DIM-1?) directory.

I managed to get that sorted and a right items in the right place so the world appeared as a local realm that I could successfully log into.  Then I clicked on my one remaining empty world slot (the first two were test runs) where it let me select our world to upload.  Weighing in at more than 800mb, the upload took a bit of time, but it went through successfully.

(At some point I will do a post about how Minecraft was in part a success due to the fact that it was created in a world where it resources like drive space were readily available.)

That was a success.  I was able to log into our world on Minecraft Realms and everything looked good.  Now I just had to get everybody else to follow me, which primarily meant getting Aaron to come along.

Of course, there were complications.

In order to use Minecraft Realms, you have to have a Mojang account.  All of us had old school Minecraft accounts.  There is a conversion process, where you start with a Minecraft account and end up with a Mojang account.  It isn’t even particularly difficult.  It was just, like so many things, documented by somebody who already knew how to do it, so it makes assumptions that you might not at a couple of points.

I went through the process with my daughter’s, just to see how it worked.  You have to log onto the Minecraft site, go to your settings, click the link to convert your account, give it an email address (which will be your new login), click a verification link that is emailed to that address, then log in to the Mojang site using your email address, your old account name, and your password, which remains the same.

At that point you are converted and, as a side benefit, you can now change your Minecraft in-game name once every 30 days, since it is no longer your account login.

I then logged into Minecraft Realms, clicked on the Players button, and invited my daughter’s account, using her in-game name (which she can now change, so I am not sure how that will work out if she does), so that she could join the server.  Minecraft Realms servers are all by invite only, so it clearly isn’t the service for you if you want to run a public server.

When my daughter logged back in to Minecraft, she had a notification on the main screen.

you've got mail or something...

you’ve got mail or something…

Clicking on the Minecraft Realms button revealed a pending invite for her.

Also, would you like to rent a server?

Also, would you like to rent a server?

That was the invite to join the server.  Clicking on and accepting that put our server on her list and she was able to log in.  Op success!

So I put that together in an email and sent it out to the rest of the team on our server.

And then Aaron had a problem.  He converted his account but wasn’t seeing the invite to the server.  I verified his user name on the invite list, which was suspiciously gray on a list of otherwise white shaded names.  Then Xyd chimed in that he had converted his account and had logged in just fine.

Invite success...

Invite success…

Of course, the mocking tone that might have accompanied that note might have spurred Aaron to double check his end of things, as he came back a while later and reported success as well.  Skronk followed up after that, though he reported problems with 1.8 client mods not working with 1.9, but at least a quorum seemed to have migrated to the new location.

I ran around the world, rolling down minecart rails, which is one place that performance lag was very apparent and things seemed okay.  Aaron tinkered for a bit and said things were at least as good as before.  So I cancelled the MC Pro Hosting server and that was that.  We had a new home.  I don’t have as fine a control for the moment… we’ll see what happens when the Mineserver finally ships… but that is okay for now.  I do get an activity chart for people now.

Some of us have been playing more than others...

Some of us have been playing more than others…

While I was still rolling around and finding some new things with 1.9, such as a couple of the new zombie models…

Coming to get me...

Coming to get me…

… Aaron got stuck right into the new server and spawned the Ender Dragon again, something new for 1.9.  After more than a few deaths… I was on but elsewhere for some of the fight… he brought down the beast, which spawned a new type of portal in The End.

The New Portal

The New Portal

Throwing an Ender Pearl into it… something in rich supply due to the Enderman farm pumping them out just down the path… brings you to one of the new cities in The End.

End City

End City

There he found some new treasures, new materials, a new light source (the end rod), the dragon’s head (for his collection), and more Ender men.

They are just hanging out all over

They are just hanging out all over

So there we are for now.  On a new server, exploring some of the Minecraft 1.9 features, and dealing with some of the Minecraft 1.9 bugs.