Achtung!! MeinKraft!!

So, here we are again. It’s six months since our last foray into craftin’ territory and much has changed. For a start I did a marriage, or got married, however the cool kids are saying it these days (I fear I’m no longer one of them) but also many things have been added and fixed in the world of Minecraft. With these changes in mind we decided to step back in en masse and delve the depths greedily and deep. Will this lead to a greater understanding of the world/each other or our ultimate destruction/demise? Or perhaps we’ll just spend ages building something cool only to have it out-done by one of our number building an amusing phallus??

For answers or not to these questions/statements, read the continuing adventures live blogged below… “‘Achtung!! MeinKraft!!”

18:00
The game is afoot. We all drop in and drop out. Neil and Trev manage to stick and begin to build a base while I plug my machine together, Gazz works on making his copy with the high res texture pack work, Mark’s netbook takes 30mins to log-in for no reason in-particular (other than it being a netbook) and Natasha attempts to get nice textures working on the MacBook she’s loaned for the play (I know,  MacBooks… they look nice but bloody hell they’re annoying). Ok, so now I probably ought to try and do a bit of a play, it sounds like they’ve already progressed to building the third floor of whatever they’re constructing and I can hear explosions and Mark laughing, this is never a good sign…

Also, Neil has set up a LiveStream feed so you can watch both his screen and us all sat in the room shouting and mis-coordinating each other… here’s the link: http://t.co/yBavm5t

19:15
One hour and fifteen minutes in and I’ve found the base!!! Yay!!! To be fair I logged in as things were already under-way, so I decided to try and useful and wonder off towards the setting Sun. This might seem weird but we have a massive isometric map of the current world rendered each 60 seconds onto the wall via a projector and we couldn’t orientate it. We now know which way is West, as a large strip was rendered in the direction I went, so, as I believe a famous genius statesman once said “Mission Accomplished!!” :o)

Our World Projected

Anywho, on finding the base it seems little has happened aside from a bit of building, resources are low but mining is actually happening now (I think we forgot about that bit to begin with). Several shafts have been dug but not much is showing up as yet, though Neil has just exclaimed something about Red Stone. After finding the base I managed to make a door (by wakling to close to a Creeper and it exploding the side of the base), I then did the sensible thing of sleeping in one of the beds which (very thankfully) allows you to spawn there from now on… nice.
Right, back to it now. It looks like our mines are drawing mainly blanks but some progress is being made… or at least we’re deciding to drop more shafts in the vein hope that we can turn up something of interest…

19:30
Poki arrives!! He;s setting up at present. Gazz can’t log in and is getting well pissed off. He’s enjoying the Sasparilla though, but I fear this is little substitute for craftation… :o(
Argh!! Now mine has done a die too (after logging out to find my screenshots). Erg, restart required… and I really wanted to know why Mark just said “What’s happened outside? It looks like Basra…”. Ah, man…!

20:20
Ok, well me, Poki and Gazz can’t get into Mincraft at all world seemed very poor in terms of, well, everything. We’ve now taken the collective decision to destroy the world…

In the meantime we’re gonna have another crack at Artemis, the Starship Bridge Simulator. We’ll all get a station to control on our PCs apart from one man who’ll be the Captain and the rest are the crew. The “Main Screen” is projected to the wall (via the aforementioned projector) and all we can see on our computers is the job we’re doing. Mark has call Helm, oh dear, let’s see how this goes… (tune in to the Live Stream from above to see how the crew manages).

Unmissable Day of Sex “Offer”

Ok, well , that’s not exactly true. This is just an amusing “offer” that Steam have on at the moment for the latest instalment in the Deus Ex series…

Yes, for a limited time only you can pre-purchase the game, Dues Ex: Human Revolution, for £29.99. That’s a reasonable 14% discount, very nice. More unreasonable seems a related offer for the “Augmented Package” (keep the jokes for the comments section) which contains the new game and the original (and universally agreed to be awesome) Deus Ex for £39.99. This might seem all right until you look at the individual purchase prices, £5.99 and £29.99, so a grand total of £35.99.

So, for the privilege of buying these two games in the same purchase you’re charged and extra £4.01. Needless to say… this is one of the worst offers I’ve seen on Steam. Truly unmissable… :o)

‘AV your say… and why I’m a No to AV voter

Ok, so I’ll come right out and say it, I’m intending to be a No To AV voter. This opinion has been questioned a lot by most of my friends of late. Sometimes nicely, sometimes curiously, other times heatedly and (rarely) insultingly. So I thought it best to post this here to save me explaining myself time and again today. Please read below to find things you may not agree with…

I’m all for reforming the system we have, it’s not entirely representative or “fair” (although “fair” is a very divisive and completely subjective term). I just think the proposed AV system is a poor, with more cons than pros when compared to what we have and other systems that are out there. My reasons for this briefly are:

1 – I like the “One person – One vote” principle. If you vote for a loon that gets 3 votes why should you get a say (and perhaps the deciding say) between other more reasonable candidates. You could have voted for them initially, you didn’t, so don’t cry about it now.

2 – “Fringe” voters (far right and left wings, and extremist independents) have their votes (working down their prefs) counted more than “Mainstream” voters. In fact the more crazy/unpopular your initial vote and subsequent preferences are the more carry-overs you’re likely to get.

3 – It’s my opinion that this AV system will lead to the main parties trying to appeal to fringe voters to get 2nd, 3rd, 4th prefs. I can even see politicians campaigning solely for 2nd/3rd pref votes. This would mean either you have parties standing for everything (so effectively nothing) or some more distasteful extremist ideas coming into mainstream parties agendas simply so they can get 2nd/3rd prefs.

4 – If you vote for the more popular candidates your 1st choice will be compared to the previously mentioned “Fringe”/extremists 3rd, 4th, 5th etc… prefs and given equal weight. Which, to be honest, just seems insulting.

5 – If you vote for one of the more popular candidates that makes it to the last few “rounds” no-one will every look at your other choices, even though your 1st choice is being compared directly to others 3rd, 4th, 5th prefs. Mathematically speaking, this could be incredibly important as the result could be completely different if these were considered or weighting were applied to popular candidate’s voters further prefs.

6 – There are huge transparency issues. I’d want to know how many of which preference level each candidate got and from whom, but it would be a nightmare to work out what actually happened, even with all that data available. This won’t help the public trust their MPs more but probably less.

7 – I think it could only weaken the stability of our democracy. Honestly I don’t think it would have a dramatic effect on this front, but the only thing it could do is provide more hung parliaments and shaky deal making between parties. My point here being it won’t make it more stable only less.

To me the proposed AV system just seems an inherently unfair and essentially flawed. I think we need to move on from the system we have, but I’m not going to vote for a change just so we can then have a hope of changing again which (no insult to anyone who is voting yes) but seems to be the reason most have for told me for their intention to vote yes. It seems largely to be “I don’t like this AV system, but we might get to change again to something that works if we go to this now”.

Any who, there are a few of my reasons (oh, I have more) for my intended no vote. Feel free to pull me apart or tell me I “just don’t understand” the proposed AV system in the comments section below.

Let the ‘craft begin!!

A while ago a small group of us got together for a LAN to play an incredibly geeky game called Artemis. This required us to play the crew of a star ship, each of our computers functioning as one “station” of the vessels bridge, and Stupor’s very own Neil as Captain (he just shouted orders at us with no PC control of his own). In any case, once we’d exhausted the “kill n ships while defending y space stations” scenarios someone (our Captain, oh Captain as I recall) suggested we invest in a little Indie game he’d played for a while and become rather addicted to. This digital Crack was the Beta of Minecraft. It all went down-hill from there… To cut a long story short, we all paid our fare and played into the night. Around 3am we called it a day but our generous host (The Very Reverend Booth) left the server running so we could all connect up from home and extend the madness we had created.

Some months later the game has been updated several times. More resources,  further recipes and enemies that can actually hurt you, rather than groaning impotently in your ear. To mark both the leaps forward made by the game itself and the fact that one of our number has been gifted a licence for the first anniversary of his 29th birthday, it was decided we should LAN again, lay waste to the old world and start over. Below you will hopefully find the story of the first days of that new land. It will be bigger, it will be better, it will undoubtedly be even mentaler…

15:00ish
The game begins. A new world is generated and we dive in. First thing we wander around aimlessly, hit each other a little, laugh then get on with the serious business of finding a mountain to build a monster proof home into. We all know that mountain will have to be removed eventually, but the group deludes itself into thinking that it wont happen this time.

15:00 to 16:00
Neil digs a pilot shaft and we follow him down. So far down it almost becomes up.  Many, many red blacks (a rare and precious element for making electric circuits) are found, plus iron and diamond. Ralph and Matt sink “Shaft 2”, they find more iron, red and a little diamond. Nice… Work begins outside, ‘Tash fences everything in and Ralnor finds and replants reeds. Doors are placed and the base takes shape…

16:00 to 17:00
I try to start writing and get bitched at for standing around (cheers guys :o). Bedrooms are created (one nice one horrid). We all begin to gather and expand the base. Neil sinks a shaft to the mining level and equipts it with ladders, much much better than the circular staircase that took minutes to get down. I order everyone outside, we must have a picture…

17:15
The lads are putting windows in the bedrooms, two little ones have turned into what is more a entire wall of glass. This always happens. ‘Tash gets lost in the wilderness and decides to hide until the zombie goes away.

17:20
Ralph has a bucket, Ralnor decides we need a kitchen room and completes a “Ninja” entrance way. Matt wants to build a farm and everyone approves… Ralph walks on the farm while stating “I’ll be taking that mountain down”. Trev manages to interact with things in the game at last…

17:30
Ralph find a “flock of cows” then picks the flowers… BY KILLING THEM!! He also starts to wear some leather trousers which make him looks like he’s wandering around (the worst) half naked. One of the exits from the base becomes “the reed garden”, accessibility is limited but its all for the greater garden.

17:45
Matt’s farm is taking shape but people continue to walk all over it, this vexes him. The cook room is also finished, ovens line the walls, it’s like a lady-dudes dream :o)

17:55
Neil finds coal and a bunch of Creepers really close to our base, he tactically allows us them to explode on him, therefore defending the base. He then proceeds up our mountain and discovers how massive it actually is, finding both snow and pumpkins upon it. Most pleasing as snow can be used to produce snowball to throw at innocent folk and pumpkins are, well, just nice pumpkins.

18:15
After a good nights sleep we emerge to find a Creeper trying to explode Matt’s farm, he keeps his distance… We’ve now got enough red dye that Neil decides to start on the “Carpet Project”, we all think we know what he means, but you never know in this game. The first snowballs are used in anger, Ralnor is displeased. Ralph refuses to get in bed before he’s covered in leather (and in the game).

18:30
Everyone gets back to mining. Neil mines some fish and ‘Tash mines some sheep. I dig down from the top of the mountain and dig through an oven. Creeper alert in the reed garden!! He explodes and we figure we ought to sort these gits out… We decide to make a cake but we need eggs and milk, but where might we find these? A plan is formed, worry chickens so they produce eggs and squeeze the cows to make milk, that’s how it works right? Tastey, fresh squeezed sky juice could be nice :o)
Ralph wants the cows for leather, but ‘Tash wants a bucket to attack the cows for milk. Matt goes to the loo but and **** suggests we could dig up the farm in his absence, it’s agreed that that would be foolish, as he may kill in revenge.

19:00
“All the cows and no buckets” is exclaimed as ‘Tash find the cows, she does manage to milk the cows and is rewarded with some white liquid. “Yes, that’s the milk” Ralnor reassures her “unless you found a bull”… Everyone decides to gather resources again, Neil and Ralnor decide to deep mine down, reaching into the depths with pick and bucket in search of lava. The idea of tiling the kitchen is raised, everyone turns into a Changing Rooms style home furnishings fiend.

19:30
Everything’s quitened down a bit, everyone’s just going round doing their own thing. Cake has been baked, and the bedrooms have been nicely carpeted (the jack o lanterns add a disturbing edge). Also the kitchen has been nicely tiled. Tash has gone “underwater pork hunting” and Neil has put a carpet on the roof of the entrance. Ralph is digging, who knows where, who knows why? Perhaps he’s trying to mine for cows again (he likes that leather a bit too much). Oh, and we have a secret entrance to our base, it is a little too secure to be secret and is Neil states it”disrupts my pumpkins”. Sounds uncomfortable… It’s turning into a very English base, carpets, books and lots of coal.

19:50
Neil wants to “dig higher” and Matt wants to bake some bricks, where will it all end? People have found my lovely sky observatory but Ralph wants to throw himself off. In any case, perhaps a nice glass floor would add to the effect. Also I think they may have worked out where the wood went, well it definately wasn’t that ladder to the sky, I’ll tell you that.
We now also have automatic doors (Woot!! just like Tesco!!), Matt has laid some purest red from pressure pads to the front door, so we don’t even have to open the doors ourselves any more :o) Disaster strikes immediately as Matt realises that the pressure of monsters will also open our front door, pigs begin to open and close the doors at random.

20:15
Nail and Ralnor start messing with infinite sources, I wished it was for BBQ but it was for water :o( They’ve decided to build out of the side of the base with glass, then to place infinte water on it to make a “water feature”. This water fall with viewing platform is perhaps the maddest thing thus far, but it is pretty sweet. This is living…

20:30
Me and Matt decide to find some desert, we’ll follow the rising Sun and see what we find… I get dropped from the server, my first crash but everyone else seems to be experiencing ore crashes than usual too. Matt digs a hole and see’s out the night “Saddam style” buried. He continues on at first light and find a lake in the mountains and a desert with cactuses in it on the mountain just next to it. The level designer (which amounts to a mathematical equation)  is doing a really cool job of making the world, but throws up these oddities sometimes, no-one’s complaining though :o)

21:00
Pizza arrives (in the real world) and we break for eats.

21:55
‘Zza is dead, tea has been drunk and the dog of the house has been teased into a drooling mess. Lets load up and get back in…

22:05
First building idea since Pizza, the two crazies have decided we need a pool. Where to build it though? Should they lower the floor or make it in a sensible place, nope, it’s gonna be made of glass and in the air. Apparently it will be like a scuba tank with reeds used as an airlock, lets see shall we… Neil immediately floods the kitchen.

22:25
Argh!!! My second crash, just as a zombie activates a pressure pad and enters the base!!

22:30
The scuba tank is complete, I immediately drown in it and respawn in a tree somewhere. Matt begins to cultivate the cactuses he found, to use to discourage any further monster intrusions. They hurt like razor-wire, let’s see how many people die on this defensive measure.

22:35
Matt has an ingenious idea, cactuses grow 3 blocks tall but can’t exist between two other blocks (so they can’t be built). He places the cactus “seeds” in some sand then puts two dirt blocks higher up, at the 3 level. Once the cactus grows to 3 tall the top will immediately pop off, as it can’t exist there, so self-farming. He extends this theory even further by growing the cactuses on an incline and putting a water flow around them, this means that, when the cactus blocks pop they land in the water and are swept to the bottom of the hill where an individual can pick them all up at once. It’s basically a cactus conveyor belt. Awesome invention, truly inspired :o)

23:00
The next project was “The Great Underwater Tunnel”, so basically the Euro-tunnel but made of glass. Trev brought all the sand in the world (to cook up into glass), Neil made the air pockets and then put Jack O Lanterns in the water (cause they work there) and the tunnel was born. It’s good, but something’s missing. Ralnor solves the problem by building a monolith to show the way into/out of the tunnel.

23:28
Neil crafts the first phallus of the night, it took a lot longer than normal (and yes, that is what she said too…).

23:45
Matt discovers a new enemy, the Slimes. They’re just like the Minecraft version of Slimer but they hurt a bit, after a little butchering they split into small and non-harmful versions of themselves. Matt smashes them and is surrounded by the annoying little buggers. Also, I pick up some Slimeballs. They seem quite useless but I’m sure we’ll find something to do with them. Just when you think you’ve seen it all Mincraft goes and surprises/delights you all over again…

00:00
And it’s about time for me, one more picture and I’m out. The guys start to play around with dispensers, they fire out whatever you put in, in response to a circuit. It doesn’t take long before they think of firing stuff out that will hurt things, just like the real world, eh?

00:15
So that’s me finished. It’s been a good day of digging and making, what more could a boy ask for? The three remaining guys are now looking at making buttons to fire things out of areas of the base at enemies and making music blocks (they do what you’d expect from the name). The world’s gonna be left up for us all to play online, so I’m gonna be checking in over the next few weeks to see what happens, the updates have certainly enhanced the game and, for the creative of mind, it’s so much fun to play. It really is the living-Lego for the grown-up geek. Any who, I’m out, here’s one last look at what we’ve created from the outside, it looks kinda weird but it was bags of laughs and there’s so much more under the surface too (kinda like the game I guess). Wonderful stuff…

New Vegas: Double Hardcore Mode

With the release of Fallout: New Vegas in The States, my excitement in anticipation of this RPGFPS is just about peaking. Whilst sitting around at work, day dreaming of what I might be able to do and what may lay in wait for me to discover, I’ve toyed with many things. Top most of my “to-do” list is that I MUST play the game in the new “Hardcore Mode”.

“Hardcore Mode” is something that was first introduced in PC Mods of the original Fallout 3 game and turns the more forgiving aspects of surviving the wastes into something more realistic and, in that case, much harder. Dehydration and malnutrition become as lethal as any Deathclaw or Super Mutant Behemoth you might stumble across. Add to this, weighted ammunition and a kaleidoscope of harsh effects the multitude of drugs can cause and the game becomes a survivalists dream (or nightmare, depending on their masochistic tendencies). Saving your last irradiated box of Insta-Mash for the long trek back across the desert will be a necessity and searching the toilet bowls of a petrol stations smallest room for whatever liquids may remain will become common practice.

Thanks to "tocsik" for these lovely real-life labels

“Ok,” say some of you, “but wont that make it more difficult and less fun as a result?”

“Perhaps,” I reply, “but I think that’s the point. The sense of achievement will be increased and the entire atmosphere of the game will be ratcheted up, off-setting any loss you might feel”

In that spirit then, I dreamed up and now introduce an idea for to increase my personal gaming toughness; “Double Hardcore”, which basically boils down to this single statement:

Playing Fallout: New Vegas in “Hardcore Mode”, but only having one life to play with. Once your character dies, that’s it, end of story, do not pass go, do not collect $200, and start from the beginning all over again.

Saving can be done as much as desired of course, so the player can stop whenever is needed, but the main aim is to start the game, sort the settings out and just play as one person for as long as is possible.

I got the dispatch notice for my copy yesterday, so I can hopefully kick my plan for “Double Hardcore Mode” into gear sometime on Friday. I’ll then update this here blog on how it went and, even more hopefully, give a running commentary on the happenings in the life of my persistent avatar at that time and perhaps in future too.

Undoubtedly it’s gonna be a scary-ass time in the New Vegas wasteland, but it’s certainly gonna be an adventure too.

Eugenics if you want to…?

Should a parent be allowed to choose the characteristics of a child? It seems like this question has been asked for an age and has divided opinion for just as long.

My initial reaction to this question is “No” and quite a forceful, unequivocal no at that, but when I begin to think about why not, the waters become significantly less clear.

So; what about embryonic selection, to avoid disability? I guess I can see the virtue in that, it increases quality of life and avoids having to compensate/adjust for any disability that a child might have.

What about genetic manipulation, to avoid disease? Well that seems ok, we do other things to cure disease and we all know that prevention is better than cure, so surely it follows that this should be fine.

Frame these questions differently and a different conclusion is drawn immediately; what if a couple have a child in mortal need of a transplant and the only way to guarantee this is by having a child and choosing a suitable embryo from a fertilised group? Ick, that’s a really tough call, especially as there’s a living being, a child no-less, involved. You’re also then looking at the “When does life begin?” question, is it immediately at an egg’s fertilisation?

What about embryonic selection to allow a family with 5 male children to choose to have a female? Hmmm, I think not. It’s getting too close to that blurry line now.

What about genetic manipulation, to give parents the ability to choose their child’s eye or hair colour? Why certainly not!! I said good day, sir!!

My reaction to these more frivolous uses of cutting-edge biotechnology is, first and foremost, caused by what I would consider a waste of resources. Why should we use what time and money we have on choosing the exterior facets of our offspring, when those same assets could be put to use preventing another’s disease. This seems to me an ironclad argument that can only be objected to by the most fervent capitalist, who I suppose would postulate “Those who can afford it can choose, those who can’t don’t deserve to”. I am certainly more leftist than such an imaginary advocate.

Some day, some day very soon, though we will have to answer these questions and the answer “Well it depends…” just isn’t going to cut it. We’re going to need a line thou shall not cross, not a blurry area that people debate and can manoeuvre within.

Snack Spectrometer #1: Kinder Joy

On my recent foray into Euro-Land I discovered many things, some new and exciting, some I’d rather forget. One item that fell into the “new and exciting” category was a mysterious treat known as the “Kinder Joy” and it inspired me to conceive of the Snack Spectrometer, the newest digest to grace this web-lication.

The Kinder Joy appears at first to be a European version of the beloved Kinder Surprise*. It is almost identical in size, shape and design as those eggs of inevitable disappointment, but, on closer inspection, the shell is an egg-shaped plastic housing with opening tabs at the bottom.

The exterior reads “Avec Surprise” and, on pulling the tabs, this proves to be the case in the extreme. Where one expects a chocolate egg to be, the Joy simply parts in two, one half covered with a silvery Kinder foil and the other having a film with “?” symbols over it. Attached to the Kinder foil is a small Kinder paddle too, very mysterious…

Opening the “?” section reveals the surprise (read; toy). These seem to be universally standard throughout the international Kinder range, so they’re generally alright but nothing special. Unfortunately, I got a horrible Shrek themed pen top replete with stickers of the rather tired CGI ogre.

The snack itself, however, was much more entertaining than the toy.

Opening the Kinder foil reveals more of a surprise that the “?” section. We are presented with what is best described as two mini Ferrero Rocher** in white chocolate mousse, the reason for the Kinder paddle becomes evident. Scooping a mini Rocher ball up with what turns out to be white and milk chocolate layered mousse proves to be a little difficult as the mousse is very stiff, however the reward is most gratifying. I’m not a fan of Rocher and these are identical in every way, but with the Kinder gunk they are much better. The gunk turns out to be very tasty, but like a half digested Kinder Egg. The texture is ok, but it’s a tad sickly and I think any more than this half egg portion and I’d feel a little ill.

The three stages of Joy (photos stolen from Tweets by Marcus J. Jordan***)

In conclusion I’d have to say I prefer the Kinder Surprise we have over here presently, as the chocolate is nicer than the mousse desert and the toys are the same. However, I’d certainly recommend trying one of these treats if you happen upon one, they are a strange but pleasant experience.

+4 in the full Rjandberg-Smythe Scale (+12 to -12)

+Interesting packaging
+You get a toy
+Nice gunk

-A little sickly
-Inferior to the Surprise

* On further investigation I discovered that the Joy is the summer version of Surprise in mainland Europe, as the Surprise’s egg suffers in the warmer temperatures “over there”.

** Ferrero make both Rocher and the Kinder range. So, most likely, they are precisely mini Rocher.

***Currently starring on the When It Rains blog.