Saturday, March 29, 2014

Minecraft The Movie.... Pitch

Someone is working on an actual Minecraft film adaptation, and ProperSteeze shows us the plots that didn't quite make the cut.

ProperSteeze has a variety of other great Minecraft machinimas to check out as well.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Origin - Free Games "On The House"

I'm going to openly admit that I'm not much of a fan of EA Games for a number of reasons, but I'm also a sucker for free stuff.

EA recently announced their "On The House" promotion, where they will periodically offer full versions of games, free of charge and no strings attached through Origin.

The first game up for free is Dead Space, initially released in 2008. Yes, it's an older game but what do you expect? This at least gives people a chance to play something they may have passed up before at no cost.

If you're not interested in Dead Space, keep an eye out because other games will crop up from time to time. Note that each game is available free for a limited (and unannounced) time, but it's yours to keep if you take advantage of the promotion.

Obviously, the "On The House" program aims to bolster use of Origin in the hopes of getting players to purchase other titles. It works pretty well for Steam and others, so why shouldn't EA give it a try?

This means more competition for how games are distributed online, and competition means more options and deals for consumers. Viva la free games!

Full Huntard Update

I want to thank GaaraBestShaman once again for his "KFC RUSH" hunter stream, because I just hit Rank 5 with my "Full Huntard" deck!

There's been several clutch topdecks for matches I really shouldn't have won, but that's the nature of card games.

The debate persists as to how things will end up for the hunter, because there's a good deal of whining about how broken they currently are. After going up six ranks for only a couple hours of play, I'd have to agree they are incredibly powerful. If hunters aren't broken, they're about as close as you can get.

That said, it still does take a bit of skill to excel at ranked play - you simply cannot go face all the time or you will lose. You cannot put your brain on autopilot and play this deck (or any other) to success. If you want to win at a game and not have to think at all, Hearthstone is not the game for you.

I'm not sure if I'll get higher than Rank 5 this season since it's almost over, but it's been an interesting journey. If things don't change, I'll stick with this deck to see how far I can go next season. Otherwise, I have another deck I've been testing that's just as annoying and nearly as effective using a different class and cards. We'll see how things play out in the next week or so.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Going Full Huntard

(aka If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.)

I've been stuck around Rank 11 the last few days with my Meta Shammy deck, primarily due to the increase in aggressive, low-cost hunters. I've even swapped in Far Seers for health and Feral Spirits for taunt, but it  felt like a lost cause. I figured the best way to see what I was doing wrong was to see what my opponents were doing right, and began investigating.

I found a streamer named GaaraBestShaman that ranked from 25 to legendary with hunter playing a deck he called "KFC RUSH". The highest cost card in the deck is Leeroy Jenkins, and the mana curve is more of a spike. Take a look for yourself - after a a couple of slight modifications I've named this "Full Huntard".

With a deck like this, you might assume you always go for face and ignore the opponent's minions... but that's not always the case.

When you can trade up without it being 2-for-1 you probably want to, especially if it's for something like a Knife Juggler. You'll find yourself trading against warlock zoo sometimes, and that's alright if you have another Unleash waiting in your deck.

While Buzzard/Unleash is there, you're typically not trying to max out the number of hounds created and deck yourself (unless of course it means lethal to the opponent). More often you'll Unleash for 3-4, hopefully with a Timber Wolf to allow for trading up.

Hunter's Mark is primarily used to kill big taunts, but may sometimes be needed against other threats you can't deal with easily (Fire Elemental, Ogre, Ragnaros, etc.). Arcane Shot is mostly used to remove pesky minions (Knife Juggler, Flame Imp, Arcane Golem), but can be the damage needed to finish your opponent.

Argent Squire, Leper Gnome, and Loot Hoarder are cheap, efficient minions to do damage in the early game. You can safely play these right away against anyone but rogues, druids, and mages (though Argent Squire is still an ok early drop even then). Stonetusk Boar is a deceptively good card in this deck due to beast synergy and charge.

Two each of Explosive and Freezing Traps serve as board clear, stalling, and giving your Eaglehorn Bow extra charges. Freezing Trap is great if the opponent has one minion on board and doesn't run charge - you can safely play minions without fear of attack (unless they use spells or weapons).

Kill Command, Eaglehorn Bow, and Arcane Golem have a wide variety of uses. While going for face with them all the time is the dream, it's likely you'll need to use them sometimes against 3+ health taunts. Leeroy is hopefully a finisher alongside Unleash the Hounds, and should be saved for the victory if possible.

As for weaknesses, this deck has a tough matchup against heavily-armored warriors and heal-spam priests. You almost need to save Kill Commands for face damage just to mitigate the health/armor gain, but these decks also run large minions that you'll have to deal with.

Defender of Argus can sometimes make your Explosive Trap useless, and Feral Spirit can slow you down when played at the right time. Against other hunters, it's most likely a race to see who gets their Eaglehorn Bow first.

Gaara says this deck isn't easy to play, and that's true if you happen to be a complete moron that can't hit big purple buttons at the right time. Otherwise, only a minor amount of skill is required - pretty much what you'd expect from any decent deck. I've gained three ranks since going Full Huntard, and I admit it's not that hard to do.

That said, I'm relatively sure hunter nerfs are coming soon - whether it's to Unleash the Hounds (again), Explosive Trap, or something else I'm not certain. Something about it sure feels broken, though it does allow players with a modest budget to compete against decks running way more legendaries, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Monday, March 24, 2014

WAR Stories - Lands Most Odd

Welcome to what I believe will be my final tale from adventuring in Warhammer Online. This one is actually less of a story and more of a "look at what I found" kind of post, so enjoy the show!

Stinkvat, the Explorer

After the first server merge, Stinkpot the goblin shaman needed renamed. I think the game recognized the word 'pot' and thought I was making a drug reference in my name, so I had to alter it. Once I got things straightened out, I set off exploring, questing, and grinding achievements.

Eventually I got bored and started wondering if the game had any hidden areas... and if I could find them. I used to explore all types of hard-to-reach places in WoW via careful jumping and those wonderful Noggenfogger potions and figured it was worth trying in WAR as well. It turned out there were many spots to go exploring, and even a few surprises to be found!

I'd like to explain the wheres and hows of getting to these spots, but I did this a number of years ago and have since long forgotten all that. On to the pics!

I found these guys not long after hopping up some foothills and exploring the highland a bit. I've never actually seen test NPCs hidden in a live MMO before, so I thought this was an exciting find!

Unfortunately, they didn't do much but walk around in a little group. My guess is someone was testing how a patrol of several members would work and forgot to remove them.

Moving on, I made my way to a canyon of some kind. I peered over the edge to discover some missing terrain, which is common when exploring these areas.

What was not common was the castle hidden underneath! From this angle I could see a large hallway, but it seemed there was much more to it.

Following the edge, I ended up at a zone line and could see even more of this hidden fortress. By the design it appeared to be a High Elf structure, and I was worried it could contain guards that would be none too pleased at the sight of a goblin wandering around. I kept my distance a good while and sought out a way to view the place from a different angle.

Working my way around the building, I found some water to swim in that allowed me to see from underneath the terrain.

I swam around the castle, snapping these images as I went.

Unfortunately, there seemed to be no safe route back out of the water I had gotten into. This is also common - you're in a place you're not intended to be and often there is no way back. Curiosity got the better of me, and I had to get closer...this was the end result.

 As you can see, there clearly were NPCs in the castle. I think I died from falling out of the world, I don't really remember. In any case it was a fun little journey and I got to see things not meant to be seen.

Puzzle Cube - Episode 8 Final Ending

Our brains fry out at some point in the Nether's puzzle cube, and we decide to end the game with a bang!

I really must give credit to the map team because this was a well-designed set of challenges. We dared to try the bonus cube, but we couldn't beat it. Well done!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Puzzle Cube - Episode 7

It's deja vu all over again! We enter a twisted version of the original Puzzle Cube where everything is similar... but far more difficult. Behold sparkly deluxe pizza, invisible pressure plates, and vandalism!

Friday, March 14, 2014

WAR Stories - The Cave Chicken

I'm here once again to share some pictures and memories of my experiences in the now defunct Warhammer Online. I do not seem to have screenshots relating directly to the story at hand this time, which is unfortunate because it is quite an interesting tale! Just so we're clear, the pics will mostly not match the story (but should still be fun to look at).

Stinkpot The Cave Chicken

Stinkpot was an eccentric goblin shaman that enjoyed traveling far and wide, wreaking havoc and causing as much trouble as possible. In fact, a common pastime for Stinkpot was sniping away at the Order from hard to reach locations in Howling Gorge.

This time, however, Stinkpot was on an exploration mission and had forgotten to scout an essential location before leaving to the next tier.

This would normally be a mere hassle where one would turn around and go back through the entrance, waiting on the previous tier area to reload, but Stinkpot had just gained enough experience to be "overqualified" for the old tier. One had to be careful when returning to a lower-level area in WAR, as entering their RvR zones labeled you as a troublemaker/griefer, attempting to harass newer players.

Destruction HQ
You were branded as a chicken and literally turned into one when entering these spots. While a chicken, you cannot use any items, attacks or abilities, your stats are lowered to abysmal levels, and all you can do is run away. To remove this effect, you had to leave the area and wait a short time, or die (and not return to that area).

On this rare occasion, Stinkpot wasn't concerned with combat - just reaching his destination and getting out as fast as possible. It just so happened that the location in question could only be reached by entering an RvR zone. Stinkpot cautiously stopped at the border, carefully studying his map to find the quickest route to the location.

Ready to attempt this mad dash, Stinkpot raced across the land into contested territory. Shortly after, a puff of smoke appeared around him and quickly dissipated, revealing his now incredibly vulnerable form. Stinkpot could see members of the Order nearby heading in his direction, and he thought he heard someone shout "Get that chicken!". It was time to run.

I think this is a Chaos Spawn...
Stinkpot rushed towards the scouting area, his newly-acquired and useless wings flapping as he went. The goblin quickly scrawled the point on his map (likely with his beak) and fled towards the nearby river with the enemy in pursuit.

Scanning the area, Stinkpot spotted a small cave opening partially submerged by the river. It looked like the only place to hide, and was certainly better than treading water out in the open. He drifted across the river and into the hole.

Inside was a short tunnel with little breathing room, and at the end was a small raised area to get out of the water. Thankfully, there was nothing else in the cave, meaning Stinkpot wouldn't fall victim to some random animal or monster attack. Listening carefully, Stinkpot could hear the Order looking for him nearby. They seemingly missed the cave entrance and left a few moments later.

I still don't know what the heck
that thing was supposed to be.
Assured that he was no longer in immediate danger, Stinkpot slipped into the water towards the tunnel. About two-thirds of the way from the entrance, something was amiss. Perhaps the water had risen (or perhaps he found a technical bug), but Stinkpot could no longer exit the cave. The water was too shallow to drown in, but deep enough to hinder progress.

The polymorphed goblin swam to the back of the cave to think of a way out. Stinkpot's eyes lit up as he thought, "Ah ha! My teleportation scroll will get me out!"

He reached for his pockets, but quickly came to the realization that he was a chicken now and couldn't activate the magic of the scroll. Disappointed, he sulked in the back of the cave with no hopes of escape.

After what felt like ages, Stinkpot heard a trumpet in the distance. It was a war call, and anyone who answered it could be magically whisked away to the field of battle - a way out! Stinkpot cried out, answering the call to arms, and all went black. When his vision returned, Stinkpot was back to his old self amongst his Destruction teammates, ready to assault a keep.

(For those of you that need a more literal description, I was stuck in the cave as a chicken with no means of escape because I couldn't use any abilities or items. Luckily, the Call To Arms feature was recently added then, allowing me to click on it and teleport to the battle. Otherwise, I would've had to wait for another player to find and kill me, or find an admin for assistance.)

Puzzle Cube - Episode 6

After obtaining the white trophy and filling the bottom of the cube with puzzle items, a portal appears! What could be on the other side?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

WAR Stories - The Creeping Corpse

I mentioned a while back that I would tell some of my most memorable stories from playing Warhammer Online, and I was a bit hesitant to do that as I thought I lost all my screenshots. Stories are nice, but some visuals really help break up the wall of text.

While doing some computer maintenance the other day, I happened upon a number of WAR pics from previous adventures. Now seems like a good time to tell those tales and share those images.

Halic, The Creeping Corpse

Meet Halic, my witch hunter. Halic enjoyed seeking out adventure everywhere and anywhere.
 He visited the leaders of all the Order cities, who usually sent him on missions far away... most likely in hopes that he would never return.

Like a bad penny though, Halic would come back, and eventually the leaders started ignoring him entirely.

Halic took to finding more unconventional means of adventure, scouring the city for anyone in need of help.

Adventure, anyone? ...Anyone?
I don't think I'll be accepting quests
(or anything else) from this guy.

Eventually Halic found action on the fields of battle, hunting down heretics and the servants of Chaos. One such day, he found himself at the ominous Highpass Cemetery.

Actual image missing.
Here's an alternative death screen.
Order and Destruction were vying for control of this location, and after dispatching numerous foes, Halic was struck down.

(Note that death comes frequently in RvR, and while it makes little sense from a lore standpoint, characters respawn after a moment to rejoin the action. Not that I'm a fan of permadeath in most games anyway.)

Upon resurrection, Halic wasn't quite himself. Though quite alive, his body continued lying about like a corpse. When he raced across the battlefield, he slid along the ground on his back. Oddly enough, he could even fight quite well while appearing to remain motionless.

Using this knowledge, Halic crept across the graves of the eerie cemetery, playing dead until opportunity presented itself with a lone straggler. Slinking up from behind, the last thing Halic's prey would see was what appeared to be a corpse writhing on the ground, thus foreshadowing their own fate...

Puzzle Cube - Episode 5

Watch as we fumble with a color-changing tile puzzle and teleporting walls!

J Boley's view:

Wellxam's view:

Monday, March 10, 2014

Puzzle Cube - Episode 4

Into the third layer of the cube, we find a well-designed puzzle involving sand. This was probably my favorite puzzle of all, and really shows off the skills of the map team.

Wellxam's view:

J Boley's view:

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Puzzle Cube - Episode 3

In the second layer, we find a clever puzzle involving baby zombies and pressure plates.

J Boley's view (ignore the thumbnail, it's really Ep. 3):

Wellxam's view:

Friday, March 7, 2014

Sometimes Less Is More

Image courtesy of The Order Expert
I've been toying with the idea of starting a Minecraft Let's Play series on YouTube with a very specific and interesting theme (which will remain a secret for now). It could be done in pure vanilla as of 1.6, but I do love me some mods, and truth be told I've grown quite accustomed to minimaps and other niceties.

Design and presentation are rather significant for this concept, and frankly I could use a bit more variety than what vanilla offers (though the stained clays, colored glass, and new stone variants are heading in the right direction). I went in search of mods that provide more options and add some neat gameplay features as well.

I finally settled on about 20 total mods (that includes Forge, NEI, "core" mods, etc.), thinking I came up with a pretty tight list. That's roughly half the number of mods I normally run, so I felt confident that I had put my minimalist goggles on correctly and began setting up my Forge profile and mods.

However, nearly half a day was spent haggling with ore generation where several mods overlapped. Taking a good long look, I finally decided to cut out all but the most necessary and continued on.

I loaded up Minecraft and started a creative test world only to find single-digit framerates. I then spent the evening optimizing my computer and fiddling with video settings, hoping for improvement. When my options were finally exhausted, I returned to the modlist and reluctantly nixed another world generation mod.

Worried that my building options were getting sparse, I remembered another aesthetic mod that might do the job and added it to the list. While talking with a friend about my modlist and FPS issues, he recalled there being a feature in my newly-added mod that sounded a lot like something in another mod I'm already going to use.

After some searching, it turned out he was right. Using both mods would've only complicated things without really adding much more variety. I've not used this other mod before but have been intrigued by a few of its features. Little did I know it also included a huge variety of block types and designs!

Loading up this slimmer variant I noticed a respectable increase in framerate. I began testing out some of the blocks and features of the mod, and began seeing glaring graphical glitches. This just wouldn't do for recording purposes, so I went to find a fix.

It turns out the mod has compatibility issues with Optifine (sometimes minor glitches, sometimes severe crashes depending on the versions of both mods), and there's really no workaround short of removing one or the other. Being that I have a very old computer, losing Optifine sounded like a deal breaker. I was already having FPS problems, and feared I'd have to shelve or alter my idea entirely. The mod's forum page was full of posts saying that Forge has included a lot of tweaks in recent versions and Optifine shouldn't be necessary.

Skeptically, I removed Optifine and its config and loaded the world. I tweaked the vanilla video settings a little and voila, I was running smooth as silk! After I picked my jaw off the floor, I struck Optifine off my modlist.

There's several morals to this story, kids.

First, be sure to research the content provided by mods you're not familiar with - and I mean really look into it. Google them and cross-reference wikis if you have to. The hour it takes to do that is way less than the time you'll eventually spend trying to figure out complicated setups, what goes with what, and generally tearing your hair out.

Second, don't assume something is or is not a certain way and will remain that way forever. I thought Optifine was so important to running my game smoothly that it would be the last thing I removed. I was wrong to the point of it actually making things worse for my specific setup.

Finally, remember that sometimes less really is more... or maybe that less is enough, and more is just too much. You get the idea, more or less.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Puzzle Cube - Episode 2

We need to find green carpets, then we venture down the rabbit hole!
Wellxam's view:

J Boley's view:

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Puzzle Cube - Episode 1

J Boley, Wellxam, and I are on another adventure - to explore the secrets of the Puzzle Cube! This episode we finish three of the four outer layer puzzles and discover a mystery.

Double Feature! J Boley's view is above, while Wellxam's perspective is below.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Behind The Cheese - Episode 1

Wellxam has bonus clips, outtakes, trolling, and other material recorded during The Great Cheese Hunt that he has compiled into a miniseries for your enjoyment. Here's the first episode!

Saturday, March 1, 2014