Archive for the ‘Minecraft’ Tag

Minecraft’s released, and here are five games you might want to look at first.   Leave a comment

I’ve had a bit of a disappearance due to work and, well, gaming. However, in recent news was the long announced (and inevitably delayed) release of Minecraft which brought a lot of things that irritate me to the forefront.

Its user score hit amber on Metacritic a short while ago. I don’t think it’s a mediocre game, far from it, but I can understand the reaction of many of the gamers who are reacting against the squealing Notch fanboys and the strong bias of professional critics who rally behind the idea that the game is the best thing since sliced bread. I thought the older user score of 7.5 was a little more realistic, but it’s continued to drop.

Here I wanted to put forward five games out around about the same time that, I would argue, are a better investment than Minecraft. Of course, it’s all mostly subjective (assuming you’re not a dyed-in-the-wool games are art type) and there aren’t many games that do what Minecraft do the same way or as well as it, but none the less:

#1) The Binding of Isaac

The Binding of Isaac has a classic, rogue-like element mixed up with older console adventure games. You won’t get anywhere near the amount of play hours out of it as Minecraft, but it’s a great example of indie weirdness. It has a vague allusion of Judaic mythology as the player controls Isaac who must escape the basement from which his warped mother wishes to sacrifice him, encountering monsters and deformed siblings on his way to freedom.

#2) Saints Row: The Third

In many ways, Saints Row picked up where GTA 2 left off. By the time GTA 4 was hitting shelves, the series had gone a tad insane in many ways. The first two games were anarchic and did not take themselves seriously in the least. GTA 3 started a trend of trying to add a gritty side to the games and by the time GTA 4 was on screens everywhere, it was hard to see coherence between the bleak existence of the central protagonist and the zany slapstick carried over from the earlier games. Saints Row became, in many ways, the true inheritor of the pure slapstick of the first two GTA games.

#3) Orcs Must Die!

An interesting new take on the old tower defence model. Your basic job is defend a series of towers from hordes of orcs and their cohorts. The production values are good for an indie and the game has good humour running throughout that does not feel forced. As with games like Sanctum, the game boasts a large amount of DLC and the ability to get involved with the suppression of invading forces as opposed to merely leaving it up to the defences you build.

#4) The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Most people will know why this game is considered great already, but I’ll re-iterate here. State of the art graphics and sound with more varied terrain than Oblivion, randomised dungeons and countless quests, a more skill-focused character design with perks each level. Based off a new internally-designed engine and a new character generation system, the game opens up a lot more possibility for customisation than removed with its radically changed character design. The game world feels more real, more dynamic than Oblivion and the continued improvements in these areas point to even better in the future.

#5) Bastion

I have to admit, I was rather late on the bandwagon for this one. There’s very little to say against this game though, a paragon of action adventures, it combines elements of gritty fantasy with frontiersman Wild West and post-apocalyptic searching. The aim of the game is to rebuild the city that has fallen under a terrible blight (known as the Calamity) and cracked into several floating islands by finding and reclaiming the cores, bringing them to the sanctity of the bastion where the townsfolk were meant to gather. The game features gameplay and stylistic choices influenced by JRPGs, of which I’m not normally a fan, but its execution is slick and well-crafted.

I’m not saying Minecraft is a bad game. I just feel there’s a lot of hype around it and that the rating of 7.5 I first saw was a lot more realistic to the end product than the near uniform bleating of the praising critics. After his bad air with Bethesda and the nastiness with Yogscast at MineCon, maybe the mediocre user reception will make Notch a little more humble, because he needs to be brought down a peg or two.


RIFT, Mario and Minecraft: a strange combination.   Leave a comment

So recently I’ve between making an effort to actually mop up some of those games I’ve not yet completed and I decided to try getting through the entire collection of Super Mario Bros. All-Stars on the SNES. I did a bit of a push on Overlord too as that kind of fell out too, though I did enjoy the game.

But I’ve kind of broken a taboo I once held because I saw Rift (they capitalise the entire word, though I’m not sure why) on special offer in a Steam daily deal and snatched it up (a month’s free subs, it would definitely be worth the £6 I dropped to get that, I could always cancel my sub before month’s end) and I concluded that it’s actually worth keeping that sub there for a few months longer as I’ll be getting 4 months for less than the full price of the game anyway. After that, I’ll see where I go.

The thing that really pulled me in was the fact that the world seems very open and large for an MMO that has been around around 8 months. I bought it in the sale celebrating the 1.5 update and sizeable updates are being added every two or three months with more minor updates in-between. The options seem more varied than the standard MMO fair with my level 19 character already far ahead of the mainstream quests that are the staple levelling up mechanic in most MMOs I’ve seen so far. This is because of a lot of random elements such as random group dungeon crawls and rift invasions allow a lot of traditionally end game content a chance to shine through to newer players. I doubt I’ll end up playing for the game until the day I die, but I could see myself keeping up a sub for a long while to come.

My housemate and I also paid some cash to get our Minecraft server running ready for the 1.8 update and lo and behold, 1.9 is already on the horizon. I actually quite like these new updates as they appear to be adding new stuff at a good solid rate. My big problem with 1.8 was the Endermen. They are not really scary or all that threatening and have ended up a minor annoyance at best, damaging my woodlands fortress with the occasional missing block or leaving a tree floating in midair.

The Endermen need to be improved a lot. First their AI doesn’t often work properly and this leaves them ignoring me as I stare at them and they move and place blocks in a random fashion. If there were ancient Endermen ruins that they sought to rebuild of Endermen settlements and their placement had more rhythm and reason, that would be excellent. They just feel an arbitrary new addition to the game.

But having criticised Minecraft for its slow updates, I don’t want to be too harsh now that Notch actually seems to be getting on with it. It just should have happened earlier and the updates could be a lot better. Still, we’ll all see next month when Minecraft leaves beta what sort of state it is in and what the future holds. Until then, things are looking a lot more improved.

The new villagers in 1.9 are the real big change as I see it. What they really need is a host of interactions and more ordered AI that makes them feel like real people and not just a couple of re-skinned pigs. Given how easy it is to create something like the 1.9 villagers, I wonder why Notch didn’t add them in before. Now all he needs is a slight modification to their AI and a buy/sell interface with currency and the basics are down, I don’t see why it is so hard.

Humble Bundle #3   Leave a comment

Ever since the first Humble Bundle came out, I’ve been a big fan. First of all, I’m always pleased to see increased availability of games on Linux (hopefully so I can abandon Windows entirely at some future date) as well as the high revenues from Linux relative to the desktop share. Secondly, it’s always good to see this market model working and generating income for charity to boot. The third Humble Bundle has raised over $13 million USD and has a few days left with the added incentive of the second Humble Bundle pack thrown in as a bonus if you donate more than the average (which is a slim $5.20 at time of writing). As I already had the first five games of the Bundle, I donated and gave the bundle to my girlfriend. This is technically the fourth Bundle done as there was also a special Frozenbyte bundle that came with several of their games (Trine included).

The first original games are Crayon Physics Deluxe, Cogs, VVVVVV, Hammerfight and And Yet it Moves. All of these are solid reasons to get the pack, but Steel Storm was added as a sixth later.

More than that, donate higher than the average and you get spare copies of the second bundle (Braid, Cortex Command, Machinarium, Osmos and Revenge of the Titans) to boot. The cost of all eleven of these games would be a lot higher than ten times the average at time of writing and some of it goes to charity too.

What’s more, you can customise the share of the donation between developers, Wolfire (who pay hosting and promotions) and the two charities (Child’s Play and the EFF). You gain access to DRM-free copies for Windows, MacOS X and Linux as well as keys to redeem them on Steam or Desura.

There is simply no reason not to indulge in this great deal. Get the Humble Bundle #3 today here.

Finally, an update   Leave a comment

It’s been busy again and I really can’t maintain earlier levels of activity, but the blog isn’t going away. I’ve been playing a bit of Terraria recently and it seems that it’s kept up a few of the promises in version 1.0.4 with a new boss fight, extra equipment and enemies and a new type of equipment in the form of social attire (along with the accompanying NPC). It’s got further expansions on the horizons, but the new content is working just fine and it does one thing especially well in that it adds extra tasks for player characters who have maxed out everything, been everywhere and have everything.

It’s only minor stuff so far, but when you have the ability to suddenly descend back into the underground jungle in order to gather seeds for an above ground jungle that produces extra goodies, it effectively adds a new quest, something new to achieve. This is something that Minecraft lacked with major updates. Version 1.0.5 is apparently already looking at end-game content specifically and really, that’s something that will make Terraria shine brighter.

But there is something that I detested about Minecraft that has happened in Terraria, something awful. The latest version of Terraria suddenly had buggy code when it came to host and play multiplayer that meant changes to the game world weren’t properly saved. This was not a problem when using the separate server software, but not everyone uses that anyway and I had to learn the hard way that server problems occured using the base game’s host and play feature.

This is something that pales in comparison to Minecraft. Minecraft released beta version 1.6 recently, only to add so many bugs that instructions and Youtube videos popped up on how to revert back to version 1.5 (even after the bugfix 1.6.5). This is a point in a long history of buggy updates for Minecraft and I think that in the long-term, Terraria mustn’t get into the habit of adding bugfixes only in updates that also have extra content (as they will do with version 1.0.5) or they will inevitably get into a cycle of “bugs in, bugs out” that mixed content updates and bugfixing patches bring. Beyond that problem, however, the game is still more played at my house than Minecraft is despite having two formerly keen Minecrafters.

Posted 15/06/2011 by expandingfrontier in Opinion piece

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Terraria (PC review)   Leave a comment

Developed by: Re-Logic
Published by: Re-Logic
Out now
Reviewed on: 20th May, 2011.

Presentation: Simple 2D sprites very much in the style of early SNES games. The music is more advanced, but still points back to the days of the late 16-bit console war era.

Atmosphere: Very similar to Minecraft in this regard, but with more of an emphasis on dungeon crawling and exploration than on building or crafting. It’s another indie game with a distinct retro feel to it to boot.

Control and Mechanics: Mouse for interaction, keyboard for movement. It’s made more complicated by the fact that, as with Minecraft, you can’t actually bind a mouse button to jump (which I always do in FPS games) as those are reserved for interaction-based functions. I was also disappointed by the lack of mass crafting options (have to repeatedly click to make hundreds of bottles from glass rather than ctrl-click to make ten or something).

UPDATE: Mass crafting has been added in version 1.0.2: simply by holding the right mouse button on the object you wish to craft, it will craft rapidly until you run out of resources.

Who should buy this: Anyone who loved a lot of the building and exploring ethos of Minecraft while lamenting the glacial progress and thin on the ground updates. Anyone who wants more variety and regular updates than Minecraft offered. Those who preferred the exploration and dungeoneering over the building aspects of Minecraft.

Who should avoid it: Those who dislike sandbox-style games. Those who dislike the 2D nature of the game. Those who preferred the ability to create impressive structures in Minecraft over the exploration and dungeoneering.

If I have to give a score: It’s lacking a few things Minecraft has, but it does deliver on many of the things MC should have had ages ago and it promises continual free updates and has a strong spirit of sandbox adventure, building and crafting. I recommend it before Minecraft. 3/4


I really need to start with, despite all the assurances otherwise, I cannot but believe this game is following in Minecraft’s footsteps. I really wish Re-Logic would admit that; not because I believe their game represents any sort of theft, but because I already see in this basic first release of Terraria much more love, attention and a better grasp of game design than I’ve seen from Mojang. A friend of mine once said that Notch wasn’t a real game designer, that he stumbled on a good idea that worked, but didn’t really have the ethic or creativity to make a truly great sandbox game. I don’t really want to start any fires, but I believe he’s right and I also think that Re-Logic do have a much stronger grasp of their game and what they intend to do with it. With that said, this review will effectively take the form of a comparison of these two games.

I will put it bluntly, I would recommend this before I recommend Minecraft to someone.  Not because I think Minecraft is a bad game, I love the game, it’s just I burnt out on it very quickly. I bought it during the alpha phase and it was cheap, lots of fun and had the promise of free content updates. Nothing much got added but then the beta rolled around and…

… Nothing much got added. Not only that, but I got this sense that Notch got a bit greedy. For people buying during the beta, there was no longer the promise that all future content would be free. Not that they were missing out on much, because now the full game appears to rolling up in a few months and very little has changed from that game I played in mid-2010.

My rant about Minecraft could fill an article itself, but I’m not here to talk about that, I’m here to talk about Terraria. It’s just hard to talk about it without drawing the inevitable comparisons that are there to make. What essentially makes Terraria a better game at this point is the fact that I believe Re-Logic on the point of free content updates.

But why is it such an important thing to get content updates? Well, it helps keep the game feeling fresh and alive. Sure, I can build my own town in Minecraft, but where are the people to populate it? Terraria has an NPC system in place already and that can easily be expanded to add more people later. I started building a vast underground fortress in Minecraft but gave up when I released I couldn’t give any real function to all but a few of the hundreds of rooms I had planned. Sure, Minecraft has dungeon crawling within it, but where are the boss monsters or the secrets? Terraria’s 2D nature does make building more limited and if Notch really knuckled down then Minecraft could really become a great game beyond what Terraria could achieve, but he won’t and it won’t. Terraria could fall into this pattern too, and if so I would recant a lot of this, but Minecraft has already fallen foul of that.

Either way, the game starts you out at the dawn of day one on a generated world with a guide NPC to give you the basics, some basic tools (no tool degradation or chopping trees with you bare hands) and leaves you to it. You need to chop wood and/or mine you get the resources together for a shelter and weapons and quickly because, while the day produces the passive but still dangerous slimes, the night has zombies and demons that actively hunt you. Already, the Minecraft influence is clear, but as your power and village expands, you attract people who perform a variety of roles in your growing community. There are a few already and the game’s currency remains limited in usefulness but that is set to expand as more updates are released.

Terraria places a greater emphasis on dungeon raids and there are several styles of dungeons, each with their own tricks and traps. There are things like the deep hell areas that have special items and a wide range of interesting monsters to discover or the spreading corruption that produces abstract, demonic entities with names like the Eater of Worlds. Compare this, if you will, to Minecraft’s relatively empty and useless Nether that is always promised expanded usefulness but never gets more than minor alterations.

What Minecraft definitely has that Terraria cannot do is intrinsic to the medium of the game. Building monuments and great buildings in Minecraft is so much better because you have the extra dimension with which to work. I found a tower was all I really needed in Terraria because zombies never jumped up to the next floor to get me or my citizens when they broke the doors down (a rare event caused by the presence of a blood moon) and a set of houses alongside each other didn’t really work as well in the 2D format or even look as nice as my central tower.

That’s certainly why Terraria simply has less potential than Minecraft, it could never achieve what Minecraft could have done in the right hands, but it has so much more variety in terms of dungeon crawling and crafting. It even has a magic system which is something completely absent from Minecraft. It does generate smaller worlds but allows you to transfer characters from world to world in order to increase the variety. If you loved Minecraft for the exploration and discovery, you’ll find this game excels at those.

Overall, I would recommend this game to most people interested in the genre before Minecraft because of this increased variety in these areas. If someone wanted building and creating impressive structures, Minecraft does beat Terraria, but doesn’t compete with what some other games have to offer. Besides that, the updates on Terraria may surprise me with what the game is actually capable of achieving, but I would be happy with just increased content.

Terraria is out now and available via Steam for £5.99

This week in gaming   Leave a comment

I’m abandoning main news in order to push for more separate news articles, leaving more room for quick-cap news here.

* Opposable Thumbs talked about the story and aftermath of the controversial Potato Sack promotion for Portal 2.

* One of the iconic Abe games (Oddysee or Exoddus) is getting a new HD remake sometime in the future, it has been confirmed. We can hope this’ll find its way to the PC.

* THQ’s Red Faction: Armageddon has been delayed by a week, no explanation has been given but last minute bug fixing is suspected.

* After disaster after disaster, F.E.A.R. 3 has been pushed back again from its already amended release date to later in June.

* EA’s latest Need for Speed entry, The Run, has been detailed and dated for a November release.

* Players will be able to download the Brink server software via Steam before the game’s release. Bethesda have also offered an FAQ about the configuration of the server.

* With their recent woes, JoWood have received a helping hand from who are selling JoWood titles with up to 75% off this weekend. With a little luck, this’ll help keep the wolf from JoWood’s doors.

* John Romero has started work on a new Facebook game. The game, Cloudforest Expedition, will be the second game that Romero makes on Facebook and is expected this Summer.

* Lord of the Rings Online creators Turbine are merging their US and EU LOTRO servers, relieving Codemasters Online of their duties maintaining the EU servers on the 1st June.

* After a bumpy ride with Alpha Protocol, but success with Fallout: New Vegas and preparations to ship the new Dungeon Siege game, Obsidian Entertainment have apparently gone through a round of layoffs.

* Mojang have released details about the modding plans to be implemented in Minecraft Beta 1.6.

* Bethesda have released details of the changes from Oblivion to Skyrim. Looking at some of the changes (especially to attributes), I don’t think this’ll be the breaker in my downward preference for Elder Scrolls games (from Daggerfall onwards, anyway).

That’s all for this week. See you after the weekend.

This week in gaming   Leave a comment

Quick-cap news

* Epic Games will host a two day set of tutorials on the Unreal Development Kit at the East Coast Game Conference.

* Dungeon Siege III has been delayed, now releasing in late June.

* Hi-Rez has switched Global Agenda to a F2P model with those of us already having paid getting “elite agent” status.

* Funcom’s Call of Cthulhu-esque MMO The Secret World, announced four years ago, is officially on the back burner.

* Myst Online is now released as open source, fulfilling promises made as far back as 2008.

* The Call of Duty versus Battlefield 3 marketing war is estimated to end up costing US$200m. This truly is the war to end all wars.

* GameStop are opening a Facebook store. The new system allows sales and pre-orders done via the Facebook interface.

* It’s been reported that Apple has rejected PopCap’s experimental label, Unpleasant Horse, from the App Store on grounds of “maturity” issues.

* Multiplayer has, sadly, been ruled out of Mass Effect 3, but the details are looking good.

* Wrestling star The Rock wants to star in a Black Ops film adaptation. Given his last foray into game-based films, I hold little hope for great artistry.

Main news

Minecraft is leaving beta this year, with plans to release the final version on 11th November. This coincides with the release of Skyrim by Bethesda. Many may be disappointed by the fact that the final release won’t look much different from the beta (which itself is not a whole deal different from the alpha), but assurances are that development will continue. Other reports are that beta 1.5 will add weather effects.

Busy week this week, see you after the weekend.