Archive for May, 2013


Cloud Cuckoo Land 2

Back on the old Minecraft server, one of the last things I was tinkering with was the original Cloud Cuckoo Land. It was an ongoing project where I just basically built whatever I fancied …in the sky! I even made a YouTube video for it, encouraging people to suggest structures I could add to it.

The whole thing was situated far from the beaten track on an island I dubbed Piggy Island (because I found a couple of pigs on it, which I then used to infest the whole place. Then I built a large wool pig who I proclaimed King of the island). In the video, after a set of towers leading up into the sky, the player found themselves on a platform containing a lighthouse, a little cottage and two unfinished structures. The first little pocket of land, was the area I was asking for suggestions for and eventually built an oversized goldfish bowl, complete with goldfish – made of gold blocks, naturally. There was going to be a little more to that build. I had planned to add a tree overhanging the bowl where the branches would hold a tree house and fishing platform. The other partial build glimpsed in the video was my Hotel Skoardy, which I did eventually complete (as seen in this video).

There would have been more but then ‘the troubles’ happened and now I live on HavenTerrace ( The video I’ve embedded here today is a tour of all the builds I’ve mentioned in my most recent posts as well as the grand reveal of my new, improved Cloud Cuckoo Land 2!

As before, I’ve no particular plan with CCL2, just a sense of some of the things I want to try my hand at. If you got some suggestions as to what I should add up there, feel free to leave them as comments on the CCL2 YouTube page. Of course, as CCL2 grows, I’ll report here on the new structures and hopefully continue adding videos of them to my YouTube channel. If you’re feeling charitable, you could always throw me a bone and subscribe to it. 😉

Oh, and before I forget, this video breaks a couple of personal milestones for me. Apart from being my first video over the normal 15 minute limit YouTube gives new contributors, it’s also my first video in ‘HD’. Sure, it’s only 1 minute over the limit and only 720p but baby steps in improving the overall quality, eh?

If only I could get rid of that idiot who talks over the top of all my videos, I’d be set!



Sniper Elite V2If you watch any of my Let’s Play Badly videos from my YouTube channel (erm, probably not the Minecraft ones so much – I’m talking about the Borderlands and Just Cause 2 videos), you’re probably aware than I’m a little keen on games that feature sniper based combat. I do enjoy popping the old heads from a safe vantage point, yes siree!

So when Sniper Elite V2 came up on sale for cheap, I thought I’d snap it up and check it out. I’d never bothered with the original game and it is a Rebellion game so I wasn’t really expecting great things. But as with most games I pick up for pennies, I figure if it manages to keep me distracted for a few afternoons, it’s a fair exchange.

So I gave it a bash yesterday. I only played the first level – which is basically a tutorial – before I had to come away and think about what the game was trying to teach me.

It all started well enough. The grumbly voiced actor told me that the Nazi Army were still the bad guys and how the game centres around V-2 rocket shenanigans. Then I was on a mission to assassinate a defecting General. Creeping through the ruined city, I was encouraged to string a trip mine across a doorway (to protect my rear, and help with my escape, apparently) then booby-trap a recent kill with a landmine. Use this cover, hop over that gate, clamber under this debris – all the regular tutorial checklist items such a game would be expected to tick off.

Then it was onto the main event and I held my breath, pulled the trigger and watched a lump of metal shear through the air until it found its grisly x-rayed target, the General’s skull. All good fun so far. Of course, the ‘S’ hit the ‘F’ and I had to leg it. Aware of my presence, the soldiers fell foul of my landmine but before I could crawl back along my previous route, a tank burst through the wall, blocking the way. Another path was found and my trip mine had done its job. I probably wasn’t as stealthy as I could have been and a lot more skulls began to sport ventilation where previously there was none. Eventually, I hopped one final wall and the mission ended. Here’s your score, well done.

But the thing that stuck with me was my preparation. How I’d dotted mines from my limited arsenal in the hopes that they’d bear fruit and make my life as a sniper elite that much easier. But when the game features scripted events and clearly isn’t averse to throwing me down alternate routes, how am I supposed to know when placing anything isn’t going to be just a waste of time (and vital resources)? It seemed to me that the only way to make sure that I got the most out of my kit was to memorise the mission and use that knowledge to replay it.

I realise that in real-life situations change and the best laid plans can go out the window but this is a game. The very first mission out the door basically tells you both that a) preparation is important and b) your preparation could become completely irrelevant due to a level designer’s decision to script an ‘exciting’ set-piece to spice the mission up. Is it a conflicting design flaw in the game? Are developers under pressure to include modern scripted ‘events’ (all the cool kids/shooters are doing them, you should too!)?

It hasn’t completely put me off playing the game but it will make me more wary/blasé regarding preparation. If it’s merely a case of guessing when the game is/isn’t going to render it all irrelevant, why bother putting it down? There’s no skill involved and I won’t learn through experience in-game how to maximise the effectiveness of my tools. So is the only time I can ensure my traps are useful is when I fail a mission and armed with foresight, can prepare retroactively?



In the last post about my new home on the Minecraft multi-player survival server, I’d just constructed a gigantic head/tower to lead to the then empty summit of a hill above my main base. I already had an unfinished tower started on the roof of my base that led nowhere in particular so it was pretty clear something needed building up there. One path-to-nowhere in a build is bad enough but two… well, that’s just plain sloppy.

Having built my farm full of sugar cane, potatoes, wheat, carrots, pumpkins and melons, I’d noticed there was another crop that I’d overlooked – the cocoa bean. Considering I lived in a Jungle biome and had been hacking up trees covered in beans, this oversight needed correcting.

As before, click on any of the thumbnails for a larger image.

Minecraft ShopSo, high on top of the hill above my home, I built a large platform with nine jungle wood stumps in a 3×3 arrangement that could be used to attach the beans to. They don’t need to be on a ‘living’ tree topped with foliage – they’re just as happy one a single, placed block of wood as they are on a spawned tree. The whole shebang looked a bit odd alone and so it was quickly topped with sandstone based building.

I’ve never used the sandstone materials in any of my earlier builds but after seeing other people do great things with it, I wanted to try my hand. It was a nice change of pace from the grey smooth stone bricks I’d been using on pretty much everything else. Of course, the smooth stone bricks were included to carry along the crenelated style of the other structures, and the whole thing was topped off with an arty-farty wavy roof.

Minecraft ShopUnderneath, the dark spruce wood works well with the jungle tree trunks while the grassy plots and red/yellow flowers keep the whole thing looking vaguely natural. Like a fool, I built a web of soil bridges across the platform to encourage grass to migrate onto these little squares when all the while, during that long wait for the green plague to spread, I had a damn silk-touch pick-axe in my inventory that I could have used to break up some proper grass blocks.

Given each fully grown pod can yield between 2-3 cocoa beans, the whole farm can supply over 300 beans if you’re lucky. More than enough for all your cookie crafting or dyeing needs.

Minecraft ShopIt was while thinking about the possible uses for my new trove of cocoa beans that I finally decided what to do with the building on top of the stumps. It became ‘The Cookies & Cake Shop‘.

Since I already had a source of wheat and sugar from my farm, it didn’t seem like that much of a leap to put them all to good used and create a structure specifically to house the results. Its location and the small, quirky design seemed perfectly suited to the role and while it wasn’t exactly a functional use, I was happy giving the building over to this façade.

Minecraft ShopOnce its purpose was decided, the interior of the building came quickly. The back of the room was decked out with the black and white tiles of a kitchen while the front sported a shop counter and signs displaying the products available for purchase.

Item frames were a new addition that I hadn’t really had chance to play around with up until now but they really do add something to the game. I can see myself using them in the future for informational purposes (displaying the contents of a chest, say) and as pure decoration.

The shop doesn’t only sell cookies and cakes, of course. Thanks to easy access to the materials, I was also able to make pumpkin pies, baked potatoes and the old stalwart, bread.

Minecraft ShopWith such a huge blank canvas staring down at me, I couldn’t resist adding a Skoardy design to the underside of the cocoa bean platform. Inset using slabs and stairs, I think it probably it puts the little smiley face I added to the top of the roof access stairs to shame.

Shortly after this last screenshot was taken, I decided to complete the unfinished tower just to the left of the shot. First it leads to the side of the platform giving another route up to the shop and then it continues onwards and upwards, spawning another tower and then another…

At the time of writing, the next stage of the build in already complete and it’s a doozy. I’ll be revealing it later on the site. :)


Strange customs

Back when I was still creating content for my YouTube Channel, I was always wondering how to add Customised Thumbnails to my videos. Seemed like every other channel and their dog was already using them so why couldn’t I? If you’ve seen my site recently (maybe on a post like this one), you’ll have noticed something has changed…

Normally, when you upload a video to the service, it only gives you the option to pick from three specific frames of your video that YouTube chooses. I believe they’re picked from the beginning, middle and end of the clip but unless you’re fanatically timing your videos and calculating which frames you need to alter, you’re just going to get a random image. Sometimes you luck out and one of the three perfectly represents the whole video with a great image. Most of the time, it’s a set of blurry, random, meaningless images that could be anything if you squint.

I’d looked into Customised Thumbnails before and the dreaded phrase ‘Monetisation’ came up. The information YouTube supplies isn’t precisely clear and led me to believe that the only way they’d allow me to add custom images was if I loaded all/some of my videos with dreaded adverts. Obviously, I wasn’t a fan of that plan given that a) I have a hard enough time getting people to watch my videos in the first place and b) my content, being solely videogame based, isn’t really mine to make money from. I thought that excluded me, completely.

Well, just recently, I got annoyed and went on a bit of a Google rampage to try to track down some snippets of stories and comments to find out what the real deal was. Turns out I could have Customised Thumbnails on if I wanted. Yes, I did need to go to my Channel Settings -> Features and turn on/agree to Monetisation. The thing is, after that, you don’t need to actually monetise any of your videos. I think YouTube automatically turned it on for one of my videos – my Clipper Ship, probably because it had the most views. Easily solved, go to your Video Manager -> Uploads and turn it off (either individually, or if unlike me, your channel is super popular and multiples are monetised, just select all and remove).

So now I have the ability to add Custom Thumbnails to my YouTube videos and it wasn’t the arse-ache I was expecting. As you can see above, I’m already in the process of adding them! The Let’s Play Badly series (Borderlands, Just Cause 2 and Minecraft) aren’t too bad but a couple of my regular Minecraft builds are gone to the sands of time (okay, okay, a petty server owner) so getting source images for the thumbnail just isn’t possible. Those are going to have to look a bit generic. But they’ll get added and now when my videos thumbnails come up, or when they’re embedded in the site, you’ll get a proper front image instead of a some random frame. Cool!

All I need to do now is to start producing new videos… uh, yeah…


Get a head!

So we’ve claimed a little corner of the world on the new multi-player Minecraft survival server and built our base. The next step was to create a large farming structure so that we’d be sorted for most of the various crops that Minecraft has to offer. So what is next? Well, a giant novelty head with a walkway extending from the back of the skull that goes nowhere and spans a purposefully created inlet. Duh! Obviously!

While I’ve already got a partly built tower heading towards the top of the hill behind the base, I wanted something coming from the other direction. I also wanted to connect the little pond at the side of the base back to the ocean. So, to make room, I decimated a huge chunk of jungle in front of the base and completely flattened the hill it was sat on. Hey, you gotta break a few eggs…

Click the thumbnails for larger images.

Minecraft HeadA regular old dreary tower wasn’t going to cut it so instead, I built a head from wool (1200+ pieces). Not all wool, mind. As you can see, there’s a bunch of glass panes and his teeth are made from the finest Quartz. Also, while he might not have the most hair in the world, what he does have is made from a lush selection of trees leaves. Well, it was the only material that really gives that ‘fuzzy’ look so he’s sporting a mad, green hairdo. The red wool is for the tongue and if you want to ascend this tower, you’re going to need to climb down the back of his throat.

Minecraft HeadYeah, that’s a huge tongue but just look at the gob on him! In this shot you can make out the man-made inlet on the left of the picture. There used to be a slender strip of grass that separated the pond from the sea and it looked a bit pitiful really. I just had to re-unite these two bodies of water. Unfortunately, where I wanted to place the head wasn’t just smothered in your usual jungle underbrush, dotted with the occasional vast, towering tree – it all hid a large hill that needed levelling. Several worn out shovels and the odd pickaxe later and man had conquered the wilderness yet again. Suck it, wilderness!

Minecraft Head 3After you’ve located the doors at the base of the throat, you gain access to the interior and the incredibly long ladder leading to the top of the skull. Not exactly a lot of room inside for a fancy staircase so this build leans a little heavily on the functional. I did consider putting a few floors inside the head and making it liveable but I didn’t really see myself spending a lot of time in here, what with my main base a stone’s throw away.

I’ve toyed with the idea of transforming this into another of the schematics (like my Clipper Ship, Airship, ‘Pixel “Art” Sucks’, Hot-Air Balloon, Fish, Skull and Tap builds) I upload to, in which case I probably would make more of a meal of the interior, adding all the regular mod cons like crafting tables, furnaces, bed, etc. but that’s a project for some time in the future.

Minecraft HeadThat hatch you can see leads to a walkway that extends out from the back of the skull, just above the rapidly receding fuzzy green hairline. The style matches the parapets of the base (not that the huge, comical, disembodied head does, that is) and leads to the top of the hill above the main base.

Of course, I had to turn the walkway into a water feature. I don’t know why but I do quite like adding water. I’ve built on it, in it, under it and even created structures that specifically use it (such as my Tap and House with man-made waterfall). It’s almost certainly something that’ll be featuring in future builds from time to time too.

Minecraft HeadYou can just see the unfinished tower on the left of this shot, coming up to meet the same area as the walkway. I’ve already cleared the top of the hill (and most of the side you can see to the left) at the time of writing and constructed something in the gap it left. I wasn’t planning anything when I built this tower but once I’d finished, inspiration struck and I wedged something on the side of the hill.

Like I said earlier, the big head tower doesn’t really fit with the rest of the builds I’ve created so far but I’m happier when I’m making things a little more freeform. No idea what comes next but I think it’s going to be on top of this hill… or maybe above!