Archive for the ‘Gaming’ Category


Badly to the bone…

Just Cause 2

Yay, an excuse to use my JC2 explosion image!

Just recently, as you might have seen, I’ve created some videos on YouTube for my Minecraft creations (channel here). What you might not have noticed is that I have also been trying my hand at your typical “Let’s Play” style game video. Naturally, I picked the excellent Just Cause 2 as my source material. And just as naturally, I’ve called them “Let’s Play Badly” because I’m a pretty lousy gamer.

So far, there’s three videos covering the first two missions. I think I may have picked exactly the wrong game to do a series on as a majority of it is free-form chaos, going wherever you fancy… and then blowing it up. To counter this, I’ll probably focus on the bigger storyline missions (ones with cutscenes) and maybe a few random base attacks.

One thing I’ve noticed – waffling on while you’re wandering around a blocky landscape may be hard but waffling on while flying through the air, trying not to get your head blown off is really, really hard.

The first episode introduces us to our hero, Rico Rodriguez as he is transported to the island of Panau in order to locate former mentor Tom Sheldon.

In the second episode, we’ve discovered that our contact on the island, Karl Blaine, is holed up at the top of an under-siege casino and needs us to get him out.

The third episode has us putting our life in the hands of the perma-blotto Karl Blaine as we surf the roof of his sweet, sweet ride back to his ‘crib’.

I’m not sure how many more of these I’ll be doing but if you’re interested in seeing me fail repeatedly at Just Cause 2, be sure to check the site. Or you could always try subscribing to my YouTube channel. That’d work too.


Press [A] for Awesome!

Dragon's LairYears ago, there was a game in the arcades (ask your parents) called Dragon’s Lair. You might even have heard about it. Since ‘retro’ became cool, it has been ported to every single platform in the known universe. What was once a game that came on a big silver Laserdisc (ask your parents) the size of an LP (ask… oh, just face it, I’m old), can now be played from the palm of your hand on an iPhone or Android unit. It differed from other games at the time because instead of being given immediate and direct control of your character, you were prompted at certain specific points for an input (joystick direction or button mash) that either led to success or death. Think one long quick-time event and you’ve pretty much got it sussed. Get the waggle right and your character did some awesome death-defying dodge and got to live on to the next precarious event. It was very popular at the time. Not so much now except with the retro freaks.

Games moved on. Players wanted more than linked FMV, no matter how lush it looked or how action-packed the canned moves were. They wanted control.

But these days it looks like we’re coming full circle. One thing I noticed from the demos shown at the recent E3 – canned awesome is back. Yeah, we have control over our grizzled soldiers, our wrong-man-at-the-wrong-time-in-the-wrong-place or our plucky English roses with an archaeology fetish but jabbing away at the game pad now has them cinematically leaping across obstacles, wrestling weapons from foes and performing grisly take-downs that’d have most action movie stars green with envy. Have we reached a tipping point where we’re once again handing back our control just so we can look awesome?

We used to get our awesome quota from cut-scenes. If we needed our protagonist to look just that little bit more heroic and death-defying than the game engine could muster, the cut-scene would be there to show us the big explosions, the cityscape-altering alien invasions or simply the snappy back-and-forth banter that would have been missed if done in-game while we were too busy scouting round for that last health pack pick-up. But cut-scenes got too big and people eventually complained that they wanted a game, not a movie with only occasional joystick waggling.

Watch DogsThese days cut-scenes are sneaky – popping up in bite-sized chunks every few seconds in triple-A titles. They’re integrated into the gameplay with the developers worried that you’ll lose interest if you’re not seeing something humongous, kinetic and awe-inspiring taking place in the game world every third or fourth step your character takes. Round a corner, blammo! Open a door, surprise! Scratch your nose, woo-haa!

I admit, canned actions of cinematic awesome look nice but ultimately leave me feeling a bit unfulfilled. I know that while it was my random button jabbing that brought the moves into being, I’m not really responsible for the dynamic and rather graceful way my hero is separating the bad guy from his spine. I don’t deserve it. That’s not skill. Just like Dragon’s Lair, I’m simply pressing the right button at the right time. It’s how you play the game, it’s what I’m supposed to be doing and yes, more often than not, it does look amazing but I just don’t feel… awesome.


MC: Clipper Ship Schematic

Minecraft ShipJust recently I uploaded a video to YouTube of my Minecraft build, the Clipper Ship.

One of the comments on the page asked if the model was available to download. I’d never looked into how to even go about doing that but since variations of that request regularly show up in my webpage search stats, I thought it was worth finally checking out.

So after a bit of rooting around and rebuilding, I can now offer a link to a thread where I’ve attached a schematic file for my Clipper Ship for download. Here you go.



Right, that’s all the Hugh Laurie web-searches sorted (and bingo fans). But rather than a post about the cancelled medical drama (or two fat ladies, for that matter), this post is all about Minecraft, of course.

Usually, I try to make my builds a little more interesting than typical multi-player server builds. While everyone else is busy constructing houses, mansions, castles and (ugh!) ‘pixel-art’, I’ve tried my hand at large fish, ships and taps, balloons, airships and skulls. But just like wondering whether the grass really is greener on the other side of the fence, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about – if building plain old houses was somehow fulfilling in ways I couldn’t see. So I gave it a bash.

This is the home away from home I eventually created. Its construction was a little more freeform than usual, and my only real plan was to build a structure over water, next to a cliff face so that I could add a waterfall alongside it.

Did it change my mind on houses? Am I now a house building fanatic? Uh… not so much. It’s easier building something that is essentially four walls, a floor and a ceiling but then you have to fill the interior and rather than the functional storage/crafting vibe my other builds share, I feel you’re expected to make the interior of a house look a bit, well, like a house interior. It’s not easy with Minecraft and so all your furniture tends to be built from steps and wool blocks. There’s a degree of ‘use your imagination’ in Minecraft right off the bat (see that huge stack of cubes? That’s a mountain!) but furniture asks the viewer to crank their imagination up to 11.

I will be building more traditional structures in the future (and I am currently) but I still prefer the rather loopy flights of fancy I’ve grown accustomed to.


No motion in motion

After the relative non-failure of uploading and featuring two of my Minecraft build videos on the site a couple of days ago, I thought I’d add my third. It’s of the Airship I built, the tour that never happens. More background info can be found in my screenshot post, here.

I’m getting a little more confident putting these things together. It’s a bit longer and it has more cheesy transitions – who knows what the future will hold?! Get ready for star-wipes and checker-boards, maybe! *groan*

This is actually the second version of this particular video. I did one the other day that was incredibly quiet for some reason. I hadn’t (intentionally) faffed around with any of my settings but somehow all the sound clips came off almost inaudible in the final edit. Well, a little tweaking here and a little amplification across the board and hopefully you can hear the narration now.

Hmm, on second thoughts, is that really a good thing?

Update: A schematic of the Airship is available to download. Check out this post for more details.



Just under two years ago, I signed up for YouTube, got my channel all set up and then… well… nothing.

Not exactly sure what I was planning to stick up there but I guess I thought what-the-hey!, just in case. Roll forward to earlier this week and I finally got round to using it. Naturally, I did something Minecraft related.

My big plan was a lot like the screenshot posts I’d made here over the last few months – to archive my builds. This time though, it’s in motion and has me droning over the top, putting people to sleep. I’ve done two so far, with more planned. They’re not too long and I’ve probably dun goofed on these first outings so be gentle.

The first one is of my Clipper Ship.

The second video is of my Tap.

If you’ve visited my site before (of course you have!), you probably noticed that the two builds are from an earlier post I made here. Like I said, I’ll be doing other videos as time goes by. Probably the airship next. Since I’m starting out, any advice is welcome. Feel free to leave a comment on the channel, drop me a note by email or through Twitter.

Note – ‘Tubular!’ was a popular slang exclamation with ‘the kids’ in the 80s, borrowed from surfing culture of the 70s. Don’t worry if you’re scratching your head right now. It just means I’m so very, very old.

Update: A schematic of the Clipper Ship is available to download. Check out this post for more details.

Update 2: A schematic of the Tap is also available to download. Check out this post for more details.


Up, up and away… again

My third build on the new multi-player Minecraft server is another in the sky-bound vein. Having already built a hot-air balloon on the old server, I wanted to make something a little more grand. This time, I decided to try building an airship.

Minecraft Airship - TallI wanted to keep my few first builds together so the spot I picked for my airship is located behind the Clipper I’d constructed earlier, floating over the same ‘lake’ it is moored in. Building up means space isn’t really an issue but still, I didn’t want everything to look too cramped so the base of the build is off to the side, on a little outcrop.

The first thing I needed to do was build a staircase to reach the airship. It had to be tall but not excessively so – I wanted to keep my sanity while constructing the thing plus it was just the starter and I was itching to move onto the main course. Despite that, the staircase required a large amount of fences (and, of course wooden stairs) so half a forest had to be sacrificed in order to build it. Don’t worry, I replant. :)

Minecraft Airship - SignClimbing the stairs to the top takes an age so I added a ladder to the centre of the structure to speed things up. Purists can still walk to the top of the staircase going round and round and round if they so desire… and have screw or two loose.

The bottom of the staircase is quite simple with a plain stone base and a sign informing visitors that the airship tours have been suspended for the time being (there is a problem with the airship’s engines – turns out they’re made of wool).

Minecraft Airship - InsideOnce you reach the top of the staircase, and cross the gantry to the gondola itself, you’re presented with great views of the surrounding area and can relax on the oh-so-comfortable wooden-stairs-standing-in-for-seating that you see in so many ‘great’ Minecraft builds. What’s a few splinters in the backside between friends, eh?

Don’t worry about the roof of the gondola being made entirely of stone slabs. The two woollen balloons it’s attached to manage to somehow keep all that weight afloat.

Minecraft Airship - GapThe gondola has two exits – one that leads back to the gantry, the staircase and ground level and one that… doesn’t. Be sure to leave the gondola via the correct door. In case you’re unsure, the wrong door has a helpful sign to warn you that the first step is a doozy. Luckily, what with the airship being temporarily moored over a lake for these repairs, even if you do make a mistake, your landing will not be fatal. It will however be rather damp.

Hmm, maybe someone should lock that door.

Minecraft AirshipAt the back of the gondola are a pair of ladders that lead to the roof and allow access to the balloons themselves. As with all large structures, you save a hell of a lot of wool by making the things hollow and so a pair of doors lead to the their interiors. I haven’t built anything in there but they’re both pretty roomy and would make for great little bases of operations (or just a really excessive amount of storage).

I enjoy building structures in Minecraft that defy gravity in some way or other. With the build height limit of the game being increased by another 128 blocks recently, there’s an awful lot of real-estate to claim up there so it’s daft not to take advantage. I won’t be building any pointless 180-ish block tall towers any time soon but these minor outings into the sky make me happy.

Update: A schematic of the Airship is available to download. Check out this post for more details.


Old is the new New!

Over the last few weeks, I’ve tried out a whole bunch of different multi-player Minecraft servers. The one I was playing on previously closed its doors and left me without a mud-hut to call my home. So I went a-hunting and found a shed-load of idiots for my trouble. There’s an awful lot of servers out there being run by people who definitely have no business being in control of anything more complex than their own bowel movements (and some of them made me wonder about that, too).

Eventually I did come across a server that was both nippy enough to use and had a bunch of regulars that didn’t have me tearing chunks of my hair from the roots. From now on, all my Minecraft builds and screenshots will probably be coming from there.

And speaking of screenshots, I’m trying out something new on that front too. I’ve added a lightbox plugin and I’ve stuck larger copies of the shots on Imgur. So click on the smaller thumbnails for a larger version. If I can find them, I might dig out my older screenshots and create a post later with those in. Anyway, without further ado…

Minecraft ShipMy first build on the new server was to recreate a favourite of mine. I wanted to quickly organise a base of operations and so I found a quiet lake and rebuilt my little ship. I’ve called it the ‘Clipper’ since it’s far too small to be a galleon. The only real change between this one at the old one is that the upside-down half-blocks smooth out the bowsprit a little, I’ve kitted out the cabin with a workbench, bed, forges and storage, and below deck has been converted into a treasure room (it’s where I keep my gold blocks, naturally – currency on this particular server).

While the old ship used to require you to board via a secret tunnel hidden in the mine below the lake, now the player can now simply swim up to the ship and clamber up the side, thanks to the vines added to the game. Ah, progress.

Minecraft TapAfter I’d settled in the Clipper, I started on a more surreal build. This time I decided to create a huge retro-style tap (or faucet, for my imaginary American visitors). I went with smooth stone for this build. Didn’t have the resources to be too literal and make it out of iron blocks (plus they look like lumps of porcelain if you ask me). The stem, body, spout and handle are all hollow so the structure could be used as a base if you wished. The handle make a great place for storage chests, and you can earmark each for the four directions for specific items.

I’ve more to show from this server so I’ll probably be posting fairly regularly (well, you know, regularly for me – say once or twice a month). See you later.

Update: A schematic of the Clipper Ship is available to download. Check out this post for more details.

Update 2: A schematic of the Tap is also available to download. Check out this post for more details.


Up, up and away…

Minecraft Balloon

Here’s a screenshot of a construction from the multi-player Minecraft server that I’ve been meaning to post for a while. Viewed from one of the towers of my house, it is my favourite build so far – I just like the ‘defy gravity’ aspect of it. And yes, I did plunge into the river below more than a few times while putting it together. My shift-key finger nearly seized up for this one but it still didn’t stop me from taking a dip, now and again. And again. And again…

As you can probably tell, it’s another wool-heavy build (over 1000+ pieces of wool, more than half of those red) with only the anchor, stairs and basket ballast not requiring a seemingly endless hunt for sheep (and red flowers). The balloon is actually four colours – red, yellow, blue and round the other side, purple and green so there was quite of bit of dye to prepare beforehand. It’s well-lit, both inside and out because, well, those Endermen are basically a bunch of bastards.

Just off to the left of the shot, you can make out the bridge I first built to connect my little area to the main town and next to it, the skull on a spike I made last Halloween. Off to the far right, along the edge of the shot, you can barely make out another in-progress construction I have yet to finish off. It’s a bit more free-form so my typical planning has gone right out the window and as a result, it’s taking longer than usual to complete. I hope to get it finished as I’m quite happy with how it looks so far. Quite imposing :)

Update: Schematics of the Fish, Hot-Air Balloon and Skull are available to download. Check out this post for more details.



Another image from the multi-player Minecraft server. Rather than a 99% wool construction like my other builds, this one is mostly made from planks, as you’d expect. As such, it was a lot easier to source the materials for it; beating up poor defenceless trees rather than poor defenceless sheep. The sails needed wool, of course but they didn’t take long compared to the skull or the fish (and one other wool-centric build I still haven’t gotten round to getting a screenshot of).

Minecraft Ship

The ship is situated at one of many little bases I built far from the main village. In the time prior to new releases of Minecraft, I’d dig long tunnels in the Nether ready in the hopes that when I eventually emerged back into the ‘real-world’, the game would spawn lands that took advantage of any new features added to the game (like villages, mines and strongholds). It rarely happened, unfortunately, but I still marked each location with a new base and at a few, a bigger build. There’s an insanely pointless desert tower at one with water flowing from the roof and at another, a large empty castle.

This ship is grounded in a small inlet, accessed from beneath via a small network of caves. Maybe it’s not quite a huge as some of the Minecraft galleons I’ve seen people produce but it looks enough like a ship that I’m happy with how it turned out.