Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tales of a Minecraft Server Noob, Part 1: Getting (It) On

I love Minecraft-that's a given. If you know me, you know that I love games in general and Minecraft in particular. What you may not know is that I have the lousiest laptop known to man, and it's a total miracle that I can play Minecraft at all. Couple this with a completely crappy internet connection, I thought there was no way I'd ever be able to play Minecraft on a multiplayer server. I bought the game, dove into singleplayer and played for 6 straight months, creating with godlike abandon and dying with astonishing regularity. The thought of multiplayer never crossed my mind.

Then I got lonely.

Enter “Capture the Record 2”. I found out about the Livestream for SatoriLove's CTR event, and spent 6 hours being glued to my laptop, revelling in the scheming and carnage. Post event, the server was opened for the viewers to walk around and look at the aftermath, and I thought, “What the hell, why not try it out?”. Since I didn't think my puny PC was up to it anyway, there was no loss if it didn't work. But there was that tiny, tantalizing possibility that it may just work after all.

So I jumped on the server.

As I landed on spawn, I spun around in wonder-I was actually IN MULTIPLAYER, and I could move about with NO JITTER, NO LAG. (Yeah, yeah, I know, caps.) I was actually getting around 20-30 FPS as opposed to the 2-12 that I get in SSP. I spent the next twenty minutes wandering about the server, openmouthed and drooling, thinking, “I can play SMP, IcanplaySMPIcanplaySMP!”


Now that I knew I could actually have functionality in SMP, I needed to find a server to play on. Unfortunately, so many servers I was interested in had forum posting requirements, and I can't justify having to be active in yet another forum in order to play. If I have something to say, I'll say it, but I don't like to have to make small talk about inconsequentials to satisfy an arbitrary post number requirement. I'm old enough to be cranky about it, too. So there. However, this decision put a rather large roadblock in the way of actually playing SMP.


So I was Spawn-camping at one day, and mentioned I was looking for a server to play on. Alefnull metioned that he was the head admin on Bitburner's Minecrap server, and that it was a nice place to play. He directed me to the whitelist application, and told me that the main map wouldn't be up for a few weeks, and he'd let me know when it was up. Best of all, I didn't have to post a bunch of BS in a forum! But I still had to wait for the main map to return.


Enter xwcg of the PretzelCast. One morning, I stumbled upon one of his posts on Google Plus, and he was telling people that the new Pretz server had been opened. I sent a quick comment asking basically, ”WHAT server? HINT HINT”. Lo and behold, I was whitelisted. I practically fell over myself logging in. I found a place to build my house and ran into the biggest cavern system I have ever seen. xwcg came cavern-crawling kitted out in diamond armor, swinging a diamond sword, helping to light some of the vast evil blackness. He also had to come to my rescue, teleporting me out to save my diamonds when I, totally lost and down to one heart, had been blockaded by creepers. (My hero!)

I resurfaced from my laptop to find the day had entirely disappeared.

It was suddenly dinnertime. I had lost the entire day in a Minecraft-induced transdimensional time warp. I learned many interesting nooby things in this missing time:

  • No matter how hard you try, you can't build anything at spawn. Even if you spawn at night and the creepers kill you for ten minutes straight, you CANNOT dig a hole to hide in for a certain distance around spawn. I'm still not sure how far this is!

  • You're not allowed to spawn stuff. Even if you're a total noob and die all the time, you can't spawn anything to help you, so get tough, and get used to dying.

  • Set /home as soon as possible, especially if you want to build any distance from spawn. You will die, and you'll hate walking all the way back from spawn...over and over and over. /home allows you to spawn at your house (or wherever you choose).

  • You can't sleep unless everyone on the server sleeps, so get used to working/hiding though the night. The admins may choose to set the time to “day”; if they do, you're lucky.

  • The Nether may or may not work, or a portal you build may return you to a portal far from your house. Ask, before you pass within to find yourself miles from home with no food, health, compass or map, with creepers closing in.

  • You will find that you want to talk to people, a LOT. Unfortunately, you cannot actually PLAY and chat in-game at the same time. You will find that socializing takes a ton of time away from actually building...but socializing is fun, too!

  • You cannot tame a wolf in the water. It ain't gonna happen, trust me. I lost SO many bones 'cause the damned wolf wouldn't get out of the #$%^ water. This happens in SSP too, but I hadn't run into any wolves in SSP that totally refused to get out of the @#$%^ WATER!

    MLP: My Little Pyramid, PretzelCast Server

So there I was, playing on an SMP server, no longer lonely thanks to xwcg and SeriousCreeper (together they are The PretzelCast, watch their awesome videos). I had found that some other familiar Spawn campers had become Pretzels as well, and I got to see some cool builds, like Sed's awesome sphere house. I built my first pyramid (every woman should have her own sand temple), set up a public skelly dungeon collection trap, and began my private rail line to the desert. New folks had begun to show up, and my time was equally split between running my mouth and actually accomplishing anything. One night, while chatting with Astragali, he tore off like a house afire, returned, mentioned Minecrap, and said he had a “surprise”.

Little did I know what I was in for.

Upcoming, Part 2: A Three-Hour Tour – Welcome to the Minecrap Server

Friday, August 12, 2011

Around the Web: Lovin' Lovecraft

I've loved author H. P. (Howard Philip) Lovecraft since I was a kid, plucking a book of collected horror from my parents' shelves to read under the covers with a flashlight. Horror in general fired my imagination, and Lovecraft's gothic prose fed the furnace. I wanted to attend Miskatonic University, travel to the Antarctic to unearth a city of the Ancient Ones, experiment alongside Dr. Herbert West, perhaps call Cthulhu from the pages of the Necronomicon.

If you're a fellow Lovecraftian, here's a few things around the web that you might enjoy.

"Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown" - Watch this 2008 documentary for free at Snag Films.

The H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival and CthulhuCon - Billed as "The Only Festival that Understands".

Cthulhu Chick's Website - Download the Complete Works of Lovecraft eBook Free. FREE, what are you waiting for??

Cthulhu Saves the World - 8-bit style RPG by Zeboyd Games on Steam for only $2.99. That's cheaper than most coffee at Starbucks.

Fuzzy Cthulhu Slippers - Really. I'm not kidding.

Have fun, and meet you in R'lyeh for the End of the World party!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Vechs' Super Hostile: Death Becomes You

Bored or jaded with Minecraft? Complaining that you've done everything, or that the game is too easy? Well, here's something for you to try. Recently I've been viewing some Minecraft Let's Plays that have had a different flavor than the usual fare. Players venture across survival/adventure maps in order to complete a “Victory Monument”, and the map maker is trying to kill you at every turn.

Welcome to Vechs' Super Hostile series of maps. As one of his forum banners states, “If you only see 'Game Over' every ten minutes, you're doing well”, and to be honest, you would be doing extremely well.

The Super Hostile series of maps has evolved into something the creator calls “Complete the Monument”, or CTM. Players are given instructions to place all the colors of wool, as well as iron, gold and diamond blocks on an elaborately constructed Victory Monument. Simply finding the Monument itself can present a huge challenge. Dying the wool to suit is considered cheating, and that is basically the only rule you will find in these maps. Otherwise, no constraints. Break blocks, build things or utterly destroy them, it's your choice – a refreshing difference from most adventure-type maps which limit your interaction with the environment. However, most adventure map makers are not trying to actively kill you, where Vechs certainly is. With cunningly hidden spawners, maze-like corridors, darkness and stunning architecture and scenery, Vechs has players paranoid from the start, mixed with the feeling of looking at a fabulous work of art at the same time, whipsawing players and LP viewers alike between states of horror and awe in seconds. To add insult to injury, Vechs trolls you, leaving signs that mock in heard to reach places, a sea of false pressure plates hiding a real one, nine spawners hidden in a wall, chests floating in air or seas of lava with booty of perhaps a single torch or pig saddle. Every step you take, every block you break, may mean instant death by a flood of mobs, TNT or gravity traps. Vechs delivers an edge-of-your-seat play experience.

The first Super Hostile map I encountered was “Canopy Carnage” LPed by the Yogscast in their unique way-not much of an LP, but a showcase for the map and the infectious humor of Simon and Lewis. Next, I found the short-lived “Sea of Flame” by JonathanWolfe038, which led me to PBat's vid of the same map. Then came BdoubleO and Guude, with their hilarious current “Legendary: Failures” LP, featuring a death counter. Finally, I came across Zisteau, and found someone who could troll Vechs right back while dying laughing.

Check out some of the above LPs, download some maps, and enjoy. Thanks to Vechs, you'll not have to complain about Minecraft being “boring” or “too easy” again.

TL;DR Play these maps. Die often. Have insane amounts of fun.