Jan 31, 2011

Quality Time

The NHL All Star Weekend is over, and it was great fun (as always). But I'm not here to talk about hockey, I'm here to talk about parenting.

Quality time, as Wikipedia informs one, is "an informal reference to time spent with loved ones (e.g., close family, partners or friends) which is in some way important, special, productive or profitable." Some parents feel the need to fill this time with programmed activities, thinking that they are better parents if they take their offspring to more exciting places and give them "experiences", maybe to make up for the limited amount of time they have to spend with their children.

Well, during the All Star weekend the players bring their kids to experience the weekend with them. They meet stars, they are in the middle of a great event, and maybe a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Yet when asked which star's autograph was the best Martin St. Louis' son says, "my daddy's."

And Danny Brière's son's reply when asked what the best part of the weekend is?

"Just hanging around with my dad."

Jan 26, 2011

Let's play Goblin Camp!

As it happens, Minecraft doesn't actually run on my personal laptop, because my display drivers are just that old. It's a good thing, really, as it means I have to do something other than just play Minecraft. These days, that other is Goblin Camp.

Now, if that looks like a totally incomprehensible blob of ASCII art, it's because it is. Never fear; I'll walk you through it.


Goblin Camp is an opensource indie game developed by some goon. You can get it on the website here, and we impartially reviewed an earlier version here. This is version 0.13.

As that goon has it, Goblin Camp is a roguelike citybuilder. Your mission is to build and manage, well, a goblin camp in the wilderness. This is what you start with:

The blue "o"s are orcs, and the grey "g"s goblins. Using your initial population and the tools you're given, your job is to transform this forest clearing into a thriving camp.

The first steps are to place some stockpiles and farm plots. Everything you gather and produce in the game is placed in stockpiles, and crops are grown on farm plots. In the picture below, the three brown rectangles are my farm plots, and the larger rectangles are stockpiles.

Placing stockpiles and farm plots is easy; select either one from the Build menu and paint them onto the map by click-dragging.

When you click on a stockpile, it opens a window where you control what kind of goods get placed in the stockpile:

Similarly, on a farm plot you toggle what kinds of crops get planted in the plot. Crops are planted in spring and harvested in the autumn.

After placing stockpiles and farm plots, it's time to get building! The basic building material in Goblin Camp is wood, which comes from trees:

Getting your goblins to chop down trees is as easy as anything. All the commands in the game are simply accessible through a right-click menu:

There, simply select "Orders" and "Designate trees":

And select an area.

The trees in that area will be tagged for cutting if and when wood is required.

You manage your inventory through the Stock Manager, seen here:

We're going to need some logs to build a saw pit, so we just order up logs in the Stock Manager.

Building a workshop is as easy as anything else: select the building in the Build menu and place it on the map.

Alas, I can't place the saw pit yet because I don't have any logs. Don't worry; Koppak the goblin is here to fix that problem!

You can see what your orcs and goblins get up to in the Jobs screen. The tasks are color-coded for priority, with green being highest and red lowest.

The last step to getting your camp up and running is to place the spawning pool. If you look closely at the above screenshot, you can see some brown tildes (~) scattered around the camp. Those, dear readers, are filth. In this game, goblins and orcs reproduce via the good offices of the spawning pool: goblins dump filth and corpses in the spawning pool, and orcs and goblins crawl out. As more filth and corpses are dumped in, the pool expands.


Once you've placed your spawning pool, you sort of start playing and forget that you were supposed to be making a blog post. And before you know it, the camp looks like this:


One of the cardinal design principles of Goblin Camp is that as your camp gets more complex and you're able to do more things, it also gets more dangerous. The grey area on the map is exposed rock, and the square in it is my stone quarry. All the carnage around it is a result of the quarry's twofold nature. On the one hand, it gets you stone, which is handy for a lot of things; on the other hand, soldier ants occasionally attack from the quarry.

Above, I've added more hazard-producing constructions next to the quarry: a charcoal burning clamp and clay pit. You can see how that's worked out from the blood spattered all over them.

Here's another innovation: a pontoon bridge. There's a bog on the other side of the river, and I've sent my goblins to gather bog iron from it. The bridge is there to speed up the trip.

As you can see, the camp gets pretty muddy, so I've built duckboards through it; they're the brown double exclamation mark. Without duckboards, the interior of your camp will fast become unnavigable. When you've placed some duckboards, you again forget that you're meant to be writing a blog post, and so don't have any more screenshots.


As I've said, this is still version 0.13. Most of the features that goon is planning for his game aren't there yet, so at the moment it really is just a sort of ASCII Simcity with orcs. One big warning, though: it's a fun ASCII Simcity with orcs. This thing is eating up my leisure time like, well, Minecraft.

If you're at all interested in this kind of game, go check it out. It's an open source project and there are functioning forums, so if you get into it, you can get involved with the development. I have some faith this game might be going places, but even if it doesn't, it's fun right now.

Jan 19, 2011

Return to Epic Island - in beta

Not a lot to tell this time around; I've just done a lot of hard work. When I first saw Twin Peak, it looked like this:

Shortly before I died, I'd gotten to work on turning Twin Peak into Twin Tower, and it looked like this. The tree on top of it is still there, by the way.

After hours of hard work with pick and shovel, Twin Tower currently looks like this:

The sheer cliff face on the west side was so excellent that I decided to continue it all the way down, to build a proper pier for my boat. Here it is:

As you can see, that picture is an older one. Digging out the west slope was hard enough:

But worth it.

The west slope of Twin Peak, and quite a bit of the north and south faces as well, is now in these chests.

Meanwhile, Minecraft went beta shortly before Yule last year. No really big changes yet; the only major one seems to be that when you cut a tree down, the leaves slowly disappear and drop saplings. In Alpha days, the foliage would stay up even though the tree was gone, so you had to either plant a new tree at the same spot or hack away the foliage to avoid leaving an ugly sort of floating bush hanging around. So that's good!

That's me, by the way, in my iron breastplate and helmet and leather pants and shoes. As you can see, I'm outfitted for digging.

Here's a view of the work on Twin Tower in progress; the south face is pretty much finished, while the north side is still more of a tunnel.

Eventually, Twin Tower will live up to its name; that's the wall I built around the adjoining hilltop. Once I finish digging out the moat around the tower, I'll build a second tower on the land side.

Here's a view of the two towers from the northeast; it should also give some idea of the sheer scope of Epic Island.

To save myself a trip upstairs and to accommodate all the earth and rock I'm digging out, I had to install storage facilities on the bottom floor as well.

An, um, Minecraft dude's work is never done, so without further ado, I'm off to finish my moat. More soon!

Jan 12, 2011

Long time no die

It's been a while since I've died.

In the early days of my Minecrafting experience, I'd die a couple of times every damn session, either from a fall or a goddamn exploding cactus lurking outside my house. Up until my spectacular fall last time around, though, it had really been a good while since I last died. Maybe I got overconfident; I don't know.

When you die, the stuff you're carrying is scattered around the place you die, and you respawn at the very place you first started the game. If you take too long getting back, your things will vanish. When I was building my first tower, dying was no big deal: my spawn location is right outside the door to my first home. It was a simple enough matter to nip back to wherever it was that I got killed, gather my stuff and carry on carrying on. And that would happen a lot.

This time is a little different. I died falling off a cliff on Epic Island, so I respawn quite a ways away. The only way to get there with anything even remotely approaching speed is by boat, and the boat is, well, on the beach at Epic Island. If I chop down a tree, I suppose I could build a new one, but by the time I got there all my stuff would be gone. So why bother? I've got stuff to do here as well.


It pays to have backup gear at your bases, and before long I'm outfitted with a sword and tools again. Now that I'm back here, I can take this game in a whole new direction. Reaching for the skies with tall towers is all well and good, but to find some of the more interesting things in Minecraft, you have to, well, mine.

With that in mind, one of the first things I did was start digging a main shaft from my first ever base. As I've explained earlier, monsters come out at night, so you have to shut yourself in while it's dark out. That time is best spent mining, and that's what I've been doing.

The main shaft goes down a ways:

And a ways.

And still some.

Until I hit rock bottom. Literally!

The darker tiles there are impenetrable bedrock, impossible to mine or blow up, no matter how many frenzied minecrafters or exploding cacti make their way down here. And nestled among that bedrock, dear readers, is treasure.

Diamond ore! Mine it and you get diamond, the hardest substance in the game. It can be used to make tools, weapons, armor or even your house. But getting at it requires a little engineering.

You see, while you can cut stone with a stone pickaxe, and even mine metal ore with it, diamond is a different matter. Your ordinary wood or stone pickaxe can eventually cut through diamond ore, but you won't get a diamond! To properly mine the diamonds, you need a metal pickaxe: mine metal ore, smelt it in a furnace, and build a pickaxe out of metal and wood. Luckily, I came across some metal ore on my way down, and soon enough, I'm ready with my metal pickaxe.

Sadly there's only one block of diamond ore, but no matter: I've got a diamond! That's one more thing I've seen. In the same shaft, I also found redstone, which you can almost sort of see here:

Redstone is way too cool: it conducts electricity, so using redstone and switches, you can make quite a few things, up to and including a computer. But that's something to ponder later on.

There's still quite a few things on my to-find list, and most of them are underground. I haven't seen a peek of lava yet, let alone gold, and obsidian continues to elude me. Not only is obsidian the second-hardest material in the game, but it's needed for a, well, fiendish purpose that I won't go into quite yet.

After digging another connecting tunnel and extending my elevated walkway further west, I think it's time to head back to Epic Island. Sure, tunneling is good fun and all, but my heart is set on above-ground architecture. Next up: Return to Epic Island!