Thursday, October 21, 2010

Minecraft: One Tree Challenge

After fiddling around with the single player, I was hunting around for a way to make the game a little more challenging. I had thought of a 'naturalist' challenge where you couldn't destroy any existing Flora or Fauna. Without wood from existing trees it severely limits your startup to scavanging seedlings and planting them in open caves, and using wool block housing for the first couple of nights. In the end it felt too much like a surface crawl instead of exploring the depths, but at least I found some awesome natural Wonders.

Massive caverns beneath a duck's head


Floating fire. I'm assuming there used to be a tree where the lava landed

Water and lava from the same rock.

So the next challenge I thought up was a 'one tree challenge': Spawn, find the closest tree and chop it down, then dig directly down where the tree stood and never come back up again. Since wood is needed for a workbench, the first pick, handles and torches, you really need to think about what you dig. Hardcore mode as well, death = regenerate the world.

The first attempt I dug around the shaft of light to the bottom of the map, but didn't hit any coal to get torches going. Tried getting a space big enough for a tree to grow at the bottom, but eventually ran out of handles.

2nd attempt I tried a shallow tree directly under the shaft of light to see if it was even possible to grow them underground, but I punched through the roof of an enormous cavern just below my starting box. There was a waterfall and pool right next to where the shaft of light landed, so I plonked a tree there and waited.

There was also some coal available, so risking some wood for a set of torches helped me explore the caverns a little as well as making night-time mining a little more fun. I'd also started spreading grass down from the top by rebuilding the staircase with dirt. Don't know if it's required for trees to grow, but it can't hurt (and digging out dirt saves the handles while I wait for the tree).

A couple of days had passed and I was getting worried about the tree. If it doesn't grow then it'll be a pretty useless challenge, but if you're able to build them anywhere it'll also be somewhat useless once you get going. I had one more seedling from the original tree, so I tried another spot just in case, and splurged another couple of sticks for torches to ring the seedlings. Please work!

Coming back from another spelunking expedition (groans are pretty scary when you have no equipment and only 4 torches to cycle through) I noticed the greenery. Yes! Trees! The bottleneck was more or less gone now, but I kept up preparing the initial cavern for more trees just in case there was an accident. I also splurged on a hoe to place some wheat next to the tree trunks. Not sure whether the grass triggered the trees growing, but it was essential to get the farming up and running. 1 chook had managed to fall through the hole, but pigs couldn't fit so I needed the bread in case the groans became serious.

Greenified the 2nd cavern and established a channel for the water to follow my journey deeper into the cave system. I'd seen some lava, and had learned from previous adventures that being on fire is lethal without water handy. Eventually made some iron armour for confidence to push further down, but died to a cave-in before it was put to the test. I'd followed a cave heading up toward the top and had simply placed a torch near some sand when it all came down on me.

Initial cavern with entry point visible up in the roof.

A view down past the 2nd cavern with viaduct and trees. Seedling in the bottom left is the initial landing point bathed in sunlight (and torches).

With trees able to be grown almost anywhere once you have torches, the challenge loses its teeth after the first tree grows. The initial resource limitations certainly helped give it a more desperate feel which carried long past the point of safety, so overall I'm pretty happy how the challenge went. It's a pity that Multiplayer has infinite health and no durability issues as it would have been an interesting challenge with a couple of people. Might try it again at the LAN anyway.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

GameLog 167 & 168

Civilization 5 (65h) - Steam clocked it at 80h, but there were a couple of times when Cameron had been playing as well as times when I'd left it on. Completing the Deity difficulty level took up the most of it. Currently I'm attempting an emperor 1-city challenge as the Indians. Culture victory still looks a fair way off and Montezuma and alexander are >10 cities, but I'm more or less winning the tech race.

I've also started fiddling with the modding tools. Tried at first to fix the wonder placement, but it doesn't look like it's in the XML or Lua scripts. Next up is to build a 'Conquer Australia' mod where everyone starts on a boat in 1770. AI and happiness mods to follow if it's successful.

League of Legends (6h) - Couple of big sessions. Keep going back to Rammus for high level play. Should really be looking at other chars.

Bejewelled Blitz (5h) - Couple of large scores to show for the time investment, but really just looking at the phychology behind the game and its interaction with your social graph. Once again the highscore table is king when it comes to getting me interested in repeat play...

Dwarf Fortress (2h) - about 25 pop now, but still no caravans. Tempted to dig deeper to open up any caves I find.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Civilization V - Flawless Strategy

After beating Civ V fairly comfortably on King, I cranked it all the way up to Deity to see what strategies were going to work, and whether the AI improved any more from a pretty lacklustre showing so far. The plan was to go for a diplomatic Greek victory on a duel map so that there were less city states to deal with. I had tried a number of starts, one going pretty well against Siam until a couple of city-states were mysteriously annexed without being attacked (is there a buyout once you get them past allied?). I had also noted that even on duel maps, the space allocated for each player's expansion is more or less the same, so the game doesn't compress that much apart from making the world a bit easier to totally explore.

In the new setup, I chose archapeligos to limit the land mass for the AI expansion, and add another AI as well as a couple more city-states. There was a danger that I may not be able to control all the city-states, but I was a little afraid that some might be culled or absorbed into the AI monolith.

I needed to restart a couple of times to get a feel for the archapeligo layout, and to look for a start that I thought would take me to the end (plus being one of the more enjoyable parts of the game, starting out afresh with optimistic hopes of what the fog would reveal). Finally settled on a small river with 2 fish, marble and silk in sight. Turned out later to also have 4 fish in total as well as whales. Really was an ideal location in terms of special squares for the capital.

With a good idea that I'd be on an island by myself, I went immediately for the worker and left the initial warrior to mop up any barbarians. Milked a couple of them for added XP, but eventually swept the island clear. I'd rushed calendar first to get the worker occupied in opening up the resources, then pushed through fishing and optics to get my lonely warrior out and about.

On the next island over was England, but I noticed a peninsula projcting toward me that had dyes on it. My settler was enroute to a somewhat ordinary 2nd site on my island, so I diverted him to the peninsula to pinch the resource. My philosophy is that any new happy resource is worth a city, a legacy tactic from Civ4 that still seems appropriate.

With me in their back yard, England wasn't exactly chummy. By the time I had my 3rd city placed back on my continent, England was amassing at the borders. I'd scouted a fair bit of the map through an early trireme and had met most of the city-states, but none close were militaristic AND providing a resource I didn't have. England had also bagged 2 allies by this stage and had 2 main cities (~12,8) with 2 new ones on a seperate island.

It was a little suprising that Siam led off the combat, but both of us were significantly down on England's score. I'd jumped in on Siam's request, but soon was alone after Siam bailed at the first chance. My peninsula city was regularly surrounded, but I always seemed to have enough to pick off the melee units with only 2 land units and the trireme. The peninsula worked in my favour as there was only space for 2 units at a time to progress down from London, and one space was holed up by an archer unit. This forced wave after wave of units into the water for a simple trireme cleanup. After about 50 turns we still had control of the peninsula city and had killed at least 1 unit a turn for the entire battle with our 3 units. England sued for peace a couple of times demanding I give away just about everything, so it may not have dawned on the AI that I'm actually pretty happy with the current war. I'm raking in the experience, I'm not in any real danger, and I know that England is spending the majority of their Deity bonuses on making units.

Seeking some allies I signed up one of the city-states, but it turned out to be a poor choice as it simply made an them easy target for England to pick on instead of me. England had just researched their longbow archers for additional devastation, but unfortunately didn't support with a serious melee army. Once the city-state had wiped out the solitary melee unit in the attack, the rest of the archers ringed the city and rained arrows from afar. The ring couldn't let any other units in though, so the City-state sat at a near-destroyed state for the rest of the battle (another 50 turns or so)

England finally came to their senses and gave very favourable terms for peace. I'd contemplated continuing the war, but the appearance of cannons was more a deciding factor in signing than the promise of 20 gold per turn.

With so much fish and the Colossus of Rhodes, I'd been highly cash positive throughout the war and had managed to snag a couple more city-states onto my side. Now with peace through the land I teched hard to education, then back to the technology dregs to push exclusively for the United Nations. England went on an expansion spree at one point, settling any outcrop of land to take them out past 9 cities. I'd contemplated restarting the war to puppet the 2 colonies on my island, but Siam wasn't interested in starting up hostilities again and I'm sure I'd have lost something somewhere else (likely one of the city-states) in the process. We settled for puppeting one of the hostile city-states that happened to provide ivory, the only resource I needed from England.

By the time I finally got the Scholasticism bonus from the Patronage social policy, I had all 6 remaining city-states allied away. Scholasticism more than doubled my research, which was by that stage par with the AI anyway. We hit Globalization by the late 1850's and had a capital primed to build the UN in 11 turns.

Once I had built the UN, I'd prepared for war as I was expecting some fireworks from the AI now that I was so close to victory. Alas the AI was happy signing up for more research while the final 10 turns of the game ticked by. The rigged election in 1878 proclaimed me diplomatic winner with little fanfare...

Overall I'm fairly happy with he game. The start was excellent and it certainly felt like the long battle in the middle should have wiped me if the AI had any tactical awareness. If I'd known how powerful scholasticism was to this type of strategy I'd have pushed a little harder to get it earlier and possibly had the UN by the late 1700's. The game was running really slowly toward the end (much slower than even some of the larger maps) so I'm not particularly looking for a repeat outing any time soon.

Now that I've got that game out of my system I feel better about checking out the modding sections. I have a partially complete huge map of Australia to polish up and release, but I'm more keen on modding up an enhanced AI, a storymaker / exporter, a random terrain generator, and a per city happiness mod.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Bejewelled Blitz 75k > 50k

I've been working toward it for a while, but I finally hit the gold level of 75k before the 50k gold level. The significance is that the highest score is so random, and relying on a high score as feedback for good play is not enough. What is important is a high average, a consistently high score each time you play.

When looking at people's scores you can usually distinguish a bubble around a certain point (wins in each 25K bracket slowly increasing until falling away). Increasing that bubble point is more important than waiting on a massive score to land in your lap. Of course the more efficient you are, the more likely you are to take advantage of a lucky streak.

With each iteration of the game, the average scores have slowly increased. Initially it was almost impossible to land a 250K+ score, but now with the instant moving and bonus gems it's possible to get a 250K each week, and a 500K+ score to get onto the top of the friends list. This makes it hard to read exactly where long time players are at, but at least the stats are now visible. What I'd like would be a simple way to map your own graph against someone else's, or a way to compare your stats this month against last month to give a better indication of progression.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

GameLog 165 & 166

Civilisation 5 (53h) - It only came out on Friday, but it's been compelling to play and experience the new system. The game feels more like a new franchise than a continuation of civ 3 -> civ 4. It's not the hexes, but mainly the global happiness that changes the idea of how to construct an optimal empire. The game seems to lose something with this simplificaiton, as well as having no gold / research slider. Growing large empires still have their limitations, but they seem more arbitrary than before.

The directable expansion is a really neat concept, especially with the ability to "guide" the expansion through payment. Puppeting captured cities is the same choice of giving up money to have more direct control. Sometimes it's an interesting choice, but for the vast majority of cases it's simply not worth annexing.

The city-states are done well and seem like they could be good tug-of-war bags in the late game, especially if you're going after a diplomatic victory. It would be better if there were other ways of influencing them with, say, gifting research or bullying them for tribute.

The mods are looking promising so far, and with it built in to the system it seems like lots more exposure will inspire quality mods. I'd missed the modding episode of 3 moves ahead initally and only lisetened to it a couple of days before getting civ5. I was hoping for FFH2 discussion and was chuffed that both Soren Johnson and the FFH modder were on together. The discussion regarding more exposure to the mods and how to manage that from within the program seemed to parallel the model civ5 was attempting. I'm really tempted to mod up a city based happiness system and bring back sanitation, or work on a better AI

Played through as Hiawatha after a random choice on prince setting, and then campaign with the french romping through a pangea on King. King seem easier than in previous editions, but I think there's another level higher too. Next up in the steam achievement quest is emperor mode on an archapeligo dual map with the greeks.

Dwarf Fortress (17h) - Turns out I was a little hasty to call my fortress a cursed death trap as the immigrants have dribbled in for the next 3 seasons. Still no caravan though. I now have a very solid fortress, but still feel hesitant on breaking open anything lower. I like the tension of wanting to explore deeper, but not wanting to open up a can of whoopass on my stunties.

League of Legends (10h) - Went up north for Jemma's baptism and this seem to be all that's played up there. Add a couple of LANs too and it's stil alive and kicking.

Elemental: War of Magic (5h) - New patch, same bugs. Arrrgh.

Friday, October 01, 2010

No one even considered making the journey to such a cursed death-trap this season

Inspired by the new Minecraft uploader, I re-downloaded Dwarf Fortress to have a look at building a new fort for it. Since it's been a while, I had also missed some neat changes that makes the game more like, well, a game.

- Major work done on the map design and history. Now cities are connected with roads and villiages with fields are commonplace. Makes the place feel more alive and had me generating a couple of maps just to check out how well it was doing. Unfortunately adventurer mode still seems underdone, and once you start a fortress the outside world seems a distant memory. Recently I've been keeping the map of the world open as a backdrop to the game.

- There seems to be no lava tubes anymore (or very rarely) and there's no method for searching for them on the expedition setup screen. I found out later that every map has lava if you dig deep enough. Great! at least it's now opened up way more sites to build.

- There's most likely to be underground caverns too. Big, 5-10 level caves with seperate rooms, columns, pools, and nasties. In my first real excursion down I bumped into one and had a fun time looking around the cave system, but some crocs and trolls quickly destroyed my bearded populace.

- The caves offer muddy ground, a new prerequisite for underground farming. I'd built out my typical subsurface farm system, but no planting choices had appeared. Thinking it was just a glitch, I ignored it and finally set up a farm on the surface as the new maps had done. Once I'd broken into a cave, I'd seen the muddy floor and twigged on the change. Natural cave farming was ultimatly my downfall as I really wanted to keep the cave open. Should have sealed it off until I had my military ready to go.

- The new fighting and reporting system toook a little bit to get used to as there were no main messages as to how things were going. The reports are way better once I found them, but I stil haven't found a way to have the reports open as the fight is going on. Seems to be an unpause / pause / read reports type of staccato battle.

I embarked again into a new world with an aquifer layer instead of a running stream (usually a mandatory requirement for fishing and early channeling) and set about designating the new fort. Our random expidition name turned out to be "The Balded Machine", a name I can do something with later on. I missed the fort name though, so "Fortresssearched" it is. I'm hoping it's a practical joke on Dwarves with lisps.

Season 1 passed and we'd set up most of the critical areas for the first 7 adventurers, but no migrants or caravans were a little worrying. We pressed on and, apart from a little food crisis, built out the fort though season 2 with no real concerns. As far as fort progress, I feel we're way further ahead than previous attempts, and have even begun strip mining some seams for more lucrative rocks.

Then I got the message. "No one even considered making the journey to such a cursed death-trap this season". Another missed migration? Usually dwarves are clamboring to get inside my undefended,ill-provisioned,infested hovel. Why don't they like this place? It's ROKKIN! My suspicions turned to the caravans. No caravnas means no exports or new (meaty) provisions. I've checked the depot access an it seems to be fine, but no civilisations appearing on the civ list might indicate that there's no-one around. The island is quite small, so I'd be surprised if no-one knows where we are. I'm sure there were some farming areas on the same startup screen as out place. Hmm, might need to read up a bit on migration. There may be some serious changesthat have jeopardized our expedition.

It might just be and unlucky season too. The changes to buildings means I've gotten crossbows and bolts relatively easily, so I might stick it out a couple more years and work on upping my trapper into a fighting machine. Once he's there I can go digging for any caverns. Dogs are breeding well too, so our army is going to be mainly 4 legged.