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Bringing home the bacon in Elite Dangerous: The life of a Can Jockey in the Deep Space Salvage Vessel “Pharos Brightly”

In the rather wonderful Elite: Dangerous I have hit upon the role I like best (at least until exploration comes along in Beta 2!) and it’s a role I feel I was born to play: Deep Space Salvage Operative! Oh yeah… smell the money!

You see the clever Devs at Frontier Developments have added a random encounter system whereby Unidentified Signal Sources (USS for short) are detected by your ship and if you choose to investigate you could find, amongst other things, abandoned cargo canisters floating alone and forgotten in the deep black night. And that’s where I come in!

Gold! Gold! And it's all mine I tells ya!

Gold! Gold! And it’s all mine I tells ya!

You see each ship is fitted with a cargo scoop and this allows you, through some careful piloting, to pluck the lonely & unloved canisters out of the starry night and into the belly of your faithful steed. After that it’s a simple(ish) matter of selling them on. Of course the various police forces, security forces and pirate gangs may have other thoughts but no one said being a can jockey was risk-free, did they?

Now I’ve written recently about how I hope the FE devs expand the role of salvage merchant and broaden the abilities of the police as the black and white nature of cargo scooping is a little limiting right now, but until I can upgrade my beloved Cobra to a frankly fearsome Asp (see here & here & here) and explore the role of an explorer I’m more than happy to be a can jockey in the DSSV Pharos Brightly, as these two videos showing a typical salvage run show…

Elite Dangerous – Commander Burro grows more and more excited…

OK, so I’m on record as being an elite fan but also as being nervous about the new version due out early this year because of my worry it will be a griefing haven. Neither of these facts has changed but it’s fair to say that now that Frontier Developments have released a very highly polished Alpha to the world I’m a hell of a lot more excited about this game than I was a month or so ago.

The Alpha was (and is) only open to the people who backed the kickstarter but FD haave beeen very canny in not trying to block the alpha testers/players from filming and releasing their experiences meaning that YouTube has been flooded with some very impressive footage to whet the appetite of all us non-alpha backers. The first phase of alpha testing is now closed with more coming before they go to an open beta (by open, you still have to pre-order the game from their store) and then eventually in a public Gaamma period much like the way Minecraft operated.

I’m not in a position to purchase access to either the alpha tests or the beta tests but I’m not irked by that as I’m saving up for a joystick & throttle combo to play the game with so early access wouldn’t suit me anyway. Plus there is still the matter of whether or not I’ll like the game being a mulitplayer game or not – as I said in the griefing post, if FD create a world where dicks can flourish then I’m not going to shell out my limited funds for it. In all honesty I don’t think they will allow this to happen but I still want to read some post-launch reviews before I drop £35 for the game and the same again for a joystick.

In the meantime I’ve been scouring YouTube for cool videos to get me in the mood for some long overdue space combat in my gaming life. Of course Elite is much more than combat, but a space trading game alone would be as due as ditch water so a nice dollop of exciting pew pew is going to be a must and it looks like ED is going to deliver in spades!

Scott Manley has a useful introduction here:

And then later he has an very exciting time in a big old space battle here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMKAcgx-ueQ

Here, Kroy Mortlach has three brilliant ‘back to basics’ videos that really explain how to get your ship controls up and running from scratch:

And finally, for today at least, Isinona proves his/her amazing piloting skills why flying and fighting with the fly-by-wire flight assist computer turned off. After seeing these videos, I want to fly like this more than anything!

So there you have the pick of my videos of the Elite Dangerous Alpha test. I would dearly love to be part of it but there’s no way I can afford to drop money on games any more (tip – if you want to be cash rich, be kid poor) so these videos are the closest I’ll get to flying my own Cobra Mk3 until the game is released in a few months. I’m all about the vicarious thrills, me 😉

A tale of sky blocks, game mechanics and the difference between Survivalcraft and Minecraft

I’ve never really got into playing the many, many modded games available for Minecraft, mainly because they aren’t (yet) available for the picket edition. Instead I trend to watch the Yogscast guys play through them on their YouTube channel. One I’m watching right now is Sjin & Duncan’s Sky Blocks series which is great fun, not only because of their infectious enjoyment but also because of the fact the sky blocks game is a clever twist on the nature of Minecraft itself – the endless world is reduced to a tiny & finite area, there is no mining to be done and what was once cheap (dirt) becomes the most precious commodity you can have. In this seemingly simple inversion a whole new game opens up and that is the brilliant strength of Minecraft, the flexibility to be more than one game.

Given that I don’t know how to mod MCPE , I decided to build a Sky Blocks world in Survivalcraft with the intention of publishing it to the community content service. Unfortunately I quickly found that some of Survivalcraft’s game mechanics don’t allow for this l kind of game mode to be developed and that worries me greatly because, as I said in this post, if the game isn’t capable of being nodded in the same way Minecraft is then I predict it will have a limited future. Let me explain what I found whilst building a sky blocks game and then hopefully you will see why I’m concerned.

Sky Blocks – The Basics (as far as I understand them): In Sky Blocks you typically start off on a small, floating platform made of soil and containing a single source of lava and water and either a fully grown tree or a sapling. The lava and water mean you can create cobblestone by allowing them to touch, whilst the tree allows you to farm wood for tools, building materials and torches. The stone and wood you farm allow you to expand your platform and connect to others that typically contain other valuable items such as seeds that allow you to start to farm food. The beauty of the game is that normally worthless blocks such as soil become incredibly valuable, normally abundant resources such as wood and food must be carefully managed and throwaway blocks such as cobblestone become the main building medium that you have to work hard to gather. On top of that, the chances of mobs spawning right on top of you adds more than as frisson of excitement at night.

The problems of creating Sky Blocks in Survivalcraft:

1) Useable stone tends to be a rare spawn when water and lava mix. Sometimes you get granite which can be crafted into tools, but in the main basalt is generated and that cannot be crafted. In my test world I used my first wooden pick until it broke and the water/lava mixer only gave out 6 granite blocks. I used all 6 to make 2 stone picks and used both of those to mine the stone being generated until they broke in which time I ended up with 1 solitary block of granite, not enough to replace even one tool. Now maybe there is a magic system for always generating granite, but in my numerous tests I’ve not been able to divine it so maybe the answer lies not in the generator, but rather in what it generates. If the basalt could be crafted then this issue would be cleared up immediately, but if not then the very central system of the Sky Blocks game is broken and the modded play style cannot be ported over to Survivalcraft.

2) Trees are too hard to grow. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it. Tree farming in Survivalcraft is too ruddy hard. All I want to do is plant a sapling and have it grow, but in Survivalcraft I have to make 2 material-expensive items to test the right place to plant them, and on a sky block you don’t have access to these materials. In my test world every sapling died meaning my only source of sustainable tools ended with my first and only tree (place in creative mode when I set the play arena up). No trees once again means Survivalcraft cannot be used to play games such as Sky Blocks.

3) Food is hard to get. A few updates ago Kaalus added hunger, exhaustion and some other mechanics to the game to make survival more challenging. He also added farming so players could grow food which is also a staple of the Sky Blocks model. Unfortunately, unless you want to give your Sky Block player access to everything they need on the first island, the act of getting across to the next island to find food exhausts you to the point of death. Giving the player the means to start a farm from the start largely removes the need to build across to other islands and therefore the point of even playing the game is lost.

4] Mobs need to be a threat. When on a small platform hundreds of metres above solid rock or a lake of lava the last thing you want is to be knocked off by an angry mob. In Minecraft Sky Block the mix of mob skills (close quarters with zombies, ranged with skeletons, barrier breaching with spiders and explosive with creepers) and the spawn at night/burn by day mechanics makes the mobs both a real danger and a lot of fun. Aside from the occasional leaping werewolf, what dangers would mobs on a Survivalcraft version of Sky Blocks present. None as far as I can tell, and that’s if any are capable of spawning in such an extreme environment. Without effective mobs there is no danger other than clumsily falling off the platform or into the lava pool and having that as the only sense of peril just isn’t enough fun.

So if there is no danger other than falling off and if you can’t split up vital supplies or generate enough materials to survive then where does this leave Survivalcraft’s ability to replicate all the fun and challenge of Sky Blocks? Pretty much dead in the water right now, I’m afraid. I’m not going to work on another Sky Blocks map because there is no point. Of course there is every chance I’ve not understood something about the game mechanics I’ve listed above, especially something like hunger or endurance, but even with that factored in I can’t see how you can get away from the issue of the trees being hard to grow or the stone blocks being un-craftable or the mobs being almost no worthwhile & entertaining threat.

If you factor out all the game types Survivalcraft can’t be because it lacks multiplayer, what are you left with? Extreme survival scenarios and adventures. My guess is that a lot of the points I’ve listed above will apply to these two remaining games types as well – I would imagine placing worthwhile mobs in an adventure map would be very hard indeed.

The problem is that without the ability for the community to create their own games within the shell of Survivalcraft, Kaalus’ game is doomed to being crushed by the eventual (and imminent) rise of Minecraft’s pocket edition and that would be a great shame because there is more than enough room for one game like MCPE.

I have no idea if Kaalus will read this, I doubt it, but if he does I hope he hears my message – please consider developing mechanisms that will allow your great game to be modded because only in that way will it stand shoulder to shoulder with MCPE.

Meanwhile, in SurvivalCraft… How To Upload Worlds!

SC HBA 0One of the many marvelous things about SC is that you can upload and download texture packs and worlds created by the community, but the act of uploading isn’t quite as straight forward as it might, at first thought, seem. I always assumed that Kaalus hosted all the worlds on a server somewhere but this would be hideously expensive so what he does is allow the players to upload their own worlds & textures to Dropbox and then put a link to that location in the community content section. Given that I’m always confuserated by this, I decided to make a video to demonstrate and explain. I had intended it to be 5 mins long at the most… it’s 13. Fail 😀

Here’s my 13 minute long “How to…” video with the totally pro ending 😉 If you want me to do any more “How to…”s leave me a comment.

Whilst over in Minecraft… A Tour of Termite Canyon, Part 3

In the third part of this tour I take you on a yomp from the ruined Moon Goddess Temple to my sea-side house and then into the undersea glass tunnel and dome. Enjoy.

The sound isn’t any better here, but until about part 8  of this series I hadn’t realised my hand was covering the mic hole so there’s not a lot I can do, I’m sorry 😀

All my Termite Canyon posts can be found here and the youtube playlist is here.

Whilst over in Minecraft… A Tour of Termite Canyon, Part 2

In the second part of this eight (or nine, I haven’t finished yet so I can’t be sure…) part series I take you on a tour from my main house, where I fail to notice anything odd about the re-appearance of all the chests I had failed to notice were missing in part 1, through a hollowed out mountain and eventually to a ruined temple on the far north-eastern corner of the of the map. Enjoy.

Oh, and sorry about the sound quality – these are all my first films so it’s a bit choppy and hissy. I’m trying to sort that out but without an external mic option on the tablet (and my unwillingness to re-record vocals) I’m not sure what I can do. I might see if I can separate off the audio and clean it up on the tablet before reattaching it during render.

All my Termite Canyon posts can be found here and the youtube playlist is here.

Whilst over in Minecraft… A Tour of Termite Canyon, Part 1

When I started playing MCPE last year, my first world was called Termite Canyon and I built a heck of a lot in it. From the first house protected by a fence and moat, to the undersea glass dome that eventually burnt me out in the game I set about turning this whole world into a fun playground of mines, farms, lighthouses and ruined temples – and now I can share it with you too 🙂

I’ve been filming all the various areas of Termite Canyon and then pratting about with the video editing of them on my tablet. The sound quality isn’t great but I’m sure you can live with a little hiss 😀

So without further ado, here is the first in a series of videos taking you on a tour of Termite Canyon – enjoy and comment 🙂

All my Termite Canyon posts can be found here and the youtube playlist is here.

Meanwhile, in Survivalcraft… Spelunking at sea!

Whilst out at sea following the ghostly galleon I spied an island with a cave entrance. As I’d been talking to TrekkerTim in the comments about the possibility of caves existing under ocean islands I went for a poke about…Here I am in the cave that ran through the island but didn’t go down into it…

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Mobile me… Things I’ve learnt from filming games on my tablet, part the second!

MCPE HBA 1

Twelve hours is a long time in the video editing world, it seems. As I was typing up my last post yesterday afternoon, my tablet was rendering another video for me, or rather it was failing to. I did mention how I’d moved from VidTrim to AndroMedia for reasons of quality. Unfortunately AndroMedia failed to render videos more often than it succeeded, and at 2+ hours a time that’s a lot of wasted time. Something had to be done.

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Mobile me… Things I’ve learnt from filming games on my tablet, part the first!

MCPE HBA 1

It’s only been ten short days since I rooted my trusty old 1st Gen Nexus 7 and installed SCR Screen Recorder and I’ve already added more videos to my YouTube channel than I managed to do in all the years I’ve had one! Here’s what I have learnt in the last ten days on filming, rendering & uploading:

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