How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Rhapsodies on games, gaming, and why we play.

Month: December, 2011

Winslave’s Paradise

by anbrewk

Another one of my lil’ minecraft dudes died today – just now, actually.  He carelessly fell down a hole and died from fall damage. It was a really deep hole.  He was wearing a full set of diamond armor with an enchanted sword that he put 37 levels into. Because he had just dug that hole, his falling down it could have been avoided if he’d only shown the appropriate due care around such a dangerous thing.  Because he died and because he was hardcore, his world died with him.

His world was called “Winslave’s Paradise” and it was made with a seed of the same name.  It was named after another hardcore guy who died in a different game, Terraria, before ever getting to enjoy his existence. He, Winslave, spawned in a world in Terraria with no idea how to play.  It was a dark night and he was beside hungry zombies that ate him alive. Where Winslave died, a tombstone was left.  Because he died right beside the spawn, his tombstone was the first thing every subsequent character saw – a reminder of an event none of them knew enough to care about.  It was the tombstone that marked the death of someone who never really lived.  In Winslave’s memory, a paradise was built for him in minecraft.  All of the useless blocks collected in deep dark dangerous caves- gold, extra iron, pumpkins, TNT, lapus lazuli dye, whatever, were built into the walls of a great cave in Winslave’s memory. Despite Winslave dying in another world, he would be remembered here.  It started with gold and blue dye but then it was everything: sheeps’ wool and the dyes needed to color them with every color, every different kind of leaf, grass, wood, vines, flowers: everything.
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Strategic Bluffing: A Review of ‘Lord of the Rings – The Confrontation’

by frangibility

I’ve recently been introduced to Reiner Knizia‘s Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation by one of my room-mates and I have to say that it is every bit as good as I hoped it would be. If I had any trepidation going it, it was simply due to the good doctor’s prolific output: over 350 games at last count. As such, even though he has designed some of my favourites (including Tigris and Euphrates, Modern Art, Samurai, and Battle Line), you will also see his imprimatur on far less noteworthy titles. Fortunately, I didn’t need to worry: LOTR – The Confrontationis a clever and engaging two-player game that packs a lot of strategy and enjoyment into 30 minutes or less.

So, what kind of game is LOTR – The Confrontation? If you imagine taking the fun part of Stratego (i.e., the initial stage of planning and set-up) and combining it with a system of semi-blind bids for combat resolution (think: Dungeon Twister), as well as asymmetric player powers and victory conditions, you basically have this game. To be more specific, it plays out as follows: each player selects one of the two sides (Fellowship or Sauron), retrieves their single-sided counters and freely positions them upon their side of the diamond-shaped board, following some fairly simply placement rules. The Fellowship player’s goal is to run the ring-bearer into Mordor – the region that represents the Sauron player’s “base;” conversely, the Sauron player’s goal is either to kill the ring-bearer (easier said than done) or to run any three of its units into The Shire (the Fellowship base). The movement rules are very simple: on each turn, a player *must* move a unit forward (or sideways if you are in the forest squares on the Sauron side). Since the board is diamond shaped, this means that each move on your side of the board allows you to choose between two different target squares, whereas moving onto enemy turf is always going to be unidirectional.
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Another one bites the dust.

by anbrewk

Today, I died in my hardcore game of minecraft. Today’s death was an important death as it marked the end of a two week run at trying to reach The End. In order to reach The End, I had to find a stronghold, place 12 Eyes of Ender in the end portal and then beat an enderdragon. In my two weeks of playing, I didn’t get to do any of those things because I never managed to find a stronghold.  I built an entire suit of diamond armor, multiple enchanted diamond swords, built pillars of gold, found multiple records, cocoa beans, pig saddles, and all the rest but never a stronghold. I searched through huge underworld caverns, I followed the paths of a dozen Eyes of Ender but never did I find a stronghold. I traveled to the Nether world, killing blazes for their blaze rods but never did I find a stronghold.

The experience of hardcore minecraft is much like many experiences in hardcore mode games – that of a hard life followed by a sudden, meaningless and final death. But looking back on that run, I don’t consider it a defeat.  My lil’ guy died with a diamond helmet of underwater breathing on his head that let him swim down to the bottom of the ocean where he happened to accidentally fall into a lava filled chasm that, combined with fall damage, burnt his health down to one little half heart. If it wasn’t for my quick thinking and preparedness with that bucket of water, he would have died right there but he put out the fire and lay standing on the hard rock floor of that chasm for a good full second before that creeper showed up and blew his little half heart body apart.  He was an adventurous lil’ guy with much to show for.  He lived a long and prosperous life in search of an elusive stronghold that he never did find.  He died like he lived, uselessly searching for something seemingly impossible to find. R.I.P. lil’ minecraft dude.

Choice, challenge and satisfaction

by berv

Last night I attempted to express my frustrations with grinding in games in the form of an epithet. My first off-the-top-of-my-head attempt was:

The simpler the computer program you would need to play the game for you, the worse a game it is.

Andrew quickly pointed out that Tetris is easily played by a computer and remains a well-designed and satisfying game. And I’m sure many examples exist of games that require complex human input but are still not very good games.

So I was forced to return to the question of what exactly I was trying to express. What I’m looking for is a way to describe why it is I get frustrated by repeating certain tasks but not others (e.g.  digging through the earth in Terraria but not retrying a level in Super Meat Boy for the 100th time).

What I begin to suspect is a key connection to meaningful player input. Read the rest of this entry »