Minecraft: Diary of a Miner Part 2

Work at Pigeon continues. I constructed the Stargate.

Also, the stairs go all the way from the Stargate and Nether Portal in the sky, down to the bedrock now. I’m working on making the stairs entirely encased so you don’t have to worry about creepers (or getting your pet dogs wet).

I miss my base at Aerie. The world known as Floaty has been my home and favorite place, but since the Nether Portals all come back out at Bunnies (the main world), I don’t really have a choice but to rebuild here.

I still go to Aerie. I can get to the Nether from there via the Nether Portal I built, it’s just a one-way ticket. It will spit me back out at Pigeon. So, to get back to Aerie I’d have to go back through the Stargate. Since the 1.6 update that also logs me off and accuses me of hacking, so I have to log back in too.

Hopefully Minecraft will one day natively have multiworld support. For right now I’m slowly rebuilding in the main world known as Bunnies.

Team IT: Hello Computer World

The following is a fictitious tale of techies in a basement building and repairing computers. They wish they could do just that, but instead they spend most of their day doing tech support on the phone and through the web for the customers of the store they work for called Computer World. Most of us know that IT is not like BOFH as much as we wish it were. These guys are like most of us who can’t avoid dealing with… PEOPLE! (duh-nuh-naaaah!) Between the sales people on the floor upstairs, who the IT people are convinced are out to get them, and the customers, equally out to get them, it’s a wonder anything ever gets fixed. Maybe you’re on an IT team yourself, work in customer service, have a job where you seem to be doing anything but what you took it for in the first place, or maybe you’re exactly the sort of customer to call up…

Team IT

In a Galaxy Not So Far Away

“Stupid, broken piece of crap Vista! I mean, it works great on my home machine,” Ben said to everyone, but most of all the tower he was working on, “I have no idea what the hell keeps making this machine turn off.”

“Yeah. It’s still not working. Whatever,” Tom decompressed the mute button and continued in frustrated, yet controlled tones, trying to guide another caller through the ins and outs of their own Mac.

“Dude, it’s not even rebooted yet. I didn’t say try it again yet,” Ben plugged it back in and hit the switch, “I’ll get it up. I said I’d get it up and I will.”

“That’s what he said,” Sarah casually threw out as she walked in, plopped down her coat, and flicked on her PC.

“Did he now?” asked Neil from over the cube wall.

“Probably still trying,” answered Sarah logging into the domain, “I didn’t wait to find out.”

“Wha- oh,” Neil finished his own though internally.

“I’ll take a look at it after I get off the phone,” Tom had the mute button compressed and Remote Desktop up on his screen waiting to try to connect to the Vista computer Ben was working on. Tom was working on that computer earlier that morning, but had been on the phone since, “Don’t worry about it.”

“Look, I’ll let you know when it’s up,” Ben growled.

“That’s what she said,” Craig added from the corner where their server rack was.

“Told you,” Sarah told Neil.

“Haaa. Word.” Tom had his hand over mute again.

“Okay. I think it’s fixed,” Ben insisted.

“For now,” answered Tom.

“I believe you,” said Sarah unconvincingly over Ben’s shoulder.

Ben’s phone rang, “That’s me. I wonder if I can get this call to last my entire shift… um, not that I’m trying to. Man, did I say that out loud?”

“Like Sarah, I believe you,” Tom now had a game of Tetris and a blog up on his screen, decompressed mute and continued talking on the phone.

“This lady has gone from knowing nothing about this to being a master. Boo-yeah,” Ben decompressed his mute button, “It only has taken like twelve calls to us. Problem is now she thinks I’m her friend or priest or something… go away. Leave me alone.”

“Nice work,” congratulated Tom, “Teaching n00bs to fish. Now if only you could get the custie’s Vista box up and running. I still can’t log in.”

“Yeah, it looks like it turned itself off again,” confirmed Ben.

The phones continued to ring, and everyone settled into their bluetooth headsets, mostly at some computer or another. A line of yet to be repaired computers snaked around the door, everyone with at least one ‘project’ laid out a neglected due to the afternoon rush of callers.

“I’ve got two questions,” called out Tom.

“And since we’re playing fun time with numbers, I just hit sixty minutes on this call,” called back Ben.

“How the heck do people end up using computers and yet not using them at the same time? Seriously, for all this person can do, he’s using it as an expensive paper weight!” Tom decompressed mute and went back to sweet-as-pie tone on the phone.

“Considering you talk mostly to Mac users, who think of their computers as status symbols or toy poodles, you shouldn’t be so surprised,” Sarah was fast to criticize the Mac versus PC commercials for stereotyping, but surely had stereotypes of her own when it came to that debate.

“I’ll be back on the phones in a moment, I’m trying to see how back logged we are,” Craig typed at a computer in the hall, “And maybe even see if I can make a schedule that will get some of this crap our of the dungeon and back on the floor.”

“And there are now four people in line and yes, I am still on the same call,” Ben updated everyone, “Just in case anyone cares.”

“Only up to nine minutes,” Craig checked, “They can wait on hold if we can wait on the phone with them.”

“No kidding,” agreed Ben, “but I really gotta brb something awful.”

Ben posted on their internal blog:

“People need to hold on holding on,” Sarah complained, “Why do they all call at the same time?”

“Keep your pants on,” sighed Craig, “I’m logging back in.”

“No need to worry, pants were in no danger of assuming an off position,” Sarah replied.

“Thanks, and that’s what she said,” called over Ben, “Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Dude stop saying uh.”

“Braaaaaiiiins,” Sarah agreed. She loaded up a game of Brain Chef to play in the background.

“My personal line is ringing,” Ben sighed, “How do people get our numbers? It’s.. so annoying. And silly. Like we’re on the phone, so we’ll answer the other phone?”

“Amen, brother,” Neil agreed, “Preaching to the choir.”

“And what the hell is wrong with our sales people on the floor,” Ben continued the gripe, “What is so hard about following directions? I typed it in an email!”

“What? You mean you didn’t go up there and do it for them?” Tisked Al who was just coming down from the floor.

“Like anyone besides you ever steps foot outside of the dungeon?” Sarah asked pointedly.

“No way I’m going up there,” Neil said in seriousness, “They’ll nab us and make us talk to their customers face to face, and then complain we say the truth and lose their sale.”

They worked in the bottom floor, the basement, of a repair, reseller, and supporter of all computers called Computer World. The sales people didn’t often trudge down, and the support people didn’t often trudge upward. There was some kind of alliance between the two that would break down swiftly if lines were crossed.

“To get our numbers, all they need is to spell our names,” Tom added to Ben’s gripe.

“Beautiful, they’re not smart enough to RTFM, but they can look up our numbers?” Sarah pointed out, “From now on, my name is Neil.”

“As flattered as I am, no. At least your last name isn’t as easy as mine,” Neil answered.

“I want to be removed from that list,” Ben was still holding his need to go to the bathroom, “If people can have their house numbers unlisted, I want my work number unlisted.”

“Alleluia!” shouted Neil.

“I know that is not gonna happen,” conceded Ben, “Sales is getting sick satisfaction from picturing each of us on two calls at once. And wow, I’ve already talked with this guy. I know what his deal is, but this is gonna go like an hour more. Ah. Well. I will put you on hold and brb… while I check on some documentation in the loo.”

Craig laughed, “This guy is watching our instructional video’s while calling IT. Beautiful,” Sarah, with the help of Tom, maintained the company website which is laden with all the tools to help the customers not call in, but they still did.

“So why does he need us?” asked Sarah, always defensive of her brain-child.

“…he’s watching videos on what he’s not using,” Craig continued laughing.

“A for effort?” Tom suggested, happy someone was at least trying to find an answer on their own.

“Haaa.. No,” Neil shot down.

“Is anyone else coming in today?” Craig was eying the line of computers sighing. It never ended and no one knew why Craig seemed to think with a little more effort it would.

“Yeah, everyone else is on the late shift,” Ben announced with disdainful emphasis on the words ‘late shift’. It used to be the most coveted of positions because it meant you came in late, did a few hours on the phones, and then worked on computers and web requests the rest of the night. Then, sales and marketing got it in their heads that since we were there late and being paid to be there late, presumably doing nothing, we could also be taking calls. The big bosses got wind of this, and next thing, they were always back logged and on the phone until past dinner.

When the representatives of the basement complained, it was explained that it was too late to go back. Customers loved having the option and there would be backlash to take it away now. The bosses also would hear nothing of needing to hire additional qualified technicians, suggesting that a couple of guys from sales were ‘pretty good with computers’ and suggesting maybe they could help out downstairs.

“Over my fried motherboard,” said Craig ominously. Everyone on the IT team agreed and dropped the matter for the time being, except Craig who fought a good fight with control and passion. The bosses actually seemed to like him, but it didn’t mean that he liked them or was able to make them see reason.

So the work load remained unreasonable, but the team always found a way to vent, take pride, and survive and even succeed.

Always on the brink of disaster they toiled, “Okay, try the Vista box now,” Ben insisted hitting the power switch.

“Is someone making toast?” Tom sniffed the air and sounded unconvinced that there was food involved.

“Yeah, this box,” Ben sighed, “It’s now toast. Sparks, smoke, and we’re giving them a new PC.”

Craig walked over and pretended to say a little prayer over the PC before taking it and placing it in a very different line of computers that snaked around and out of sight. Unlike the first line, these computers were mostly partially apart and some covered in dust. He slapped a post-it note on there saying: ‘data recovery and scrap’.

“And another one bites the dust,” Tom commented with the customer on mute before resuming his call.

Worst Controller, Best Controller

I can still remember when the Nintendo64 came out after so many Nintendo Power magazines of anticipation. What was once code named the “Ultra 64”, which I though was a cooler title at the time, was finally released. Sure, it was supposed to be a CD system, and turns out it was cartridges instead. Being a steadfast Nintendo loyalist I didn’t question this.

I didn’t question this until I played the system.

Worst controller ever.

I felt so completely let down. All of my willpower tried to enjoy the Nintendo 64 the way I did my Nintendos before it. Alas, I found myself wanting to go home to play some Super Nintendo or a PC game.

I have small hands, so I rationalized several minutes of trying to figure out the best way to get my hands around the damned thing to control Mario by blaming myself at first. How many buttons are on this thing? Do most of these even do anything?

Controllers should be comfortable. I did end up playing 007 and Super Smash Brothers with people who had the system and my fingers and palms ached more than the blisters from playing Street Fighter II with the Sega Genesis controllers (Why did they put a ridge around the buttons? No, I don’t know either.). The controller was too wide, had too many buttons, for no reason had some like phallic symbol in the middle. Don’t get me started on the d-pad and analogue. Making characters move has been effortless since the invention of the joystick. It’s pretty hard to screw that one up and, yeah, they managed it.

Controllers should be intuitive. There are buttons on that thing that I never bothered to reach and I’m not sure what were for. I don’t think the game designers knew either.

I know I’m not the only one who was left feeling unsatisfied with this system. Many people put them on the shelf or tried to sell in to get a Playstation.

Me? I got a Playstation. Their controllers were essentially a next generation version of the Super Nintendo controllers. Also it sported the disc media that Nintendo had promised and then backed out on. Nintendo so completely dropped the ball, I never thought to look back to see if they were throwing it again.

Best Controller Ever

Years later, there is a Nintendo product sitting next to my old, old SNES. This next generation of consoles has a lot to offer. Not one of the systems sucks… well, the PS3 is too expensive for anyone’s tastes, but people would probably say it was a good system if that weren’t the case (likely doomed to be clumped with the Atari Jagar, 3D0, and Dream Cast before it- all good systems, but overpriced- but since it’s a blue ray player too, maybe not). The Xbox360 is probably the first true online gaming console to even take a chip off of what PCs have been doing for years, and its hardware is nothing short of sweet (with the exception of a very noisy fan and lower end version).

And the Wii is just something else.

The original Nintendo was revolutionary not because of its hardware. Few people realize this, but it was actually a step back for its time. Look at any game that was a port to the system (and most of them were) and you’d see what I mean. It was graphically inferior to an Atari or Commodore of the times. And yet, it stole the heart of the average household.

The Wii is in that category, but it’s more than that. The Wii came out at a time when it seemed like the only place for console technology left to go was to become more similar to a mini, cheap, gaming PC.

Nintendo proved us wrong.

The Wii reminds me of another console that Nintendo tried and bombed. Did anyone else have a Virtual Boy? I think my parents threw ours away (after buying it for us for $30 with several games). It was awkward, clunky, very red (no color), and kind of dangerous to the eyes and body. Video games do not make me dizzy the slightest, but this thing made me light headed and wobbly after playing. The warning in the manual said not to play for more than fifteen minutes at a time. I think that’s why it mysteriously disappeared into the closet and then from the closet to video game heaven. By then, we had kind of stopped using it anyways. It was like a novelty item, extremely cool for a limited time only.

The reason why the Wii reminds me of this is because that’s the attitude I cautiously approached the system with. I played it over people’s houses many times before I was convinced it was more than a novelty item. I’m still a bit worried that game developers will fail to step up and make games for it that take advantage of the power of rethinking video games it’s put in my hand and head.

I admit, I gawked at the price of the Wiimote and Nunchuck as much as I gawked at their names. Since then, I keep finding out what else this controller can do.

It’s just a controller… or maybe it’s a ball of potential masked as a controller.

Look at me, I’m a Nintendo controller. I’m a laser pointer. I’m a sword. Woah, it just talked, is there a speaker in there? Pull my trigger. Punch me out like I’m brass knuckles. Put me up to your ear, twist me to control this, bump into you, and perform the most fluid fighting moves ever.

This controller is the most intuitive yet complex thing of it’s class I’ve ever seen, a true marvel of design. The intuitiveness carries over to the point where one game and another have very different controls and uses for it, yet I can pick them up in a few minutes. And the ways I’m controlling and number of controls are learning I’m realizing are more than for any other console I have in the past. Without thinking I’m switching the thing around, and using all of the buttons. There are 9 buttons (including the home button) and 2 d-pads. It doesn’t feel like it when I use them all. I was surprised when I counted.

This is what they were maybe thinking about when they made the Nintendo 64 controller, arguably the worst controller of all time.

And here it is my beam katana, my master sword, my light saber, my platforming controller, my boxing gloves, my steering wheel, my phone, and whatever else the game designers will think up.

The phone was the latest ‘woah didn’t see that coming’. But, with the built in speaker, makes sense. Way to add that much more game flavor.

You taste that? That’s a win.

Tie Fighter

Like the really bad modern Star Wars movies, people often lament the state of Star Wars gaming as well. When people speak of a diamond in the rough they say…

Tie Fighter.

I remember living in North Uxbridge, MA and playing Tie Fighter for hours in my dad’s office downstairs. I was in full view of two windows and the front door, but still, I would prepare for Tie Fighter in true geek form. I had my joystick that was the control stick in my cockpit. I had over sized headphones that were my communications gear to tell my wingmen how they might further assist the Empire. My bike helmet was never going to be used for crash landings as I was never going to fail the Dark Side alive. I even simulated a seat belt harness and everything.

This game was not just a flight simulator. As a matter of fact, I don’t really like flight simulators. What I do like are games that can make you suspend disbelief. I felt like I was a soldier of an Empire. I really was communicating with my fellow pilots, completing missions, and controlling the outcomes of battles as much as any one pilot could. This game had elements of RTS and sunk you into a story. I can’t think of any other flight simulators that ever did that.

Tie Fighter.

Maybe it’s time I again jump into my Missile Boat and kick some rebellious but.

Dungeons & Dragons 4.0 – Sort of a Pen, Paper, & Dice Game

Adventure Atari 2600
This post is brought to you by Adventure for the Atari 2600. Don’t get eaten by the… seahorse? Ostrich? I think the main character would be the best Con outfit ever. The Adventure square, the original fantasy game hero…

There have been a lot of whispers as of late about there finally being a new edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and how people feel about what has been announced (or just rumored). There are plenty of things that are making me gape and cringe, one of them being the attempt of Wizards of the Coast to try and make AD&D a pen, paper, dice, and laptop game.

It sounds cool to have an online community to access resources and have discussions. It seems WoC is planning for this to be a place to either print out all of your materials or just plain play. Your mouse is your dry erase marker and avatars are your miniatures.

How do we feel about this? There is no need to look at each other or interact… just look online!

This is what I see happening…

“You encounter a roving band of rogues. Wait a minute while a print it out. Or better yet, log in and we can all see the map over the internet!”

“Cool. It’s like a LAN party. Can we play Doom?”

“If we’re just going to play on the internet, why did we drive to your house?”

“For the cheetos and mountain dew, duh!”

“I have those at my house. Why did I drive if I didn’t need to? I could be playing naked. I want to cast magic missile… naked!”

“Dude, that’s creepy. But I see your point. I could be home, playing World of Warcraft and this game at the same time.”

“Why don’t we just all play World of Warcraft instead?”

“Good idea.”


“Uh, no. Not a good idea. But, what you do in your own house is your business.”

Scary stuff, huh? It sounds like a lot of the things WoC is removing, changing, or adding are an attempt to lure the MMORPG crowd into the AD&D fold.

Any thoughts on this?

You Can’t Pwn At Pong

Mario Bros Atari
I’m only twenty-something, but I still am not sure I feel right saying ‘pwned’.

It feels a bit unreal to have gaming be the younger cool. It seems like just yesterday, I was my little brother’s age and getting flack for the same reason he’s considered awesome. I feel like the same people who will wear Mario Bros. shirts now might be the same ones who poked at me in school for video gaming. Part of me wants to reveal the poser they are. I would ask them:

In the first level, do you go down the pipe for the coins? You do? Now why would you do that? There’s a barely hidden one-up that you miss if you go down the pipe. 100 coins equal a one-up. Do the math.

They look at me blankly, thinking, “Up-whats?”.

Am I still allowed to use the word poser?

Across the room, nestled between cd video games and Super Nintendo cartridges are little rectangle bricks that belong to no Nintendo. One of them even says “Mario Bros.” on it.

People think Mario, they think Nintendo. It’s hilarious how many games people remember as being exclusive classics for the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System originated for the Atari, early PC, and even old Macs.

You just can’t pwn at old video games. There was no typing to other players in a multiplayer environment. Even when doors and muds came about in BBS land, I don’t know about you guys, but I remember there usually being 1 node for one person to play at one time. In Legend of the Red Dragon, when you killed someone in the field and were interviewed for what you said after kicking ass, no one ever uttered “Pwned!”. They would have looked at the screen, backspaced a few times, and totally “Owned!” you.

Legend of the Red Dragon

I also feel I don’t really pwn, because I don’t play Halo. To me, Halo is just MIDI Maze, Wolfenstein 3d, Doom, Quake, Duke Nukem, Heretic, Hexen, or GoldenEye 007(etc.) all over again… in space… with more jumping. Wait, System Shock was in space (with zombies even). So yeah, just with more jumping. I know people will raise their fists at me, but to me Halo has been repeated so many times that I shrug.

I watch my little bro in his headset screaming ‘Dude! Let’s super jump.’ and just ask, “Why is there so much jumping?” and feel kind of old.

I don’t mind feeling out of touch with pwnage. What is kind of sad is that I’ve stopped being as excited by new video games. I’ll say, “That’s kind of cool.” or “That’s pretty neat.”, but for the most part, I just feel like I’ll never be as excited as I was when video games were still new with leaps and bounds in their advancement. I didn’t even have the money for them, but I had plenty of time and an obsessed uncle.

Don’t get me wrong, I roll up my Katamaris and I play my voice acted RPGs, RTSs, and TBSs. So, maybe I’m just not a shoot ’em up kinda gamer.

This is not the case, because I’m not all about the MMORPGs. Instead they horrify me. The amount of time (or cheating) you have to invest to have a good time just boggles my mind. In addition, it’s kind of like I say when I see someone play Halo and I say, “Why is there so much jumping?”, with these it’s, “Wow, why is there so much running around?” Sure, there’s always been world map trekking, but this is insane. It used to be a few steps to the next town or a few random fights, now the random fights *ARE* the game. The intimacy of you, the characters, and the plot has been sacrificed to hack and slash with a subscription fee.

If you are reading this and like Halo or your MMORPG of choice, good for you. I mean, I’m obviously old and not so cool, so don’t listen to granny here.

I will keep saying “In my day…”, but that’s okay too. The best part about it is that now I have the resources to find all the old games I missed and try them out with the PC and emulator. Then I’ll snap shot the screen shots that amuse me and put them away for future posts. I know old games are not without flaws, but their flaws were lack of budget and technology to back them. I am floored by the mediocrity of today’s games. We have the tech and budget now, but where is all the fun game play and awesome writing? Creativity used to outpace the ability to convey it, now that the money and tech are there… where has it gone?

I am glad that there are exceptions. I just wish they were more the rule than the exception. At some point I’m hoping I’ll see it come back around and people will learn that eye-candy and hack and slash just isn’t enough.

Pure pwnage needs something more to back it up.