Tagged: Minecraft

Katy inspired some unexpected thoughts on Tomb Raider

I recently finished Rise of the Tomb Raider which brings the reinvented Lara Croft origin story right up to where the original game kicks off. I’ve been meaning to revisit it for a while so I set off into the PlayStation original to see how it holds up, to see if I could still enjoy it, and to unpack some baggage about modern game design. But leave it to Katy to glance up and instantly cut through all the philosophical, ludo-narrative bullshit bouncing around in my mind by stating “it looks like Michael Jackson as Lara Croft in Minecraft”. It’s too perfect, especially the Minecraft part.

The blocky polygons and low-res textures of the 90’s are currently my jam. The 32-bit era of 3DO, PlayStation, and Saturn has replaced the classic 8-bit generation in my heart. I spend a lot of time looking at and thinking about those early 3D games and really never equated it to Minecraft’s look. It’s one of those cases of being so close to something and needing a little perspective which Katy unknowingly gave me. Tomb Raider is especially relatable as it’s also built on a block-based grid system. Lara’s animations all fit within the bounds of a single block and you come to use it as a measuring stick of sorts for navigating jumps and pitfalls.

From http://classictombraider.tumblr.com

Before the advent of fog (for better and worse) games simply let the limits of their worlds trail off into the black darkness. It works the same for both Tomb Raider and Minecraft to instill the sense of mystery as terrain, treasures, and terrors come rolling out of the blackness. Sure, it was a design choice for Minecraft and a technical limitation for Tomb Raider but the outcome is very much the same. Once Katy pointed it out I saw Minecraft in several of the game’s early underground jungle scenes… and yes, I also see the MJ resemblance in early Lara’s face.

I may be a decade late on this revelation but it’s been yet another angle to look at both games from. Believe me, it’s also the most positive correlation to modern game design that I’ve gathered. Video games have hardly done anything groundbreaking over the generations aside from refine their graphical fidelity, but all that is for a different post.

For today let’s just appreciate the ability of someone to make a goof and change your perspective at the same time.

“Minecraft meets Dragon Quest” in Dragon Quest Builders Demo

Dragon Quest Builders, otherwise referred to as the Minecraft/Blue Slime mashup, is nearly out on Sony platforms in Japan. In anticipation Square Enix released a fairly lengthy demo which I grabbed immediately and jumped right into. Here’s just over an hour of mostly straightforward gameplay with a little plodding confusion at the end. Right after I finished recording I solved my own problem so I’ll be back with a follow-up if there’s anything exciting left to see in the demo.

Asteroids is back and it’s definitely a modern PC game

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Asteroids is coming back in 2015 but not at all like you’d expect. Actually, take a look at the current PC game landscape and you could probably guess exactly what Asteroids: Outpost is going to be. Stop me if you’ve heard any of this before:

  • Open world
  • Resource gathering
  • Crafting
  • Survival
  • Base building
  • Massively Multiplayer
  • Early Access

I was fine with it up to those last two points. Like Rust, you’ll constantly be under threat from other players. Sure, you can probably forge alliances and work together with friends but all I picture is another non-stop grief-fest. And Early Access means it’ll be broken, unreliable and ever-changing for the first year. I’ve had my fill of this stuff.

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There’s at least one cool bit that isn’t quite like any other game of this kind: frequent asteroid showers will pepper the landscape with new resources to gather and threaten to destroy your base. Judging by the few images we’ve got it looks like those bases may be hard to miss; that thing looks massive with solar panels, entry ramps and towers.

Atari, you almost had me! For now I’ll just sit back and hope some of the podcasters I follow get into it and relay their exploits.

Of 2013: Favorite Free Games

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I’m not talking Free-to-Play here, these are four games I spent a good chunk of time with and didn’t spend a penny on (except for Minecraft, but you own that already right?). Microsoft launched Wordament on iOS in 2012 but it came to the web, Android, and Windows 8 in 2013 and I played a bunch of it on each platform. Naturally, swiping around on a touchscreen is the best (and fastest) way to play but any version will do if you’re looking for a unique word game diversion.

When I got my new laptop I went spelunking through the Windows 8 store looking for free games with Xbox Achievements and found Shuffle Party. It’d be more fun with a touchscreen but it only requires one click on the mouse to send shiny shuffleboard pucks and pins careening across the screen. It’s dead simple but still pretty fun — oh and it does have Achievements and even shows your Xbox Avatar celebrate and pout as you play.

The free version of SpinTires was designed as a tech demo/Kickstarter bonus to show the potential of what the final game could be. There’s not much of a point to it but the water physics, real-time terrain deformation and the challenge of getting a giant truck out of the mud kept me at it. Even in demo form the combination of the physics simulations, lighting and the intricate sounds of the trucks made for a dazzling presentation.

Okay, you’ll have to own Minecraft on PC to take a trip to the McMagic server but we bought in so long ago I honestly forgot it wasn’t free. Once logged in you’ll find the most amazingly intricate Minecraft server whose aim is to recreate the entirely of the Walt Disney World parks down to the most awkwardly realized drinking fountains. Katy, Dana, Ryan and I spent a week or so visiting our favorite locations, riding rides, spamming our way behind the scenes and having just as magical a time as we would in the real Walt Disney World.

Animal Crossing: Minecraft’s Great Uncle

It seems like I’ve always got Animal Crossing in the back of my mind. Friday night those thoughts collided with an idle hour and my DS that has somehow held its charge through months of neglect. The town of nodnoL had been pretty well developed when I stopped playing the game regularly in 2006 so there wasn’t a lot to do after I loaded it up. Of course my town was full of weeds and the shoreline littered with shells but I immediately remembered I’d done just about everything. But what was that everything?

I started thinking about what Animal Crossing is and what you do in the game. It’s always been a tough series to classify: not really an RPG with stats and quests or a simulator like SimCity. I was really daydreaming about a new Animal Crossing that would let you dig up cartoony blocks of the world when I realized — hey! — Animal Crossing is kind of like Minecraft’s great uncle. Not a direct relative, not a grandfather — I’ve never heard Notch cite it as a game he’s played, let alone an inspiration for Minecraft — but the two have a lot more in common than any other two titles I can think of.

Animal Crossing lacks the survival and combat aspects of Minecraft but both are built on the idea of letting the player explore and exploit the random worlds they’re given. “I hope Nook’s is in a good spot,” I remember thinking as nodnoL first loaded. I also remember harvesting the unique fruit in my town and collecting flowers to bring all the resources closer to my main path. I wasn’t building my home block by block but it definitely takes on the same feel as your “main base” in Minecraft. It’s a place you can expand, decorate and — most importantly — store all the unique things you find in the world.

Then I poked into my inventory and found my tools; an axe, shovel, net, fishing rod, and slingshot, most of which can deteriorate and can be upgraded to gold. User-created clothes to “reskin” your look and — oh my god, it’s still there! — a giant mural of the Prince from Katamari Damacy I painstakingly laid out near my town’s entrance. A few Question blocks from Super Mario Bros. dot the area as well and my town flag flies high featuring a turnip from Super Mario Bros. 2. Clearly the work of a nerd, just like the unexpected, inexplicably complex creations people make in Minecraft for no reason other than to see it done.

It still doesn’t help file either game under a clear-cut genre category but it does make it easier to say “if you liked this, maybe give this other thing a shot”. All this from my fleeting daydream for an Animal Crossing where you can sculpt the terrain. As if I didn’t already have high expectations for whatever Nintendo does next with the series.