Archive for January, 2011

VGHVI Minecraft: January 20, 2011

Jan 23 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

I mostly play Minecraft alone, but once every month or so, the VGHVI folks get together to work on a communal server. We did that last Thursday, here are some pictures.

In our previous session, we’d focused on one cave near our spawn point. The digging there culminated in hollowing out a massive cavern to start a tree farm.

Green shoots deep underground

There’s lots of room to grow, it’s quite tall and wide.

A long way up!

A Long Way Across!

Hello trees down there! (From about halfway up.)

This time, though, people’s attentions were elsewhere. Nelson left us a snowman near the entrance to the old cavern:

Thanks for the present!

Several of us (especially Jonathan) went and explored another cave nearby, with a quite large natural cave system.

The entrance to the new cave

Water in a huge cavern in the new cave

Deeper down, there was both lava and water

Jonathan explored very deep indeed

But we didn’t spend all of our time underground: Roger decided to build a temple, and Miranda and I helped him.

Roger has started clearing out space for the temple

Roger and Miranda have made a lot of progress

Now all the pillar bases are in place

Gold pillars on the inside of the temple

White pillars on the outside of the temple

A bloody altar in front

A view from a higher angle

Looking at the temple from the ice

Lots of fun, I’m looking forward to how the temple will turn out and what project we’ll start next. Feel free to join us, follow the VGHVI blog or twitter feed to learn about future gaming sessions.

One response so far

Minecraft: Crossing the Ravine

Jan 23 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

When we last left our hero, he’d found a ravine. After orienting myself, I built a bridge across the ravine and crossed it:

Crossing the Ravine

There was a natural cave on the other side; I wandered through that, dug a corridor through the wall at the end (going straight rather than up or down, I’m not sure why), and then I encountered a second cave:

There are water sounds on the left

I heard water on the left, which kind of scared me: I didn’t have a good feel for the dynamics of water in the game, and I also had no idea whether I was even under land at all. So I went forward some, and found:

Glad I'm in peaceful mode

my first monster cave! Or it would have been a monster cave, but I was in peaceful mode. Nice mossy rock. After that, I decided I’d been in caves enough, so I dug some stairs up, and eventually made it out to a desert.

Heading back up

More desert!

As you can see, I stuck with my previous idea of building a trench so I’d be able to find the entrance again if I got lost.

But a funny thing happened as I was digging along in that trench: at one point in my digging, the sand crumbled, and:

A Cave!

Gee, what’s this cave doing here? It’s plenty deep, too, and had a lovely waterfall-filled pool once I got down to the bottom.

Quite a bit further down to go

I love this waterfall

There was a lot of space down there; in particular, heading a bit to the right, I found a further extension of the cave with underground rivers of lava and water next to each other.

Rivers of Lava and Water

I tunneled around behind the lava to explore some more (that’s how the crafting table got there); I also went in different directions from the earlier room. (Which had a lot of coal and some amount of iron ore, incidentally.) I was a bit afraid of getting lost, though, and the spaces were a bit too open and free-form for me to feel like exploring them just then, so I climbed my way back up to the desert and went back into my original cave complex. Also, at some point I went aboveground back to where I’d first started digging way back when, after first figuring out where I’d made turns underground so I’d be confident I wasn’t heading in the wrong direction. It felt like I’d traveled forever when I was doing this underground, but aboveground the distances proved to be much shorter!

When I got back to the room where I’d heard water, I decided I wasn’t scared of that any more. For whatever reason, rather than digging straight through the wall in question, I dug up a bit, and that turned out to work well: I ended up just above a nice little river.

Another underground river

The latest update has added a squid here!

I didn’t verify it this time, but I’m fairly sure that, eventually, I hopped over that river (via the bridge you can see in that picture) and traveled through a cave system that was on the other side to get back to that lava flow I’d seen earlier. So clearly this whole area is riddled with caves, and I probably haven’t come close to exploring them all. In fact, there were enough that I was feeling a little burned out from the caves; I decided that I’d go back to the original entrance that I’d dug and hollow that out into a real house.

2 responses so far

Game Trekking: The Kindness of Strangers

Jan 22 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

The first two games from Jordan Magnuson’s Game Trekking project are out; I’m glad to have played Taiwan, but The Kindness of Strangers is something special.


Make sure to play it twice choosing the different experience the second time. The kind mode is worthwhile on its own, but the experience after it goes dark is surprisingly powerful.

Help? Anybody?

And yay for this brave new KickStarter world, helping projects like this get funded.

Comments Off on Game Trekking: The Kindness of Strangers

Piano: Recital Accompaniment

Jan 22 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

I haven’t had much time recently to work on my Rock Band 3 pro keys skills. Part of that is due to a secret project, but part of that is because my daughter’s violin teacher has roped me in to do some of the piano accompaniment for an upcoming recital. Most of the pieces are easy enough that I don’t have to practice much to play them well enough not to distract from the students’ violin playing; a few of them are trickier, though, so I need to put in some time on those ones.

And I can confirm: it’s not just Rock Band‘s imagination that I have a hard time playing repetitive notes quickly with a sufficiently accurate rhythm, my hands really are pretty rusty. Fortunately, I’m getting better, so I think that by the time the performance rolls around (the Friday after next), my playing shouldn’t distract too much.

With luck, that will make me better at Rock Band, too. But it’s also a reminder of the physicality of keyboard playing: not just different fingers reacting differently, but different keys at different heights, fingers on different positions depending on the surrounding notes, and different instruments having different notions of how far you have to press a key for it to register. So I’ll continue to whine about Rock Band‘s lack of audible feedback; I should probably spend more time playing on the keyboard in GarageBand via the MIDI adapter, to understand its behavior better.

One response so far

Dominion: Il Barone Rampante

Jan 18 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

The Baron

I play board games over lunch at work most Tuesdays, and Dominion is a frequent choice. (Well, I suppose technically it’s a card game instead of a board game, but you know what I mean.) When I first started playing the game, I loved to chain together strings of action cards, but recently I’ve been buying treasure cards more.

Last week’s game was a whole different experience, though. It was a two-player Intrigue-only game; I had a 3-4 opening, so I bought a Silver and a Baron, on the theory that the latter was particularly valuable at the start of the game when most hands would naturally contain an Estate. And boy howdy was it ever valuable – if I’m remembering correctly, my very next hand consisted of a Silver, two Bronzes, an Estate, and a Baron, which got me a Province right off the bat. And for several subsequent hands, while I didn’t end up with quite that quantity of wealth, they were rich enough to get me a gold, so pretty soon I was flowing with money. (It didn’t hurt that I got a Torturer soon on, whose benefit wasn’t so much to force my opponent to discard as to give me three extra draws.)

My opponent bought a Duke, so I started buying Duchies, since I had at least five points almost every hand. Once those ran out, I went for Dukes as well. (As did my opponent, we came out to close to even on those two types, though I was slightly ahead.) I snagged several more Provinces, and as all those victory cards started clogging my hand, I switched to Estates, clearing out a third pile in short order.

I ended up buying a grand total of four action cards (two Barons, a Torturer, and a Shanty Town, if I’m remembering correctly), and finished with 60 victory points. Completely ridiculous, and it certainly suggests that I should experiment more with focusing on rich hands over action-laden hands. (And perhaps pairing those rich hands with a quick run on victory point cards, to force an early end before others’ machinery gets rolling.)

Comments Off on Dominion: Il Barone Rampante

Rock Band 3: Pro Keys Status

Jan 17 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

When I bought Rock Band 3, I dived right into pro keys; here’s my current status. I’ve gone through all the songs (including the hall of fame setlist on hard); the only songs that I haven’t done on expert are Antibodies and Roundabout. Also, I’ve done all but one of the training lessons. Roundabout is its own special thing, but for Antibodies and the lesson, the main issue is that I have a hard time playing fast repetitive notes with a sufficiently accurate rhythm. I find it frustrating that I can’t hear my mistakes, but I don’t have any evidence that being able to hear them would actually help. (I should probably just try Antibodies and the lesson on a real piano, so I can better understand what my fingers are doing.)

I’m thinking that I should delve into the songs more deeply, though: see what it feels like to master them instead of being happy with completing them successfully. On a related note, the game brings out my competitive nature, so I am paying attention to the leaderboards a bit; when I first went through the songs, I was in around 100th place, but now I’ve dropped to 152nd.

I'm rank 152 with 6,505,853 points as of January 16, 2011

(This is for on-disc songs only – no sense measuring myself based on how much DLC people have bought.)

I’ve started going through the early songs trying to master them; I’ve gotten 100% on all the warmup songs but, well, they’re warmup songs for a reason. (Which isn’t to say that I didn’t have to go through several of them a bunch of times…) I’m vaguely curious how far I’ll be able to keep getting 100% without putting in hours of effort per song; I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to do some of the apprentice songs, but it wouldn’t surprise me if I couldn’t do all of them. Conversely, I’m also curious to see how well I’ll be able to learn the impossible songs: 100%ing any of them isn’t plausible, but maybe 5-starring most of them is a reasonable goal?

Right now, the person in 100th place is Bebedora with 7,207,975 points. Earning an extra 700,000 points seems eminently doable: even on the warmup songs, the difference in score between my first performance and my best performance was a few tens of thousands of points, and I’ve got a lot more room for potential improvement on the later songs. (Though of course maintaining long streaks is that much harder on the later songs; incidentally, I still haven’t earned the “Pro Keys Streak 500” goal, though I’m not sure what my longest streak is.) But the bar is getting continually raised—when I checked on this a couple of weeks ago, 7,000,000 points would have been enough to get 100th place. So, while I still imagine that I’ll be able to crack the top 100 again at some point, I don’t expect to be able to stay there indefinitely: I’m not a bad pianist, but there are many much better pianists than myself, and many people with a lot more time to devote to playing Rock Band.

Still, it will be fun trying to reach that goal, and hopefully I’ll learn something along the way.

One response so far

Minecraft: The Ravine

Jan 17 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

I hollowed out a little room inside the the hill:

Entrance room of house

When I’d played before, for whatever reason I’d just felt like digging; I continued that habit here. I dug down a little bit, but almost immediately created a second room:

Basement workroom

You can see the entry stairs, the chest (a single one at a time), the crafting table, and the edge of the furnace. There’s a little alcove blocked by the chest where I put a flower; in the dark area to the right, I started digging down.

The stairs down from my basement

After not too far (at least in retrospect, it felt like a decent distance at a time), I ran into my first natural cave in the world!

My first cave

Which was very steep: I fell right over the edge, though fortunately I landed on a ledge not much further down.

The cave is deep

And it’s plenty deep beneath that; in fact, I still haven’t gone down to explore the bottom. (I really should do that soon, shouldn’t I?) Also, the bridge across the cave in this picture is a later construction, it wasn’t there when I found it.

There was only one strange thing: I could hear a sheep. So either I’d discovered cave-dwelling sheep, or something strange was going on. And, as it turned out: it wasn’t a cave, it was a ravine!

Daylight - it's a ravine!

Animals still like it here

I carefully climbed up the ravine to ground level; and, in fact, there’s a peak that went up quite a ways above ground level. (It’s the place in the world that I know of that has the longest distance from top to bottom.)

The peak above the ravine

I wondered where I was in relation to where I started. I can’t remember exactly what I did then. My guess is that, being a nervous person, I: went back into the ravine, climbed back to my basement, noted how I’d turned, went back to the ravine, climbed to the surface from there, and faced in the correct direction to get back to my entrance. Of course, now it’s obvious which direction to go:

The view of my house from the ravine

That’s the back of my house, which wasn’t there at the time; but I was pretty sure that was the correct direction to go in, and if you go just a bit to the right from there, you’ll see a natural arch, with the entrance to my house just on the other side. (Where the stairs are in the picture below; of course, those weren’t there at the time, but if you went in that direction, you’d soon see a torch.)

The arch leading to the entrance to my house

One response so far

Rock Band 3: Current Status

Jan 16 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

The other main game that I’m playing now, is Rock Band 3. (Which, like Minecraft, is never-ending…) I won’t be able to capture pictures of it, but I will keep a diary of my progress in the game. (For all my groupies out there, I’m davidcarlton at

I’ll leave pro keys to a separate post, but, that aside: I’ve gone through all the songs on guitar, including the hall of fame induction setlist. I did them on expert except for three songs at nightmare difficulty level and all but three of the songs at impossible difficulty level. I may go back and try to do more of the songs on expert, and I may try to finish off some of the other goals (e.g. 5-star all the songs, or get a 100% score on one of the songs), but it’s not a particularly high priority right now.

I’ve started going through the songs on bass; I haven’t made it very far (just the warmup and apprentice songs), but I’ve been surprised at how much I’ve been enjoying it. So clearly I should play bass more; though probably mostly in solo mode, since Liesl is our resident family bassist.

We’ve been playing some as a family, generally doing the road challenges; Liesl and I have made it through most of the bus road challenges, and Miranda has joined us for the subway challenges. Our typical lineup has Liesl on bass, me on guitar, and Miranda on keys, but sometimes we switch it up. Miranda is very fond of Werewolves of London. (And she rather likes I Love Rock N’ Roll, too.)

I imagine that eventually I’ll try going through all the songs on drums and vocals, but no guarantees; right now, I just want to finish the songs on bass and refine my pro keys skills.

Comments Off on Rock Band 3: Current Status

Minecraft: Spawn Point

Jan 16 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Actually, I lied: this blog isn’t just going to be pictures of my Minecraft house. No, it’s going to be much more interesting than that: I’ll also include pictures of my Minecraft spawn point!

Spawn Point - East

Spawn Point - South

Spawn Point - West

Spawn Point - North

I decided to go north; in retrospect, south seems pretty interesting, too, but at the time I was playing on an underpowered computer with a low draw distance, so I probably couldn’t see the trees there. (But I’m looking forward to exploring it in the future!) There may have been a tree up north that I could see and immediately chopped down, I don’t remember.

I walked up that hill, wandered around, and then got nervous: what if I did something interesting, then died, then couldn’t find my way back? So I went back to as close to my spawn point as I remembered, and created a clear sign as to where I’d gone:

Trench from my Spawn Point

A big unnatural trench should do the trick, no? And, at the top of the hill, I turned the trench to the right:

Trench turning at top of hill

This looks really different now from when I first saw it: for one thing, I’ve planted a bunch of trees, and for another thing, you can see a window that obviously didn’t exist back then! At any rate, that hill looked promising, so I walked towards it. I’m assuming that it must have had a coal deposit visible on the surface, because that’s where I started digging my first cave.

The entrance to my house

Comments Off on Minecraft: Spawn Point

Minecraft: Preamble

Jan 16 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Like I said in my first post, “this blog is intended to be pictures of my Minecraft house”. In fact, that’s where the idea for this blog came from: Jonathan was complaining on Buzz that

You know what we don’t need any more of? Stupid Minecraft posts. I don’t want to see another fucking Minecraft house. Everybody has a Minecraft house. There’s nothing special about your house. I don’t care.

And my reaction was, “That’s a great idea! I should write about my Minecraft house!” So I’m going to, Jonathan is going to be bored, and the rest of you are going to be bored, too. I suspect something more interesting will come out of it eventually, but that more interesting something won’t be here, it will be on my main blog. But here you will find too many pictures of my house, an entire travelogue of my experiences in the game. (Plus similarly boring chatter / pictures of other games.)

I’m playing in peaceful mode; this is my second world, because I took too long a break after creating my first world and lost track of where I was. Unfortunately, I didn’t start taking pictures until recently in my second world, so you’ll see a lot of future construction (e.g. windows) in the early pictures; ignore them.

And many thanks to Matthew Gallant for his Beginner’s Guide to Minecraft.

Comments Off on Minecraft: Preamble

Next »