Revisiting Minecraft

With just a little surprise, I realise it’s about three years since I’ve played Minecraft.. back in 2012, on a friend’s Tekkit server.  Literally a lifetime ago, as the little guy has come along since then.  I also figured out that I first played it all the way back in 2010!  Two lifetimes!  Time to reinstall and have another look, I think 😉

So.. survival or creative?  I loved exploring huge, dark caverns with the threat of mobs appearing from nowhere.. but the lure of diamonds pulling me on.  I also loved building and decorating, though that really took off with the addition of VoxelSniper, when I was able to carve out huge caverns..

Inside the City


E3 2015 – Bethesda

Bethesda hosted its first E3 press conference in the early hours this morning, revealing Dishonored: Definitive Edition, Dishonored 2 and The Elder Scrolls: Legends, and showing more for Fallout 4, Doom 4 and BattleCry.


The Skyrim Creation Kit Arrives Today!

The Skyrim Creation Kit is planned to arrive today according to Bethesda’s Pete Hines.  This will be a free download for PC users, via Steam.

The Creation Kit features the same set of tools used to create the game originally, and will include new features such as scene editors, dialogue tree tool, and a new scripting language called Papyrus.  For those new to modding, Bethesda are also releasing wiki documentation, written by the developers.

As the Kit has been integrated with the Steam Workshop, you can browse or search for existing mods, and comment and rate them, as well as upload your own.  You can even subscribe to mods too: the launcher will download and install the latest version of any subscribed mods when you launch the game.

Successful Sniping!

Over the weekend, I spent a bit of time installing a CraftBukkit server, then trying to get VoxelSniper running on it.. the first worked fine, but VoxelSniper didn’t want to know.  I went as far as to reinstall both server and plugin as it seemed not to be working, and I thought maybe I had an out of date version.

However, it turns out I may just have been using the wrong command to get at the tool..

Having watched the start a fairly simple video tutorial using the tool, I had seen the command “i arrow” being used to get an arrow.  This command, when run on my server, produced an “Unknown console command” error.  Googling around only turned up suggestions for reinstalling VoxelSniper, making sure I was running the right version, etc.

I mentioned this to a friend, who asked if it wasn’t just “give (arrow id)”.. a normal op command in Minecraft.  I hadn’t considered this as I assumed an “i arrow” arrow would be something different to the regular one, just sharing the skin.. but once I gave my friend the arrow and added him to snipers.txt, he was able to use the tool as intended!  I’m guessing “i arrow” works with some kind of mod.. something I might have realised if I’d played with more mods or thought about if I’d had more server experience.. but if you learn from your mistakes, then this is all good 🙂

I only wish I had access to play on the server from here.. and that I didn’t have to get back to work 😉

Minecraft Mods – Technic Pack

I’ve mostly ignored Minecraft’s various mods so far.. nothing really leapt out as a must-see, and I just didn’t have the enthusiasm to face the hassle of setting them up.

However.. a friend has been trying out the Technic pack, which adds a big pile of mods to the game.. building, industrial machinery, more creatures via Mo’ Creatures, and from Millénaire, NPC villages which grow as the villagers work in them.

Minecraft itself has to be downgraded to version 1.7.3 before the pack can be applied.  So that I can play on the multiplayer server still, I need to have a second install of Minecraft.. or a second copy of the game’s bin folder at least.  I looked into creating a batch file to switch between the modded version and vanilla version, but that would rely on naming the folders “bin” and “bin(1)” rather than something memorable.  As I want to keep a backup copy of the modded version anyway, it should be easy enough to just copy that over when I want to play the mod.

So, into the game..

I spawned right next to an Indian village, with a few small buildings, and NPCs going about their business.. collecting wood, making bricks, and if I headed into the town hall, one or more would come running to trade with me 🙂

I decided to avoid gathering resources directly within the village in case it turned them against me.. but I was lucky enough to come across loads of blocks of wood from trees which were despawning all around, and ended up with a full stack of wood without having had to strike a single tree!

I’m still only at “Stranger” status with the Village Chief, though as I bring more goods to trade, this reputation should improve and I’ll be able to get more interesting things, including housing which isn’t so easily destroyed..

My friend had warned me against building too close to the village, as they will expand onto you if it’s in their plans.  I moved to the next flat piece of land and made a small house, containing a workbench and chest, and a bed for passing the night in safety.. or so I thought!

The Mo’ Creatures part of the pack adds.. as you’d guess.. more creatures, including werewolves, big cats, and Ogres..

I awoke from the third night’s sleep to a smashing sound, grunting, and the realisation that my house was being destroyed around me by three large Ogres!  I ran away, not wanting to take them on with the wooden sword I had to hand.. and when I came back there wasn’t much left..

In case you don’t want to be surprised like this, Mo’ Creatures has a few adjustable settings.

I have reduced the number of Ogres.. for now.  They drop Obsidian, so when I have a bit more gear, I will be hunting them for it!

Werewolves were another threat I’d been warned against, with the recommendation of just running if I saw one.  It’s a different matter during the day, though.. and I was encouraged to attack the “hobos” wandering around for their loot.. as well as for the fact that they were the Werewolves’ daytime form.

As well as the hostile creatures, there is a nice variety to the wildlife.. rabbits, cats, fish, horses.. even pegasi and unicorns, which a friend has been busy trying to breed..

For my part, I still need to create a saddle, find food, and even tame a horse, before I can worry about breeding them 🙂

I came across some dolphins too.. and I even managed to get a ride on one by clicking him.  I couldn’t repeat it when I tried, though, as the other dolphins just threw me off!

The trees are another great thing about this mod.. more variation, with a few types of fruit trees too.. and some insanely large trees dotted about, which remind me of our attempt at a giant tree on our old multiplayer map!

I also found an Oil Slick, but I think I’m quite a way off building any of the industrial machines which I’d want it for.. so I’m leaving it alone for now.

Before I start ripping apart the countryside, I want to see quite how much my little village can expand.. they’ve already started! 🙂

Polaris and Radiator

I’ve had a few more Half Life 2 mods to play recently: The Stanley Parable, which had me in stitches, and Nightmare House 2, which had me running scared for a while.

Next on the list was the Radiator mod, which is a work-in-progress..
The series begins with Polaris, a strange short story of a couple’s strange first date in the woods, with star-gazing tasks..

This required clicking on specific stars as prompted, with a bit of a story including a little mention of Polaris being the god of dreams “who knew every mortal heart’s desire”.. rather a cheesy chat-up line 😉

The final note was of the relationship being fairly forgettable.. so when the second part of the story involves a couple in marriage therapy.. I wonder if it’s meant to be the same couple.

This part of the game was weird.. being stuck in a room full of crates and warning signs, and vague instructions to place the crate somewhere within the rows.  Picking up and destroying a random crate triggered some kind of repressed memory of the couple’s life together, but it all seemed rather depressing, regarding illness, death, break-ups.

I found the first few crates easy to place, but any wrong move resulted in explosions and warnings that I wasn’t taking the therapy seriously.  I started to find it rather frustrating, and having the therapist repeatedly asking the same few questions, with the player’s husband giving the same responses only added to my annoyance.. and I gave up on the mod.

I love trying out mods, and I love that there are so many, but I don’t want to be frustrated by them.

Nightmare House 2

Nightmare House 2 is another mod for Half Life 2: Episode 2, by We Create Stuff. The game is based on an original horror map pack called Nightmare House, which is included here as the Prologue level.  In this level, you start off near a building in the woods, apparently having had a car crash.. a creepy setting to begin with, before you even get to the house.

Having found an axe in the shed I felt a little bit safer, until I found my way into the house, which was a mixture of collapsing floors, flickering lights, blood and zombies.. 🙂

As if these weren’t enough, there was also the creepy girl who appeared for a split second here and there.. in one scene hanging, and in another appearing just before the floor gave way!  After a final swathe of zombies, including some horrible fast, jumping ones on the path outside the house, I thought I’d escaped.. only for the game to end when I got back to the truck..

“There is no escape from Nightmare House!”

The main game began after the prologue’s credits.  This time it starting off in a grimy padded cell, as I was now a mental patient of Never Lose Hope Hospital!  I wasn’t alone though, as there was a doctor on the other end of a radio, trying to help me escape.. and out in the corridors there were more zombies..

In another corridor there were black shadows.. which I expected to change into zombies or otherwise attack when I tried the doors, but instead just remained, watching..

One of the creepiest parts of this game was in a series of underground tunnels which warped and changed as I moved from one end to the other, getting shorter with no doors in sight.  Guessing that I would eventually end up in a single small chamber didn’t make it any less creepy when it happened, and I ended up screaming when the girl appeared above me as I turned around.

Falling through a similarly changing section of airvents, I met up with a group of soldiers.. and relief for just a moment, before I realised that they would surely be taken away from me.

After a fight with some zombies, we moved on to find one of the soldiers had gone missing.. and then some hideous, skinny, mouth-creatures came crashing through the windows to attack us!  I was glad of their additional firepower, but expected to lose another soldier as we moved into the next room, and another in the next, and so on.. but instead I fell through a sudden hole in the floor and was separated from them all at once!

What sort of hospital is this with so many creepy underground corridors?
I ended up plunged into darkness in this next one, with something glowing at the far end.. a pyrotechics locker, which turned out to be full of flares!  I’ve never been quite to happy to come across flares 😉

Another scene felt like it had borrowed from Doctor Who’s Angels, as I turned around to see the dressmaker’s dolls had moved to fill the room I’d just passed through.

I really didn’t want to walk past these, but with the door refusing to open, I had no choice.. and the lights went out as I passed the first one!  🙂

In order to be rescued, I had to destroy the computer which was jamming radio transmissions, and call in the helicopters which were circling the building.

My methods here resulted in fire!  This spread so I had to run from it.. that was, until I met a locked door.  Just when I expected another crumbling floor, I was snatched through the doors by the ghost girl..  I followed her off to the morgue where I ended up on the operating table in another quick switch, only to look down at my body and see a skeleton!  How’s that for a nightmare?

I woke up with the soldiers around me, and promise of escape..

With the soldiers alongside, it felt less horror, more normal shooter, despite the horrible mouth-creatures lunging at us from all sides.  The real tension was gone.. I guess it’s hard to maintain.. and jump scares lose their effectiveness after a while too.


The rescue helicopter went down in flames, and the remaining soldier fatally injured.  It turns out that the SWAT team were here for Dr Romero, who has been manipulating people’s minds.. causing hallucinations.  Sneaky.  I was told to go and kill him.. then when I got in the lift, Dr Romero spoke over the radio, giving me the choice to escape when the lift stopped at the entrance, or continue on to kill him, if I could..

Two choices?  This had been mentioned by the friend who told me to play the game, so I took a peek at the “escape”.. no escape at all as the ghost girl really doesn’t like you trying to escape your fate 😉

On to the depths of the facility, and the Doctor’s hideout..

To control minds, he was using a device called the Core, which seemed impervious to bullets, and even after I’d managed to turn off two sources of power, the thing was still running.  More creepy mouth creatures were keeping me from exploring too well, and while I was running around dealing with those, he dropped a few funny lines and references to other games.. “look at me, still talking when there’s science to do”.

I eventually spotted the weakness to the structure holding up the Core, and set about destroying it.
The Doctor wasn’t too happy, and sent me away to a few more hallucinations, but the creepy girl ‘saved’ me from them each time..

The backstory isn’t really explained, but bits of dialogue tell us that the girl was Dr Romero’s wife.. and that something he did caused her to die.. which is why she wants revenge, and kills him where you couldn’t.  It also turns out that the house in Nightmare House was theirs.. which you just had the misfortune to crash outside of.. a little bit pieced together, but horror doesn’t have to completely make sense 🙂

The Stanley Parable

The Stanley Parable is another in a long line of experimental mods for Half Life 2, with a narrator guiding the player through the story.. the author of the game recommends that people play before reading about it, so.. go play first, as this post may contain spoilers 😉

Stanley is employee #427, whose job consists of pushing buttons as instructed, when instructed, every day.. until one day, there are no instructions, and no other people.  The narrator provides the direction, and he says that Stanley goes to the employee’s lounge..

After leaving the office, I was presented with two open doors.. the narrator said that Stanley goes through the left one. I disobeyed..

The narrator commented on Stanley having gone the wrong way, and said that he therefore turned left at the next available opportunity.. of course I carried on going the wrong way, which resulted in the narrator talking about how bad Stanley was at following orders.. and that he then decided to punish himself!

The oh-so-calmly delivered commentary about my ruining the story, insults about my ability to follow instructions and the direction to go and punish myself had me crying with laughter 🙂

When the lift arrived, I missed the fact that there was a choice to disobey again, and went up as instructed, to face my punishment.. and mocking from the narrator about being stupid enough to actually get into the trap too 😀

I decided to behave on the second run, but when I came to a set of stairs to go up, I went down.. and then round and round until Stanley went mad, collapsed and died, only to be discovered by a woman who served as a pointed comment about not finding out what the story was about as you didn’t follow instructions!

The third run had my obedience right up until the very end.. I came across the generator room where the player is told about the machine controlling all the employee’s feelings, and causing them to do what they’re doing.. much like how a game controls the players’ feelings and actions 😉

Right up at the top of the room had the option to engage or disable the failing generator.. the blue pill or the red pill.. I made my choice and was rewarded with freedom, or at least entry to an outdoors area 🙂

As it’s still ScampLAN, the guys also tried out the game afterwards, and both disobeyed the initial instruction to go through the left door, though maybe influenced by my comments..

They were more disobedient than me, and went down a floor in the lift, to be faced with the choice of doors again, and with more disobedience being shown an room made of skybox and dev_textures, before being put into an empty Half Life 2 map, with the narrator throwing a few insults about Stanley being fat, ugly and really stupid, bad at his job, and addicted to drugs and hookers:D

When I downloaded the mod, it came with a text file of author commentary, which was preceded by a note saying not to read anything before playing the game itself.  Apparently most people take the left door on their first playthrough.. so I guess we’re a little more delinquent than most!

The author also lists Dear Esther, which I played and loved a while ago, and Robert Yang’s Radiator HL2 mod, which I’d not heard of before but is now in my download queue 🙂


Oh yes.. here we are again..

A friend has been playing through Morrowind, followed by Oblivion over the last days, and it’s made me want to play again.

These are games I completed quite some time ago, and yet I have a scary amount of recall for both games.. to the point I’ve been able to act as an encyclopaedia for random quests!  So much for my dud memory.. I’m now sticking to my theory that my current job’s requirement of monitoring ridiculous amounts of trivia, or stress, perhaps, is actually preventing me from being able to remember things.


In this case my memories of the game mean that I don’t want to go and explore the world like last time.. it feels like all the surprise is gone.  Instead, I think I’ll be trying out the Dark Brotherhood, vampirism, and other evil things that didn’t fit in with my previous play, before trying out some of the awesome fan-made mods that are out there 🙂


Quite a few weeks back, somebody recommended I try Nestlings, a mod for Half Life 2 by Lewis Denby.  This is available on ModDB, and requires Half Life 2: Episode 2.

Rather than a game, this was described as “an experiment in story and mood”.
You start off facing an old, abandoned-looking house, completely surrounded by darkness.  Oh, what to do?

There’s a note pinned to the wall by the door which sets the scene – someone conducting some kind of research out here, all alone.. and imploring ‘Annabelle’ to turn around and run away.  Creepy.

There are more notes scattered in the rooms of the house, pages from a diary with details of research into the Nestlings, some kind of supernatural creatures from out in the forest.  I was expecting these Nestlings to jump out at me as I started to explore the rooms, but I made it upstairs without incident..

Through the ground floor, I managed to find the diary pages in the right order, but upstairs I turned left to start at one end, rather than opening the door directly in front of me.  This meant I came across the last note first; this page had a key attached which would unlock the attic.

I checked out the other rooms before heading up the ladder, as I really didn’t want to miss anything.. but after that there was only the attic left..

I think one of these bodies has to be the researcher, as the diary pages all foreshadow him being at the “peak of the house”, but I think that the second is Annabelle.  I think she would have come looking for the researcher and either died of the illness mentioned in her note, or met the same fate as he did.

After reading Annabelle’s note, the attic door slid shut and the lighting changed; after the lack of anything jumping out on me previously, this actually made me scream! 🙂

The abandoned house and rather abstract story reminded me of Dear Esther, another experimental story-mod I played a while back.
Looking at the developer’s blog, it seems Dear Esther has had a few updates over the past few months with some amazing looking graphical tweaks too!  He also mentions another, final, level is in the works, which I’m sure will be well worth checking out when the time comes.

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